Properties and Benefits of Eggplants: A member of the nightshade family, the eggplant (or Solanum melongena), also called aubergine, is a beautiful as well as incredibly healthy addition to our diet. Eggplants are both delicious and dainty vegetables and come in a variety of gorgeous colours, the most common being deep-purple. In most Asian countries however, white and yellow varieties are intensely cultivated, while in other parts smaller yellow, green or light-purple cultivars are preferred.
Related to both tomatoes and potatoes, eggplants hold an honorable place in many cuisines and are wholeheartedly recommended for consumption because of their wonderful nutritional value. Eggplants are in season roughly from August to October. The vegetable shares several common characteristics with the tomato plant in the sense that it grows several feet vertically and the vegetable proper hangs from a vine.
Regardless of the variety, eggplants have a pleasant bitter taste and a spongy-textured flesh which softens significantly when cooked, acquiring a sophisticated, rich flavour. However, they are not only delicious, but also nutritious. In addition to a variety of vitamins and minerals, eggplants are rich in phytochemicals with potent antioxidant effects.
For instance, they contain phenolic compounds such as caffeic acid and chlorogenic acid, as well as flavonoids like nasunin. Caffeic acid is a phenol with amazing anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, that is shown to inhibit cancer cell proliferation.
Chlorogenic acid is an amazing hepatoprotector and studies suggest it is incredibly efficient in stopping the multiplication of tumour cells in liver and colon cancers. (For further information you may refer to the following study: ‘Protective effects of chlorogenic acid on acute hepatotoxicity induced by lipopolysaccharide in mice’ – by Xu Y, Chen J, Yu X, Tao W, Jiang F, Yin Z, Liu C.) Other amazing health benefits of chlorogenic acid include antimicrobial, anti-LDL cholesterol and antiviral properties.
Last, but not least, eggplants contain a flavonoid called nasunin, which is mostly found in the skin of the plant. Studies focused on the health benefits of nasunin show that it is a powerful antioxidant which efficiently protects cell membranes from the oxidative effects of free radicals. Cell membranes are basically made up of lipids (or fat), which are directly responsible for the protection of cells. Studies on animals have shown that the nasunin found in eggplants enhanced the resistance of brain cell membranes against free radical damage.
Overall, the natural compounds found in eggplants efficiently protect our body from oxidative stress as well as bacteria and fungi. If you take a look at the nutritional table above, you will see that eggplants list a significant number of vitamins and minerals as well.
Important B-group vitamins and minerals such as manganese, potassium, magnesium and phosphorus are all found in decent quantities in eggplants. As you may already know, potassium reduces high blood pressure by managing high sodium levels in the blood, while magnesium helps integrate calcium in bones.
Important properties and benefits of eggplants include: weight loss (eggplants have only 25 kcal/100 g), reduction of LDL (bad) cholesterol, lowering of high blood pressure and tonic properties restoring general well-being due to their good vitamin and mineral content. However, you should be careful when eating them for the first time because they are mildly allergenic.
Nevertheless, these are rare occurences that should not keep you from enjoying these delicious as well as highly nutritious vegetables. If raw eggplants do not appeal to you that much, I recommend stewing, grilling, roasting or stuffing them. They are great in ratatouille, eggplant salad (baked and mashed eggplants with sliced onions and olive oil or mayonnaise) or stuffed with whatever appeal to you.