✓ Evidence Based

Eggplant: Facts, Nutrition, Benefits, & More

In the colorful realm of vegetables, eggplant is one of the most unique. Known for its rich, meaty texture and ability to absorb flavors, eggplant is a culinary chameleon that can be prepared in numerous ways. Not only that, but it contains tons of nutrients and provides several health benefits.

Keep reading to find out all you need to know about eggplant.

Did You Know?:In Chinese culture, the eggplant is considered a symbol of fertility and good fortune.

History & Facts

Despite being commonly considered a vegetable, eggplant (Solanum melongen) is botanically classified as a berry. It belongs to the nightshade family, which also includes tomatoes, bell peppers, and potatoes. Eggplants come in various shapes and colors. While the most common variety is large, oval, and deep purple, there are also smaller, round, green, or white varieties.

This glossy-skinned delight has a rich history that spans continents and cultures. Originating in India over 4,000 years ago, this versatile vegetable made its way across continents, leaving an indelible mark on diverse cuisines (1). It is noted for its early medicinal uses in ancient civilizations with traders and explorers later introducing it to various regions. Eggplant made its way to the Americas through European colonization, becoming a staple in Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Asian cuisines.

Today, China is the largest producer of eggplant globally, followed by India. These two countries contribute significantly to the world’s eggplant production. Additionally, other major producers include Egypt, Turkey, and Iran.

Fun Fact:Eggplant is known by different names in different parts of the world, like “brinjal” in South Asia, “aubergine” in Europe, and “eggplant” in North America.

Nutrition Facts

Eggplant is not only prized for its culinary versatility but also for its nutritional content.

Macronutrients

For every 1 cup (82 grams) of raw eggplant, there are the following macronutrients (2):

  • Calories: 20.5 calories (kcal)
  • Protein: 0.804 grams (g)
  • Total Fat: 0.148 grams (g)
  • Carbohydrate: 4.82 grams (g)
  • Fiber: 2.46 grams (g)

With its low-calorie and high-fiber content, eggplant is considered a nutrient-dense food. This means that it will leave you feeling full while being low in calories and high in nutrients. Additionally, the fiber content can aid in maintaining a healthy weight and supporting regular bowel movements.

Summary: Eggplants are low in calories and a good source of fiber and can be a healthy addition to a balanced diet.

Vitamins & Minerals

For every 1 cup (82 grams) of raw eggplant, there are the following vitamins and minerals (2):

  • Folate: 18 mcg (4% DV)
  • Vitamin C: 1.8 mg (2% DV)
  • Vitamin E: 0.246 mg (2% DV)
  • Vitamin K: 2.87 mcg (2% DV)
  • Vitamin A: 18.9 IU (1% DV)
  • Potassium: 188 mg (5% Daily Value – DV)
  • Magnesium: 11.5 mg (3% DV)
  • Phosphorus: 19.7 mg (2% DV)
  • Calcium: 7.38 mg (1% DV)
  • Choline: 5.66 mg (1% DV)
  • Iron: 0.189 mg (1% DV)
  • Lutein + zeaxanthin: 29.5 mcg
  • Beta-carotene: 11.5 mcg

Eggplant contains essential vitamins such as vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B6, thiamine, and folate. These vitamins contribute to various bodily functions, including immune health, blood clotting, and energy metabolism. Minerals in eggplant include potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, and copper. Potassium is crucial for maintaining healthy blood pressure (3) and supporting proper muscle and nerve function (4).

Plant compounds

Eggplants are rich in polyphenols. 100 grams of eggplant (black and purple) contains the following Polyphenols (5):

Phenolic acids

Phenolic acids content in 100g of Eggplant:

  • Chlorogenic acid: 72.84 mg
  • Neochlorogenic acid: 22.31 mg
  • Cryptochlorogenic acid: 6.75 mg
  • Protocatechuic acid: 0.58 mg
  • Caffeic acid: 0.38 mg
  • Ferulic acid: 0.22 mg
  • Gallic acid: 0.14 mg
  • 4-Hydroxybenzoic acid: 0.09 mg
  • p-Coumaric acid: 0.08 mg

Flavonoids

Flavonoids content in 100g of Eggplant

  • Flavonols
    • Rutin: 8.74 mg
    • Quercetin-3-rutinoside: 5.62 mg
  • Anthocyanins
    • Delphinidin-3-O-rutinoside: 23.17 mg
    • Cyanidin-3-O-rutinoside: 11.24 mg

Lignans

Lignans content in 100g of Eggplant

  • Lariciresinol: 0.05 mg
  • Medioresinol: 0.007 mg
  • Pinoresinol: 0.04 mg
  • Secoisolariciresinol: 0.00779 mg
  • Syringaresinol: 0.006 mg

Eggplant is rich in antioxidants, particularly nasunin, chlorogenic acid, and anthocyanins (6). These compounds help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals, reducing the risk of chronic diseases and supporting overall health (7, 8, 9).

Summary: Eggplants are a nutrient-rich vegetable, providing essential vitamins like C, K, and B6, along with minerals such as potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus. Additionally, they are a good source of antioxidants like nasunin and chlorogenic acid, contributing to overall health by protecting cells from free radical damage.

Health Benefits

Eating eggplant can contribute to various health benefits, making it a nutritious addition to your diet.

Heart Health

Eggplants offer several heart-healthy benefits, making them a valuable addition to a cardiovascular-friendly diet. Eggplants are naturally low in calories and virtually free of saturated fat (2). A diet low in saturated fat is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease and helps maintain overall cardiovascular health (10).

Additionally, eggplants are a good source of dietary fiber, which is crucial for heart health (11). The fiber content in eggplants, particularly in the form of soluble fiber, can help lower LDL (12). Lowering LDL cholesterol is associated with a decreased risk of heart disease.

Eggplants contain antioxidants, such as anthocyanins and chlorogenic acid, which can help combat oxidative stress and inflammation (13, 9). Chronic inflammation is linked to the development of cardiovascular diseases (14), so including antioxidant-rich foods like eggplants in your diet may be beneficial.

Certain phytonutrients in eggplants contribute to blood vessel health. Nasunin, a potent antioxidant found in the skin of eggplants, may help protect blood vessel walls from damage and protect against abnormal blood vessel growth (15).

Incorporating eggplants into a heart-healthy diet, along with other nutrient-dense foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, can contribute to overall cardiovascular well-being.

Summary: Eggplants are low in calories and saturated fat, rich in fiber and antioxidants, and contribute to lower cholesterol levels, reduced inflammation, and overall cardiovascular well-being.

Cancer Prevention

Current research on eggplant suggests that certain compounds found in eggplant may contribute to its potential protective effects against certain types of cancer.

Eggplant contains various antioxidants, including nasunin, chlorogenic acid, and other phenolic compounds (6). Antioxidants help neutralize free radicals in the body, which are unstable molecules that can cause cellular damage. This oxidative stress is linked to the development of cancer, and a diet rich in antioxidants may help mitigate this risk (16).

Chronic inflammation is associated with an increased risk of cancer 17. Some compounds in eggplant, particularly those with anti-inflammatory properties, may contribute to reducing inflammation in the body 18, 19). Chronic inflammation can create an environment conducive to cancer development, and anti-inflammatory foods may help lower this risk.

Eggplant contains phytonutrients, which are plant compounds with potential health benefits. Some of these phytonutrients may have protective effects against cancer by influencing various cellular processes 20.

It’s important to note that while these findings are supported by some scientific studies, the overall impact of eggplant on cancer prevention is not fully established. More research is needed to understand the extent of these benefits fully.

Summary: Research suggests that compounds in eggplant, like antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents, may potentially protect against certain cancers by neutralizing free radicals, reducing inflammation, and influencing cellular processes, though further studies are needed to fully establish these benefits.

Digestive Health

Eggplant provides several digestive health benefits, largely attributed to its dietary fiber content and other compounds. The dietary fiber in eggplant promotes a healthy digestive system, aiding in regular bowel movements and preventing constipation (21). Adequate fiber intake supports overall digestive function.

Fiber in eggplant serves as a prebiotic, a substance that nourishes beneficial bacteria in the gut (22). A healthy balance of gut microbiota is crucial for digestion, nutrient absorption, and immune function.

Some compounds in eggplant may have anti-inflammatory effects (18). Chronic inflammation in the digestive tract can lead to various digestive issues, and foods with anti-inflammatory properties may contribute to a healthier gut environment (23).

Individual responses to dietary fiber can vary, and it’s important to gradually increase fiber intake to allow the digestive system to adjust. Additionally, a well-rounded approach to digestive health includes staying hydrated, maintaining a balanced diet, and incorporating other fiber-rich foods.

As with any dietary considerations, individuals with specific digestive conditions or concerns should consult with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian for personalized advice.

Summary: Eggplant, with its rich dietary fiber and potential anti-inflammatory effects, supports digestive health by promoting regular bowel movements, nurturing beneficial gut bacteria, and contributing to a balanced gut environment.

Ways to Consume

Eggplant is a versatile vegetable that can be enjoyed in various delicious ways. The texture of cooked eggplant is often described as “spongy.” This unique texture makes it absorb flavors well and is ideal for dishes like ratatouille, moussaka, and baba ganoush. Here are some other fun ways to consume eggplant:

  • Grill eggplant
  • Make eggplant parmesan
  • Roasted eggplant
  • Stuffed eggplant
  • Eggplant stir-fry
  • Eggplant pizza
  • Eggplant curry
  • Make a dip with eggplant
  • Baingan Bharta

Experimenting with these cooking methods allows you to enjoy the unique texture and flavor of eggplant in various dishes.

Fun Fact: Ancient people thought eggplants were poisonous and might cause pimples, epilepsy, or even death.

Potential Risks

Eggplants are generally safe for consumption and offer various health benefits. However, there are a few considerations and potential risks associated with eating eggplants.

  • Allergic Reactions: Some individuals may be allergic to eggplants (24). Allergic reactions can range from mild symptoms like itching and hives to more severe reactions such as difficulty breathing. If you suspect an allergy, it’s important to seek medical attention.
  • Solanine Content: Eggplants, like other nightshade vegetables, contain a substance called solanine, which can be toxic in large amounts (25, 26). However, the levels of solanine in eggplants are generally low, and cooking destroys most of it (27). To minimize any potential risk, it’s advisable to cook eggplants thoroughly before consuming them.
  • Oxalates: Eggplants contain oxalates, which are compounds that can contribute to the formation of kidney stones in susceptible individuals (28). If you have a history of kidney stones, you may want to moderate your intake of high-oxalate foods, including eggplants.
  • Digestive Issues: Some people may experience digestive discomfort, such as gas or bloating, after consuming eggplants. This can be due to the presence of certain fibers or compounds in the vegetable. Cooking eggplants thoroughly can help reduce the likelihood of digestive issues.

Summary: Eggplants are generally safe and offer health benefits, but there are potential considerations such as allergies, the presence of solanine (toxic in large amounts), oxalates contributing to kidney stones, and possible digestive issues.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best way to choose fresh eggplant?

Look for eggplants that are firm, glossy, and heavy for their size. The color should be consistent without any dullness or discoloration. Depending on the variety, the color may be deep purple, glossy black, green, or white. Avoid those with wrinkled skin or soft spots.

How can I reduce the bitter taste of eggplant?

Some eggplants can have a slightly bitter taste. To reduce bitterness, slice the eggplant, sprinkle salt on the cut surfaces, and let it sit for about 30 minutes. Rinse and pat dry before cooking.

Did You Know?: Eggplant contains a minimal amount of nicotine, about 0.01%. You would have to eat 9 kilos of eggplant to get the same amount of nicotine as in one cigarette.

Conclusion

Eggplant’s rich history, diverse culinary use, and impressive nutritional profile make it a valuable addition to any diet. Whether you’re a seasoned chef or a kitchen novice, exploring the world of eggplant can open up a realm of delicious and nutritious possibilities.

Eggplant is low in calories and fiber, making it a nutrient-dense food. Not only that, but it can help promote digestive and heart health, and may potentially reduce the risk of cancer.

Go ahead and embrace the eggplant in all its shapes and colors, and let your culinary adventures begin with this fascinating and nutritious ingredient!