Once thought of as the cause of insanity, leprosy and cancer, this humble vegetable is now revered in the cuisines of countries like Italy, Greece, Turkey and France. Modern research has uncovered the powerhouse of nutrition that is the eggplant. If you don’t like eggplant, try it again! Eggplant is delicious if cooked correctly and can be a great part of a healthy diet!
Eggplants are not bursting with any one vitamin or mineral but provide a large variety of nutrients, including powerful phytonutrients that seem to reduce our risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease. They are a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin B1, and copper. Eggplants are also a good source of manganese, vitamin B6, niacin, potassium, folate, and vitamin K, and contain vitamin C, phosphorus, thiamin, magnesium, and pantothenic acid. The most notable phytonutrients found in eggplant are nasunin and chlorogenic acid. Nasunins are one type of anthocyanins found in purple eggplants; they can slow blood vessel formation, which prevents tumor growth. Furthermore, the chlorogenic acid in eggplant may help lower the bad cholesterol (LDL) and protect the body from viruses and cancer. According to the U.S. Army of Center for Health Promotion and Preventative Medicine, of all the blue-purple vegetables, eggplant is one of the best sources of anthocyanins.
The National Diabetes Education Program and American Diabetes Association recommend eggplant for management of type 2 diabetes. Its low carbohydrate count, very low glycemic index (of 15), and high fiber help regulate blood sugars for only 35 calories per cup. In addition, there is some evidence that the chlorogenic acid and other phytonutrient compounds in eggplants may help control glucose absorption and reduce associated high blood pressure by inhibiting certain enzymes.
Eggplants may even protect our brain. The anthocyanins found in an eggplant’s skin protect cell membrane lipids from damage by regulating what goes out and what comes in. In some ways, this important phytonutrient in eggplant helps tell our cells what they are supposed to do. Anthocyanins also appear to prevent brain inflammation and help blood flow to the brain, which may prevent mental disorders caused by aging, and improve memory.
Fortunately, these anthocyanins found in the skin of eggplants are unaffected by cooking according to a study published in the July 2011 issue of Food & Function. Choose purple eggplants that are on the medium to a smaller size so the skin isn’t tough, and get cooking it. Take September’s Healthy Challenge and eat eggplant! Low in calories and carbohydrates, while high in fiber and powerful phytonutrients, eggplants are a tasty way to improve your health!