7 Surprising Health Benefits of Eggplants
Eggplants, also known as aubergines, belong to the nightshade family of plants and are used in many different dishes around the world.
Although often considered a vegetable, they’re technically a fruit, as they grow from a flowering plant and contain seeds.
There are many varieties that range in size and color. And while eggplants with a deep purple skin are most common, they can be red, green or even black.
In addition to bringing a unique texture and mild flavor to recipes, eggplant brings a host of potential health benefits.
Eggplants are a nutrient-dense food, meaning they contain a good amount of vitamins, minerals and fiber in few calories.
One cup (82 grams) of raw eggplant contains the following nutrients:
- Calories: 20
- Carbs: 5 grams
- Fiber: 3 grams
- Protein: 1 gram
- Manganese: 10% of the RDI
- Folate: 5% of the RDI
- Potassium: 5% of the RDI
- Vitamin K: 4% of the RDI
- Vitamin C: 3% of the RDI
Eggplants also contain small amounts of other nutrients, including niacin, magnesium and copper.
High in Antioxidants
In addition to containing a variety of vitamins and minerals, eggplants boast a high number of antioxidants.
Antioxidants are substances that help protect the body from damage caused by harmful substances known as free radicals.
Studies have shown that antioxidants could help prevent many types of chronic disease, such as heart disease and cancer.
Eggplants are especially rich in anthocyanins, a type of pigment with antioxidant properties that’s responsible for their vibrant color.
In particular, an anthocyanin in eggplants called nasunin is especially beneficial.
In fact, multiple test-tube studies have confirmed that it’s effective at protecting cells against damage from harmful free radicals.
May Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease
Thanks to their antioxidant content, some studies suggest that eggplants may help reduce the risk of heart disease.
In one study, rabbits with high cholesterol were given 0.3 ounces (10 ml) of eggplant juice daily for two weeks.
At the end of the study, they had lower levels of both LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, two blood markers that can lead to an increased risk of heart disease when elevated.
Other studies have demonstrated that eggplants may have a protective effect on the heart.
In one study, animals were fed raw or grilled eggplant for 30 days. Both types improved heart function and reduced heart attack severity.
While these results are promising, it’s important to note that current research is limited to animal and test-tube studies. Further research is needed to evaluate how eggplants may affect heart health in humans.
May Promote Blood Sugar Control
Adding eggplants to your diet may help keep your blood sugar in check.
This is primarily because eggplants are high in fiber, which passes through the digestive system intact.
Other research suggests that polyphenols, or natural plant compounds, found in foods like eggplant may reduce sugar absorption and increase insulin secretion, both of which can help lower blood sugar.
One test-tube study looked at polyphenol-enriched extracts of eggplant. It showed that they could reduce levels of specific enzymes that influence sugar absorption, helping reduce blood sugar.
Eggplants fit well into current dietary recommendations for controlling diabetes, which include a high-fiber diet rich in whole grains and vegetables.
Could Help With Weight Loss
Eggplants are high in fiber and low in calories, making them an excellent addition to any weight loss regimen.
Fiber moves through the digestive tract slowly and can promote fullness and satiety, reducing calorie intake.
Each cup (82 grams) of raw eggplant contains 3 grams of fiber and just 20 calories.
Additionally, eggplants are often used as a high-fiber, low-calorie replacement for higher-calorie ingredients in recipes.
May Have Cancer-Fighting Benefits
Eggplant contains several substances that show potential in fighting cancer cells.
For instance, solasodine rhamnosyl glycosides (SRGs) are a type of compound found in some nightshade plants, including eggplant.
Some animal studies have shown that SRGs could cause the death of cancer cells and may also help reduce the recurrence of certain types of cancer.
Though research on the topic is limited, SRGs have been shown to be especially effective against skin cancer when applied directly to the skin.
Furthermore, several studies have found that eating more fruits and vegetables, such as eggplant, may protect against certain types of cancer.
One review looking at approximately 200 studies found that eating fruits and vegetables was associated with protection against pancreatic, stomach, colorectal, bladder, cervical and breast cancer.
However, more research is needed to determine how the compounds found in eggplants may specifically affect cancer in humans.
Very Easy to Add to Your Diet
Eggplant is incredibly versatile and can be easily incorporated into your diet.
It can be baked, roasted, grilled or sautéed and enjoyed with a drizzle of olive oil and a quick dash of seasoning.
It can also be used as a low-calorie replacement for many high-calorie ingredients.
This can reduce your carb and calorie intake, all while increasing the fiber and nutrient content of your meal.