Eggplant Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

eggplant

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Eggplant (Solanum melongena) is a very popular and versatile ingredient in a variety of cuisines. The vegetable is believed to have originated in India. In South Africa and parts of Asia, eggplants are referred to as "brinjal." In the UK and Ireland, they are called "aubergine."

Eggplants are a member of the Solanaceae family, also known as nightshades. Other common nightshades are tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes. While these veggies are nutrient-dense, some people avoid them because they may cause inflammation, especially in those with certain types of inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis or psoriasis.

Eggplant Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for 1 cup (82g) of raw eggplant cubes.

  • Calories: 20.5
  • Fat: 0.1g
  • Sodium: 1.6mg
  • Carbohydrates: 4.8g
  • Fiber: 2.4g
  • Sugars: 2.9g
  • Protein: 0.8g

Carbs

One cup of raw eggplant contains 20.5 calories and 4.8 grams of carbohydrate, about half of which comes from fiber (2.4 grams). There are also almost 3 grams of naturally occurring sugars in eggplant.

Eggplant is a low-glycemic food. The glycemic load of eggplant is estimated to be 1 for a single serving.

Fats

Eggplant is almost completely fat-free.

Protein

There is less than 1 gram of protein in a single serving of eggplant.

Vitamins and Minerals

Eggplant is not a significant source of most vitamins and minerals. However, the vegetable provides manganese (10% of your daily intake), and small amounts of potassium, vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin B6, niacin, copper, and magnesium.

Health Benefits

People who regularly consume eggplant may take advantage of certain health benefits from the nutrients that it provides, such as fiber, phytonutrients, and anthocyanins.

Healthy Bones

Eggplants are a good source of manganese, a mineral that is needed for several functions in the human body, including processes that keep your bones healthy.

Manganese interacts with other nutrients like calcium and vitamin D to maintain bone health. Researchers don't exactly know how much manganese plays a role, but animal studies have shown that manganese deficiency can impair bone formation and reduce bone mineral density. Manganese supplementation, on the other hand, can increase both bone mineral density and bone formation.

Reduced Cell Damage

Eggplants contain fairly high amounts of various types of phytonutrients, especially nasunin and chlorogenic acid, which may help protect our cells from damage and lower the risk of heart disease.

Also, the skin of eggplants contain anthocyanins, which give them their purple hue. Anthocyanins have been shown to have antioxidant power by combating oxidative stress. Research suggests that eating foods with anthocyanins may also help to fend off diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer and aid in health maintenance.

Healthy Digestion

The fiber in eggplant may help you to keep a healthy digestive system. Fiber is the indigestible part of carbohydrate. It helps to regulate bowels by regulating food ingestion, digestion, absorption, and metabolism.

Most adults should consume about 25 to 38 grams of fiber each day. One cup of raw eggplant provides about 10% of your daily fiber needs.

Reduced Risk of Disease

Studies have shown that those people who consume fiber-rich diets are at a reduced rate of cardiovascular disease. Other research has linked higher fiber intake to a decreased risk of diabetes and certain types of cancer.

Increasingly, plant-based diets are associated with better health and a reduced risk of chronic diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or obesity. One of the benefits of eggplant is that it can have a meat-like taste and texture, so many people use it as a meat substitute in plant-based recipes (although, unlike meat, it doesn't provide much protein).

Healthy Weight Maintenance

Plant-based diets and diets rich in fiber are associated with healthy weight maintenance and a reduced risk of obesity. And studies have shown that those people who eat high fiber diets tend to be at healthier weights.

Epidemiological and clinical studies have also demonstrated that the intake of dietary fiber is inversely related to metabolic conditions such as obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Allergies

Allergies to nightshade foods like eggplant are rare, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. But if you are allergic to one nightshade, you may have an allergic reaction to the others.

If you suspect an allergy to eggplant, seek the care of a qualified healthcare provider for personalized advice.

Adverse Effects

Some people avoid nightshades, like eggplant, to reduce inflammation in the body. In fact, a widely-used anti-inflammatory (AI) diet excludes nightshades and other foods including wheat, corn, soy, dairy, citrus, and many other foods. Those with inflammatory conditions such as psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, allergy, asthma, or autoimmune diseases might try this diet to help manage their condition. The diet has been studied with mixed results.

In a study investigating the effect of the AI diet on people with type 2 diabetes, researchers concluded that the anti-inflammatory diet did not affect markers of inflammation more than the control diet. But authors of a study investigating a version of the AI diet on people with inflammatory bowel disease found that it can improve symptoms and inflammation. Those researchers suggested, however, that more research is needed to fully understand the benefit.

Varieties

Eggplants come in many shapes and sizes. Most of the eggplants that you see at the grocery store are globe eggplants (also called American eggplants). These are usually the most inexpensive and easy to find.

Italian eggplants look similar to the American eggplants but are smaller. Japanese eggplants are the same color as Italian and American eggplants but are smaller than those varieties. Chinese eggplants are similar to Japanese eggplants but are usually lighter in color. Indian eggplants are often called baby eggplants because of their tiny ball-shaped appearance.

Other types of eggplant include graffiti eggplant, little green eggplant, white eggplant, Thai eggplant, and fairytale eggplant.

When It’s Best

Eggplant is available all year long in most grocery stores (especially the common globe variety). Peak season is during the late summer to early fall.

When buying eggplant, choose an eggplant that is heavy for its size. The eggplant should appear plump, with smooth, shiny skin. Avoid eggplant with blemishes.

Storage and Food Safety

Store eggplant whole in the refrigerator. Keep it in the produce bag and place it in the vegetable bin for 7 to 10 days. Once cut, eggplant begins to deteriorate quickly, so do not slice into it until you are ready to cook with it.

You can freeze eggplant either cooked or uncooked. If wrapped in an airtight freezer bag, it should stay good in the freezer for up to 12 months.

How to Prepare

Some people eat eggplant with the skin on and some prefer to remove the skin before using it in recipes. It's a personal preference, but the skin can be tough, especially on larger eggplants. If you choose skin-free eggplant, use a paring knife to remove the skin before slicing or cubing.

Many people also salt eggplant before cooking with it. Eggplants can become soggy if they are not salted before cooking. This is because they are filled with cells that contain water. Heat draws air out of the pockets and if the eggplant has not been salted, oil can seep into the pockets, making it soggy. A small amount of salt can draw water out of the cells, which causes the air pockets to collapse.

Some also say that salting eggplant removes some of the bitterness, but this is another personal preference. Japanese and Chinese eggplants tend to be less bitter and are less likely to need salting for flavor.

Eggplants can be breaded and fried, roasted, stuffed and baked, grilled, or cubed and added to savory recipes to give it some flavor and texture. There are countless ways to use this versatile and nearly fool-proof vegetable. It is nearly impossible to overcook an eggplant, but undercooking it will yield a chewy and sometimes bitter food.

Recipes

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