Oct 102012

eggplant nutritionEggplant is loaded with nutrition in the form of phytochemicals.  That’s good news for all you eggplant lovers. Until recently the best way to describe the nutrition and vitamin content in eggplant was “a little bit of everything.”  But since scientists have discovered phytochemicals — a class of antioxidants that are scavengers of free radicals — eggplant is a nutritious addition to any diet at a low calorie cost.

The eggplant is a member of the nightshade (Solanaceae) family as is the potato, tomato as well as the tomatillo and chayote. Although we use the eggplant as a vegetable it is really a fruit.  Fresh eggplant is available until the end of October, but it is readily found year round.

One of my favorite things about eggplant is that it marries well with so many different cuisines.  Think about it—its flavors are infused in Chinese stir fry’s,  Japanese Tempura, Indian curries, Italian parmisiana, French ratatouille, Greek Baba Ghanoush and moussaka, and of course everything in between in the United States.

What is the Nutrition in Eggplant

Eggplant nutrition: one cup of cubed eggplant has only 20 calories, 0.1 grams of fat, 2mg of sodium, 4.7 grams carbohydrate, and is cholesterol free.  It is considered a high fiber food with almost 3 grams per serving.

What are the Health Benefits of Eggplant?

The nutrition in eggplant includes potassium, manganese, copper, iron, magnesium, and zinc, along with several b-complex vitamins.

The skin contains many health benefits because it is rich in phytonutrients. These phytonutrients are known to protect the lipids in the cell membranes of the brain. Eggplants are also high in antioxidants. The antioxidant Nasunin guards cells from free radical damage, while the antioxidant Phenol protects the body from oxidative stress and bacterial infections.

Most of these cancer fighting compounds are found in the skin, which can be bitter.  Using a bit of salt before cooking eggplant helps to cut the bitterness.

Another great thing to rave about eggplant is its “good fats” content. Omega-3 and omega-6, also known as essential fatty acids, are present in eggplants.

Common Eggplant varieties

The Western or Globe Eggplant, with its shiny deep purple color, and its elongated pear shape, is the most popular variety you see at the grocery store.   This is typically the eggplant found in parmigiana.  When the eggplant is fresh, its flavor is delicately sweet. This variety is ideal for stuffing, baking, and grilling.

One of the globe eggplant varieties known as Black Magic, is being studied by the US Department of Agriculture for its high antioxidant content. Black Magic contains three times the amount of phenolic compounds as other types.

Japanese eggplant is long and slender, about 6 to 8 inches in length and about 1 ½ inches  in diameter. It has has a thinner skin and a sweet, delicate flavor.  This variety is frequently stir-fried, grilled, sautéed, and even pickled. I like it sautéed with soy sauce, lemon, garlic and ginger

Chinese eggplant–Chinese eggplants have thinner skins, a more delicate flavor, and not as many of the seeds that tend to make eggplants bitter.  Like the Japanese eggplant, it is also long and slender but is distinguished by its brilliant violet color and tender skin. Its flavor is sweet, making it ideal for stir-frying and grilling.

Italian Eggplant is small and round with white flesh and striking violet streaks and markings. Italian eggplants are elongated and wider at the blossom-end. The texture is succulent and porous like a sponge; when cooked the flesh becomes creamy and tender.  This variety is good for baking, sautéing, and grilling, and will take on the flavors of sauces or marinades.

There are many more varieties of eggplant—Thai, Pea, and White egg.  Your farmer’s market is the ideal place to find these gems.  Talk to the sellers.

How to select Eggplant

Fresh eggplants should be plump and glossy without any noticeable scars or bruises. It is also important to inspect them for mold around their caps.  Older eggplants look dull instead of shiny, and can taste bitter.

Here’s a TIP–Male eggplants tend to have fewer seeds, and are therefore less bitter than female eggplants. To sex an eggplant, look at the indentation at bottom. If it’s deep and shaped like a dash, it’s a female. If it’s shallow and round, it’s a male.

How to store Eggplant

Eggplants rot quickly and should be eaten as quickly as possible once they are purchased. Make sure to scrub them thoroughly before cooking

Store eggplant uncut and unwashed in a plastic bag in the cooler section of your refrigerator for up to a week. Beware that eggplant does not fare well in extremely cold settings.

I don’t know about you, but I am ready to have some eggplant.

eggplant nutrition eggplant recipeSweet and Sour Eggplant Recipe

Like to get eggplant nutrition in your diet? Try this week’s recipe for a Sweet and Sour Eggplant that would be delicious with any variety.  It’s coated with a spicy, sweet sauce, is easy and delicious.


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