Packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber, aubergines are healthy and a great choice for salads, stews and beyond. Although they are often considered a vegetable, they are technically a fruit as they grow from a flowering plant and contain seeds. There are many varieties that vary in size and color.
While eggplants are most common with a dark purple skin, they can also be red, green, or even black. Eggplant not only brings a unique texture and mild flavor to recipes, but also a number of potential health benefits, which we will now look at in more detail.
the essentials in brief
- Eggplants provide a good amount of fiber, vitamins, and minerals with few calories. This can promote weight loss, which is why they are also used in place of higher calorie ingredients.
- Aubergine is a versatile ingredient that can be prepared and enjoyed in a variety of ways.
- They are high in anthocyanins, a pigment with antioxidant properties that can protect against cell damage.
Eggplants for a healthy diet: what you should know
This article aims to clear your doubts and answer important questions associated with the topic.
What is an eggplant?
Along with tomatoes, potatoes and peppers, the aubergine (Solanum melongena) belongs to the nightshade family (Solanaceae). In fact, eggplants grow much like tomatoes, hanging from the vines of a tall plant.
They have a deep purple, glossy skin enclosing a cream-colored, spongy flesh covered with small, edible seeds.
What are the nutritional values of eggplants?
This table is intended to provide an overview. (1)
|nutritional values||Nutritional values per 100 g eggplant|
Why are eggplants healthy and therefore good?
Along with their basic nutritional values, eggplants are a great source of some of the vitamins and minerals you need in your diet.(2) Let's take a look at a few so you can cook and enjoy with confidence:
- Nutrient-Rich Fiber : Eggplant is high in fiber, which is an essential part of a healthy diet as it helps digestion function smoothly. Getting the right amount of fiber in your diet can also help control blood sugar levels, preventing spikes and crashes.(3)
- Weight loss support : As mentioned earlier, eggplants are high in fiber and nutritional value while being relatively low in calories. This means they're a great way to improve a balanced diet and feel fuller for longer without adding a lot of calories that could lead to weight gain. High-fiber foods can also help you feel satisfied after a meal, which means you snack less frequently throughout the day.
- Vitamins B1 and B6 : Eggplants are a good source of vitamins B1 and B6. Vitamin B1, also called thiamine, helps your body convert food into energy and may also help keep your nervous system healthy. Our bodies cannot make vitamin B1 on its own, which means we rely on our diet to get everything we need. This is where the eggplants come in. Vitamin B6 , also known as pyridoxine, helps the body use and store energy from carbohydrates and helps keep our red blood cells healthy.
What must be considered when buying a healthy eggplant?
Due to their naturally elastic and smooth skin, aubergines are often delivered without packaging. This is an advantage when trying to cut down on plastic, and also means you can choose the best quality fruit in the store.
Eggplants are healthy and full of vitamins, minerals and fiber. (Image source: pixabay / furbymama)
When choosing an eggplant, look for a fruit with a deep purple, smooth, and shiny surface. Press it lightly to make sure it hasn't gone soft. When an eggplant is ripe, you should be able to squeeze it slightly and see the skin spring back. If a dent remains, you should choose a different eggplant. (4)
Finally, examine them for dents or scratches on the surface. These can mean that the flesh underneath is also damaged. There are many ways to prepare this unique fruit, from roasting and deep-frying to braising and even grilling. It's up to you to find your favourite.
How should aubergines be prepared healthily?
Eggplants should be firm and slightly heavy for their size, with smooth, shiny skin and an intense purple hue. Avoid those that look wilted, bruised, or discolored. Store them in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Leaving the skin intact will keep them fresher longer.(4) When slicing eggplant, use a stainless steel, not carbon steel, knife to avoid a phytochemical reaction that can cause the eggplant to turn black.
Eggplants can have a slightly bitter taste.
"Sweating" an eggplant with salt draws out moisture and some compounds that contribute to bitterness, ultimately tenderizing the flesh.
How to cook healthy with eggplant?
Eggplant is a delicious, versatile ingredient. Grill them in slices for vegetable "steaks," fry them whole until tender and creamy, or layer them in a classic moussaka. Aubergine combines well with spices and absorbs a lot of flavor.
Sometimes they are also filled with other ingredients. The flesh of the aubergine discolours quickly after cutting, so always prepare it just before cooking. The spongy texture means it's great for soaking up flavor.
Ingredients put together for a healthy eggplant recipe. We get most of the vitamins from food. In order to ensure a good supply of vitamins, a balanced, healthy diet is therefore of great importance. (Image source: pixabay/Teefarm)
What are the Health Benefits?
The flavonoids contained in eggplant play an important role in heart health, while the presence of phenolic compounds can actively reduce blood pressure, lower cholesterol and prevent blood clots from forming.
Regular consumption of eggplant is recommended as a natural way to treat type 2 diabetes because it can help control glucose intake and lower associated high blood pressure, and it's also a high-fiber, low-fat food.(5) Juice from the leaves and roots of the aubergine can be effective for throat and stomach problems, asthma, toothache, rheumatism and skin problems.
What are the risks of eating eggplant?
Some people should not eat too much eggplant. The following points should be considered when eating eggplant.
- Nasunin and Iron Uptake : Nasunin, a phytochemical found in eggplant, binds with iron and removes it from cells. This process, known as iron chelation, can be useful for people who have too much iron in their bodies. In the meantime, people with low iron levels should avoid consuming large amounts of foods containing nasunin.
- Solanine poisoning : Eggplants are part of the nightshade family. Nightshades contain alkaloids, including solanine, which can be toxic. Solanine protects these plants while they are still developing. Consuming the leaves or bulbs of these plants can cause symptoms such as a sore throat, nausea and vomiting, and abnormal heart rhythms. The reaction can be fatal. The highest risk of ingesting solanine is when eating potatoes that have turned green. Eggplant contains small amounts of solanine, and consuming low to moderate amounts is unlikely to have any significant effects.
- Eggplant Allergy : In rare cases, one or more compounds will trigger an allergic reaction. The main cause appears to be a lipid transfer protein in the plant. Symptoms of a reaction can include hives, swelling, and difficulty breathing. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should seek urgent medical attention as they may be dealing with anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction.
- Oxalates and Kidney Stones: Eggplant contains oxalates, but less than most fruits and vegetables. Oxalates can contribute to the formation of kidney stones in some people who are more prone to ingesting oxalates. If left untreated, kidney stones can lead to acute kidney damage or kidney death. (6)Foods containing oxalates, such as Foods such as eggplant may not be suitable for people prone to kidney stones. Anyone affected should limit their consumption of foods containing oxalate.
Eggplants can be a healthy addition to a varied diet rich in fruits and vegetables. Eggplants are a good source of fiber, calcium, antioxidants, and vitamins like vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B6, thiamine, and niacin.
They are virtually fat-free, low in calories, sodium and cholesterol and high in folic acid. Eggplants are also rich in minerals that are important for the body to function effectively, including magnesium, phosphorus, copper and potassium.
- Sybille Müller (2021): Aubergine - A wonderfully healthy berry Source
- Tianzhen Zhang (2013): The Population Structure and Diversity of Eggplant from Asia and the Mediterranean Basin Source
- Astrid Vogel (2020): Eggplant (Solanum melongena) Source
- Gartenlexikon (2020): Growing eggplants in the garden - instructions Source
- Kathrin Mehner (2020): The ten lowest-calorie vegetables Source
- German Society for Nutrition (2005): Vegetables and fruit - all-rounders in terms of health protection Source