Also popularly known as brinjal or aubergine, eggplant is a fruit consumed for its distinctive taste and medicinal properties. Though it is considered a fruit, botanically it is classified under berry, and used as a vegetable in cooking. Eggplants are a rich source of natural vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber. This space highlights the health benefits of eggplant.
The striking purple color and characteristic shape of eggplant give it its unique identity. This plant is cultivated across the world and has a large consumption ground in Asia. Eggplant belongs to the plant family, Solanaceae. Native to the subcontinent of India, thisplant has been existence since Asian prehistory. Eggplant has tiny edible seeds that offer that unique bitter taste, this because of the presence of nicotinoid alkaloids that occur naturally. Different types of eggplant are cultivated around the world. The most popular variety is oval shaped and elongated shaped. Purple skin, black-purple skin, green skin and white skin eggplants are consumed in large quantities in various parts of the world.
History of Eggplant
While some believe eggplant was consumed in prehistoric times, others dismiss these research claims. The earliest written record of this plant is in an ancient agricultural Chinese treatise, Qi Min Yao Shu which was completed between C.E 542 and 544. In ancient Greece eggplant was considered a natural aphrodisiac. Women in ancient Greece ate eggplant before their husbands would arrive from war for enhanced sexual pleasure. In ancient times eggplant was known as the ‘Apple of Love’ amongst Spanish women. Arabs played a key role in bringing this plant to the Mediterranean basin during the Middle ages. The name ‘eggplant’ is believed to have come into being in the 18th century when European cultivars in their gimmickry gave it the name because of its resemblance to goose and hen eggs. Since ancient times eggplant has been consumed for its various health benefits.
In several cultures eggplant is eaten to cure digestive problems. This vegetable is included in various weight loss and low fat diets because of low calories present. Presence of natural minerals makes this vegetable a popular snack. The high nutritional value present in eggplants is the reason why this vegetable has found its way in cuisines from around the world. Slices of eggplants can be baked, roasted, fried, or eaten raw. Eggplant slices when dipped in chickpea batter and baked taste divine.
10 Health benefits of Eggplant
1. Eggplants have high dietary fiber; this facilitates natural bowel movement cycles.
2. Presence of phytochemicals lends high nutritional value. Nasunin a flavonoid in eggplants has antioxidant properties known to protect body cells, reduce free radicals and shelter fats in the brain cell membrane. Nasunin in aubergine ensures cellular damage in brain is minimized.
3. Eggplants promote cardiovascular health. Consumption of this vegetable helps lower levels of bad cholesterol, LDL.
4. Individuals that consume aubergine are less likely to suffer from digestive problems. Fiber present in this vegetable aids colon health.
5. The presence of group B vitamins in eggplant plays an important role in cell metabolism.
6. Chlorogenic acid, a powerful antioxidant present in eggplants has antiviral and antimicrobial properties essential for good health.
7. Natural occurrence of potassium and magnesium along with other minerals in eggplants minimizes the risk of heart diseases and also boosts immunity.
8. The presence of alkaloids in eggplant has therapeutic properties. In many cultures slices of roasted eggplant are mashed and mixed with garlic to provide relief from constipation and bloating.
9. Skin of eggplant (purple and black-purple variety) has a large number of phytochemicals known as anthocyanins. Research reveals these antioxidants minimize the risk of cancer and neurological disorders.
10. Potassium present in eggplant is an essential intercellular electrolyte that keeps hypertension effects of sodium at bay.
Eggplant Nutritional Value
Aside from having a distinctive taste, eggplant has minerals, vitamins and nutrients that are essential for good health. Mentioned below is the nutritional value of eggplant. (Nutritional Value source USDA Nutrition Database)
Value- per 100 grams (raw)
- Iron- 0.23 mg
- Zinc- 0.16 mg
- Potassium- 229 mg
- Calcium- 9mg
- Phosphorous- 24 mg
- Sodium- 2 mg
- Magnesium- 14 mg
- Vitamin E- 0.30 mg
- Vitamin C- 2.2 mg
- Niacin- 0.649 mg
- Vitamin B6- 0.084 mg
- Riboflavin- 0.037 mg
- Thiamine- 0.039 mg
- Folate (B9)- 22 mcg
- Sugar- 3.53 g
- Carbohydrate- 5.88 g
- Energy- 25 kcal
- Dietary Fiber- 3.0 g
- Water- 92.30 g
- Protein- 0.92 g
Eggplant facts and trivia
Here are some interesting facts and trivia abouteggplant…
- The largest variety of eggplant is cultivated in India in regions surrounding the Ganges and Yamuna rivers.
- Eggplant is a berry, considered a fruit, and used as a vegetable in cuisine.
- Some cultures in the Middle Ages considered eggplant a cursed vegetable that would lead to downfall.
- During the 17th and 18th century, eggplant was known as ‘Jews Apple’, because of its high rate of consumption amongst Sephardic Jews.
- Eggplant is edible in its entirety, skin, flesh and seeds.
- Currently, China is the top eggplant producer in the world.
- Several cuisines from around the world use aubergine to soak up excess fat oils.
- In India eggplant is called Brinjal and referred to as the ‘King of Vegetables’
- Degorging is a term associated with rinsing and salting eggplant, it is done to reduce bitterness and extract moisture.
- In ancient China, women used to make a natural dye from purple skin of eggplant and use it to shine or polish their teeth.
Popular Eggplant dishes
Karniyarik- A Turkish dish that consists of small eggplants diced and sautéed with onions, tomatoes, parsley, garlic and black pepper. Meat mince may also be used in this dish.
Moussaka- This is a Turkish/Greek recipe that has eggplant and potatoes as the main ingredients. Over the years a number of variations have come about in this dish.
Parmigiana (Parmigiana di melanzane)-This is a popular eggplant dish from Southern Italy. Slices of aubergine are shallow fried and baked with generous fillings of tomato sauce and cheese. Layers of meat are also used in accordance with preference. Again, this dish has a number of variants.
Baingan Bartha/ Baingan Ka Bhurtha- This dish is hugely popular in India and Pakistan. The smoky aftertaste is what gives this dish its unique flavor. Eggplant is grilled over charcoal or fire and mashed. Ingredients such as fresh coriander, mustard oil, onion, tomatoes and chili pepper are mixed with the mashed eggplant. This dish can be had with flatbreads (roti, chapatti, naan) or rice.
Baba Ghanoush- This is one of the most popular eggplant dishes from the Arab world. This is a mashed eggplant dish made with virgin olive oil, pomegranate concentrate and seasonings. This eggplant dish too is smoked like Baingan Bartha, but has a completely different flavor. Mashed eggplant is blended with vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, hulled sesame seeds, and cumin. Some variants in the Middle East also use chili powder in this dish. This dish has a tangy smoked flavor and is eaten with pita bread or Khubuz (flatbread).
Other eggplant dishes you should try…
Escalivada (Catalan Cuisine)
Makdous (Levantine Cuisine)
Nigvziani Badrijani (Georgian Cuisine)
If you have not yet included eggplant in your diet, start today, it’s healthy and tasty. Happy eating!