When it comes to healthy vegetables, eggplant is an easy pick.  Not only does it provide excellent nutrition, it can be a part of several different recipes that span over many, many different cultures. Eggplant recipes range from things like eggplant ziti to classics like Baba Ghanoush. The health benefits of eggplant are another of its great factors.  Eggplant is very low in saturated fat and cholesterol.  On top of that, it is a good source for things like Vitamin K, Thiamin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Potassium and Manganese.  It is also considered to be a great source of dietary fiber.

What goes into a good recipe?
Eggplant is native to the Indian subcontinent, and it was introduced throughout the Mediterranean area by the Arabs in the early Middle Ages. From Persian, Italian, Indian, Malaysian, North American, the eggplant is used in many cuisines around the world.

The recipe ideas for eggplant cover a huge spectrum.  Possibilities include eggplant parmesan, eggplant lasagna, ratatouille, eggplant curry, and eggplant relish.  An old time favorite among eggplant dishes is eggplant parmesan.  This dish is known to be delicious and has the added perk of being completely vegetarian.  It requires little experience to make and it includes other great ingredients like fresh basil and olive oil.

Another favorite among eggplant recipes is the Middle Eastern dish Baba Ghanoush. In its ingredients, Baba Ghanoush is similar to hummus: tahini, lemon, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper, although the eggplant version also has sesame seeds. With all natural ingredients and great overall nutritional value, Baba Ghanoush is a great idea for anyone searching for a homemade tip. And unlike most store bought ones, the homemade version is sesame rather than mayonnaise based, so is more nutritious.;

How will it benefit me?
As one might expect, eggplant is a great source of dietary fiber, and it contains several different vitamins, including Potassium, Phenolic, Niacin, Phosphorus, and others.

  • Dietary fiber: 1 cup of eggplant provides 2 g of fiber. On average, you need 25 – 38 g fiber throughout your day, depending on your age and gender, according to The Mayo Clinic. If you want to increase your fiber, pair with another high fiber vegetable, such as kale or spinach.
  • Folate: Folate is a B vitamin that is absolutely essential for cell growth and reproduction.  Eggplant is rich in it and can is considered an excellent natural source of folate.
  • Potassium: Playing several various roles in the body, potassium is necessary for the proper and healthy function of all cells, tissues and organs.  It helps our bodies keep a normal Ph balance, assists in protein synthesis, is necessary to build muscle and essential for the normal muscle contraction of the heart. 100 g eggplant has 5 % your RDA potassium.
  • Phenolic acid: There are up to 17 total phenolic compounds to be found in eggplant.  While not as known as vitamins, phenolic acids actually contribute more to neutralizing free radicals. They are found in several fruits and vegetables, including  eggplant.
  • B6 (pyridoxine): B6 is considered to be a master vitamin in processing amino acids.  Necessary for the production of brain chemicals such as serotonin, melatonin and dopamine, it is especially important in the vitamin family. A typical serving size, 100 g, of eggplant has 6 % of your RDA B6.
  • Phosphorus: This nonmetallic element is essential in the body for metabolizing protein, calcium and glucose (sugar).  It is essential for healthy bones and teeth.
  • Thiamin: Another essential B Vitamin, Thiamin (B1), acts a coenzyme to assist the body’s enzymes in proper digestion.
  • Niacin: Also known as B3, Niacin, help the body to convert food into glucose (energy) is needed for healthy skin, hair, eyes and liver.

Can there ever be too much of a good thing?
For a vegetable, eggplants contain elevated sodium.  One serving size of eggplant, about 100 grams, contains 237mg of sodium.  The upper intake RDA level is 2,300 mg, so you have to eat a lot of eggplant to get there; however, many recipes ask you to sweat the eggplant by adding salt to the flesh, which eliminates any excess water and removes any bitter taste. However, according to Nicholas Clee, author of Don’t Sweat the Aubergine, the modern day eggplant vegetable are sweeter than previously, and don’t need to be sweated. Its best to grill or BBQ your eggplants. Frying them tends to soak up a lot of oil. Or you can boil for seven minutes and fry afterwards.

Another downside to eggplant is that most of its calories come from sugars.  While these are natural sugars, unused sugars in the body are stored as fat. Don’t be overly concerned though — one serving (100g) of eggplant contains a mere 33 calories.

How do I make it healthier?

  • Don’t “sweat” the eggplant: This will cut down on salt in the recipe. If you’re worried about bitterness, try baby eggplant or Chinese eggplant which tend to be sweeter.
  • Don’t fry eggplant: Eggplants are highly absorbent and tend to soak up any oil or fat.
  • Avoid too much cheese: Many eggplant recipes, including baked eggplant ziti and eggplant parmesan are heavy in cheese, salt and oil.  While delicious, it’s a good idea to eat in moderation.

Eggplant recipes cover almost every type of cuisine, and make a terrific staple for a vegetarian diet. The vegetable is a good source of fiber, potassium, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate and others. Eggplant has slightly elevated sodium, 237 mg, or about 10 % of your total RDA, although this figure rises if you sweat the vegetable. Luckily the modern day version is less bitter than the eggplants that were sold even 20 years ago, so sweating is usually no longer necessary.