Eggplants are unusual vegetables that have a unique range of health benefits, including an ability to help build strong bones and prevent osteoporosis, reduce symptoms of anemia, increase cognitive function, improve cardiovascular health, protect the digestive system, help lose weight, manage diabetes, reduce stress, protect infants from birth defects, and even prevent cancer.
Eggplants are native to the Indian subcontinent, but are now found throughout the world in a number of different cultural cuisines. In England, the vegetable is called “aubergine”, and it also goes by the name brinjal, melongene, and guinea squash. The purple or black glossy fruit can grow more than a foot in length in wild varieties, though they are considerably smaller in normal agriculture. It reached the Middle East and the Mediterranean region approximately 800 years ago, and was being referenced in England by the 16th century.
There are a number of varieties used throughout the world, and they are included in cuisines in many different ways. It is commonly called the “king of vegetables”, at least in India, as it is one of the most versatile and functional foods in the cultural gamut. It has the consistency of tomato, in terms of texture and density, and it is a perfect addition to soups, stews, sauces, as well as a stand-alone item in many dishes. The best part about the food, it is not only a flavorful and delicious addition to many meals, but also a massively healthy vegetable that can help you live a healthier and happier life.
Nutritional Value of Eggplant
The wonderful health benefits of eggplants are primarily derived from its vitamin, mineral, and nutrient content. Eggplants are a rich source of vitamin C, K, B6, thiamin, niacin, magnesium, phosphorous, copper, dietary fiber, folic acid, potassium, and manganese. It is also contains almost no cholesterol, or saturated fat.
Health Benefits of Eggplant
Digestion: Eggplants, like many other vegetables, are great sources for dietary fiber, a necessary element in any balanced diet. Fiber is essential for gastrointestinal health, as well as for the regular movement of the bowels. Fiber bulks up your bowel movements so they pass more easily through the digestive tract, while also stimulating peristaltic motion, the contraction of the smooth muscles that move food through the body. Finally, fiber stimulates the secretion of gastric juices that facilitate absorption of nutrients and the processing of foods.
Fiber has also been linked to a reduction in heart disease as well, since it eliminates some of the “bad” cholesterol that can clog arteries and veins, resulting in atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes.
Weight loss: Since eggplants contain almost no fat or cholesterol, it is a very healthy food for people trying to lose weight, or battle obesity problems. The fiber content is also very filling, which inhibits the release of ghrelin, the hormone which tells our mind that we are hungry again. By filling us up and reducing our appetite, the chances of overeating are greatly reduced, so weight loss attempts are more successful.
Cancer prevention: Along with the beneficial effects of fiber, eggplants are also great sources of antioxidants, one of the body’s best lines of defense against a wide variety of diseases and conditions. Eggplants contain vitamin C, which is a key part of the immune system, since it stimulates the production and activity of white blood cells. Also, eggplants contain manganese, a natural antioxidant and essential mineral. Finally, your body can benefit from nasunin and chlorogenic acid, two organic antioxidants that are somewhat unusual, but have exhibited inhibitory activity against free radicals, as well as antiviral and antibacterial qualities. Free radicals are the by-products of cellular metabolism that can attack healthy cells and deconstruct the DNA into potentially carcinogenic cells. Having high levels of antioxidants in your body will make sure that organ systems throughout your body are protected from harmful infections and diseases, including cancer and heart disease.
Nasunin, which is an anthocyanin, has specifically been linked to inhibiting detrimental behavior in the brain. Free radicals are partially responsible for neural degeneration and the appearance of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. The studies have mainly focused on the effects of nasunin on animals, but it is very encouraging news for those that suffer from cognitive disorders.
Bone health: There are a number of benefits to bone health that come from eggplants, which is very good for those who are at high risk for bone degradation and osteoporosis. Phenolic compounds are what give eggplants and many other fruits their unique coloration. Phenolic compounds have also been linked to reduced signs of osteoporosis, stronger bones, and increased bone mineral density. Eggplants also have significant amounts of iron and calcium, which are integral to bone health and overall strength. Finally, the amount of potassium in eggplants helps in the uptake of calcium, making eggplants a comprehensive and highly useful booster for osteoporosis and bone health.
Anemia: A deficiency in iron can be very dangerous to overall health, and it can manifest in anemia. Anemia is characterized by headaches and migraines, fatigue, weakness, depression, and cognitive malfunction. Therefore, eating food that is high in iron can combat anemia, and eggplants have a decent amount of iron in their meaty, edible fruit. Eggplants are also very rich in copper, another essential component of red blood cells, just like iron. Without these two minerals, the red blood cell count in the body will continue to decrease, since they are perpetually being used up. With healthier, red blood cells coursing through your veins, you will see a noticeable boost in energy and strength, and eliminate feelings of fatigue or stress.
Brain function: Eggplants are wonderful sources of phytonutrients, which have long been known as boosters for cognitive activity and general mental health. They not only defend against free radical activity and keep your body and brain safe from toxins and diseases, but they also increase blood flow to the brain. By delivering more oxygen-rich blood to the brain, it stimulates neural pathways to develop, boosting the powers of memory and analytic thought. The potassium in eggplants also acts as a vasodilator and brain booster, so overall, the vegetable should definitely be called “brain food”.
Cardiovascular health: There are a few different ways that eggplants benefit your heart health, including fiber, which was mentioned earlier. Secondly, they have been known to reduce the presence of “bad” cholesterol in the body, and stimulating the uptake of “good” cholesterol. The balance of cholesterol in the body is always fluctuating based on the food we eat, but the more HDL cholesterol we have, the better. Reducing LDL cholesterol can prevent heart attacks, strokes, and atherosclerosis. Finally, the bioflavonoids in eggplants are great for reducing blood pressure, which reduces the strain and stress on the cardiovascular system, greatly improving the health and durability of your heart.
Diabetes management: Due to its high fiber content and low amounts of soluble carbohydrates, eggplants are an ideal food for managing diabetes. The qualities of eggplants make it useful as a regulator of glucose and insulin activity within the body. When insulin levels are stable, and the body isn’t experiencing drastic plunges and spikes in blood sugar, the potentially dangerous side effects of diabetes can be avoided.
Birth defect prevention: Folates are essential parts of any diet, and folic acid is particularly beneficial for pregnant women. Folic acid directly protects infants from neural tube defects, which can manifest in a number of ways. Therefore, it is always recommended that expecting mothers increases their folic acid intake to account for their other dependent mouth inside! Eggplants are rich sources of folic acid, which makes a delicious and useful snack or dietary addition when pregnant.
A few words of warning: The nightshade family of vegetables, of which eggplants are a part, are known to cause somewhat severe allergic reactions. However, eggplants aren’t as common in terms of being an allergen as tomatoes or bell peppers, which are also considered nightshade vegetables. As with any new food in your diet, speak to your doctor before eating it in large quantities, and pay attention to your body’s reactions.
Secondly, when cooking eggplants, many people make the mistake of frying them. Although this is a delicious way to cook vegetables like eggplants, it also counteracts a number of the health benefits, and can cause weight gain and negatively impact heart conditions. When you fry eggplants, they absorb a large number of fat, whereas baking an eggplant will hold many of the nutrients in without adding any negative factors like excess fat. Other than that, this powerful and potent vegetable is one of the best ways to guarantee your long-lasting health!