Eggplant is rich in antioxidant compounds with beneficial effects on health and in particular of nasunin, an anthocyanin that gives the purple color and helps protect against cardiovascular and oncological diseases. Discover the properties and benefits of eggplant.
The aubergine is an annual herbaceous plant with a summer cycle belonging to the Solanaceae family, which spread in Europe only in the fifteenth century and only in places that had a climate suitable for its cultivation: the aubergine in fact requires a temperature of about 22- 25 ° C during the day to be able to grow optimally.
It is a typical plant mainly of south-eastern Asia and Africa: in Europe and the United States it is abundantly cultivated, but it does not appear to be one of the most widespread from an economic point of view. Also from the point of view of the soil, the aubergine appears to be a plant that requires a soil rich in nutrients: for example, the lack of magnesium in the soil does not allow the plant to grow.
The fruit, which can have different shapes, from the most rounded to the most elongated ones, can have different colors depending on the species of aubergine and is commonly used in the kitchen as a side dish for main courses or as a condiment for tasty first courses.
The official name of this plant is Solanum melongena L. and, like all plants of the family to which it belongs (peppers, tomatoes, potatoes and tobacco), it may contain a substance, called solanine, with a potential toxic effect. In particular, we will deepen this topic at the end of the article, in the paragraph dedicated to contraindications.
However, the presence of numerous antioxidants and a limited amount of carbohydrates make aubergine an important vegetable, which we recommend adding to your diet.
Eggplant: calories and nutritional values
Eggplant is a very important source of vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber. It also contains a good dose of phytonutrients including some flavonoids and chlorogenic acid.
The aubergine should be consumed after cooking, but a recent study has shown that the heat treatment does not decrease the content of antioxidants present in the fruit.
The few calories of aubergines make this vegetable a low-calorie food, which provides only 25 calories per 100 grams of product and therefore suitable for diets to lose weight. In addition, its limited carbohydrate content and the presence of a good amount of fiber make it an excellent food even for those suffering from type 2 diabetes mellitus.
Eggplant is also rich in various micronutrients. In particular, we can find a good quantity of phosphorus and potassium (about 5% of the recommended daily intake) and lower quantities of iron, calcium, sodium and zinc (respectively 2%, 1.4%, 1.7% and 1.8% of the recommended intakes for each of the minerals mentioned.
As for vitamins, eggplants contain a lot of vitamin C and B vitamins: in particular thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), vitamin B6 and folate (vitamin B9, folic acid). For greater clarity, we report below the table with the nutritional values of aubergines.
Nutritional values per 100g of eggplant:
- Waterfall: 92.7 g
- kcal: 25
- Proteins: 1.1 g
- Fat: 0.1 g
- Carbohydrates: 2.6 g
- Fibers: 2.6 g
- Iron: 0.3 mg
- Sodium: 26 mg
- Potassium: 184 mg
- Phosphorus: 33 mg
- C vitamin: 11 mg
- Vitamin B1: 0.05 mg
- Vitamin B2: 0.05 mg
- Vitamin B3: 0.6 mg
- Vitamin B6: 0.08 mg
- Glycemic index: 20
- Cholesterol: 0 g
Eggplant: health benefits
The antioxidant molecules and phytochemicals present in eggplant give this vegetable several beneficial properties. In particular, aubergine is useful for preventing constipation, promotes cardiovascular well-being and has a good antioxidant action. In addition, the extracts of this vegetable are used as antimicrobials and antivirals. Now let’s see in detail all the benefits of aubergines.
✓ Treatment of constipation
As we have anticipated in the previous paragraphs, aubergine is a very high fiber vegetable and can be considered a good natural laxative. Precisely for this reason it is an excellent ally in case of constipation: the fibers contained in the eggplant peel are not digested in our intestine, they are partly fermented by the bacterial flora and partly recall water in the intestinal lumen.
Both mechanisms described above increase intestinal motility, improving the condition of constipation. Furthermore, the peel of the eggplant and part of the pulp seem to stimulate the secretion of bile, which has a physiological laxative effect.
✓ Cardiovascular protective effect
The properties of aubergines (both raw and grilled) to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases have been tested. Administration of eggplant over a period of 30 days improved ventricular function and blood flow in the aorta following an ischemic attack in mice.
✓ Antioxidant effect
Among the benefits of aubergines we also find antioxidants. As we have anticipated, in fact, the aubergine contains several phenolic compounds with an anti-oxidant action. Among these we mention chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid and nasunin. The latter molecule is able to fight free radicals, thanks to its ability to chelate iron , a particularly reactive metal.
✓ Anti-angiogenic action and cancer prevention
Nasunin also has the ability to inhibit the formation of new blood vessels and therefore appears to be useful in slowing the formation and multiplication of cancer cells.
✓ Against high cholesterol
In recent years the eggplant has been widely used, precisely because of the amount of polyphenols contained in it, as a cure in case of high blood levels of total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, especially in South American countries.
In this regard, some studies have positively evaluated the property of aubergine to lower cholesterol levels. However, it should be noted that these studies were carried out on a relatively small sample of people and the effect of aubergines on cholesterol cannot be separated from a healthy and balanced diet.
✓ Benefits for the skin
Finally, aubergine is widely used in cosmetics for the preparation of moisturizing masks for dry and oily skin.
Eggplant: how many to eat
Eggplants belong to the food category of vegetables and, as such, a portion is equivalent to about 200 grams, weighed raw. More practically, one serving is equivalent to about 1 medium-sized eggplant. Due to its numerous benefits, when they are in season it is possible to consume aubergines even every day, to the extent of one or two servings a day. To further vary the diet, however, it is advisable to alternate aubergines with other seasonal vegetables.
Can aubergines be eaten raw?
Eggplants should be eaten cooked because, when raw, they contain solanine, a substance also present in potatoes that can be toxic to the body. Specifically, solanine poisoning can cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, headaches, and other stomach upset. Clearly, the quantity of solanine taken (and therefore its effects) will be proportional to the quantity of raw aubergines ingested. In any case, to eliminate the solanine it is sufficient to cook the aubergines. In addition, more mature fruits contain less solanine.
Eggplant: some tips for use
Eggplant is a typically summer vegetable, which is well suited to being grilled or grilled and seasoned with a little extra virgin olive oil, to accompany meat or fish dishes. The aubergines thus prepared can then also be frozen, to be consumed at different times of the year.
In Italy the aubergine is often fried (although it is certainly not the best method to consume it) and thus used for the preparation of traditional dishes such as pasta alla norma or eggplant parmigiana. However, it can also be baked, steamed or boiled to create lighter, fresher soups or dishes.
To choose a good aubergine it is advisable to taste it and choose a not too hard vegetable, which would probably be unripe. On the contrary, a rotten eggplant is soft, wrinkled and brown in color and, once opened, has dark parts in the pulp. Furthermore, once opened we advise you to use it within a short time to prevent its pulp from blackening quickly. Alternatively, you can sprinkle the pulp with lemon juice.
Face mask with eggplant
In addition to being consumed as a food, with aubergines we can also prepare some simple and effective beauty recipes. Below we propose an aubergine-based face mask with moisturizing and antioxidant properties.
To prepare an aubergine face mask at home, you need to blend the pulp of ½ raw eggplant (without peel) with 2 tablespoons of natural white yogurt (without added sugar). The mask obtained should be applied on the face and, to spread it better on the skin, you can use a flat brush or a spatula with a silicone tip. It should be left on for 15 minutes and then rinsed off with warm water. During the rinsing operation we can help with a reusable cotton or bamboo cloth or pad, to be used on the face with delicate circular movements.
How to remove the bitterness from aubergines
Eggplants can sometimes have a rather bitter aftertaste, which risks ruining our recipes. This is mainly due to the presence of solanine in eggplants. To eliminate the bitterness from the aubergines (and therefore also remove the solanine), first remove the green stalk, then cut them into slices (raw), sprinkle with coarse salt and leave to rest for a couple of hours. For a better effect, it is possible to put the slices of eggplant sprinkled with salt in a colander, in order to facilitate the release of bitter water of vegetation. After this time, it is necessary to wash the aubergines thoroughly under running water to remove the salt.
Another method to reduce the bitter taste from aubergines is to immerse the slices (cut as desired) in a solution of water and vinegar for at least half an hour, then rinse and proceed to the preferred cooking.
How to freeze eggplant
One of the best ways to store these vegetables is to freeze them. In this way we will be able to stock up on aubergines, possibly buying them when they are in season, and store them in the freezer for several months. To freeze raw aubergines you can proceed as follows:
- Wash and dry the aubergines;
- Cut them into slices or cubes;
- Put them in a special bag and then in the freezer.
It is also possible to freeze cooked aubergines by simply placing them in the freezer once cooked and cooled.
Are eggplants bad for you? Contraindications and potential negative effects
Eggplants are also not without contraindications. We have stated it from the beginning: the aubergine, like all the other plants belonging to the Solanaceae family, contains solanine.
Solanine is a toxic compound, which the eggplant produces precisely to defend itself from predators. Although the quantity present in the aubergine is less than the maximum quantity that we can tolerate, it can cause a problem. For this reason it is not recommended to consume it raw : the quantity of solanine decreases with increasing maturation and cooking. Also a precaution in case of gastritis or gastric reflux as aubergines could increase the sensation of acidity. Furthermore, remember that aubergines have a low purine content and are among the foods that can be eaten in case of gout or high levels of uric acids.