Eggplant Nutrition Facts
Eggplants are a strange vegetable. They look like a large purple pear. They have an interesting texture and taste, which can often replace the "savory" flavor of meat. (This is why eggplant parmesan is such a popular meal.) They're also a nutritious treat!
Eggplants are best when they're in season, late summer to early fall (approximately August through October). They belong to the nightshade family, so some of their brothers include potatoes, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes. As I said, they have an interesting texture; I've heard it described as being sponge-like. Their taste is savory and slightly bitter.
Now for some more detailed eggplant nutrition facts. Eggplant contains vitamins B6 and K, thiamin, potassium, folate, manganese, and dietary fiber. Their skins are high in the antioxidant nasunin, which helps protect the fats in your brain cell membranes, and they also have chlorogenic acid, an antioxidant that lowers LDL cholesterol and helps protect against cancer and various forms of harmful bacteria.
Some studies have shown that eggplant juice lowers cholesterol in the subjects' blood, artery walls, and aortas. It also relaxes your blood vessels, which can lower blood pressure and improve blood flow. Not bad for a tasty veggie, huh?
Eggplant is also an iron chelator, which can have huge health benefits for those at risk for having too much iron. Iron is an essential nutrient that we all need for optimal health, but too much of it is definitely not a good thing. Our bodies have trouble getting rid of iron. Studies have shown that pre-menopausal women have decreased risk for several different conditions, and the theory is that the reason is it's because their monthly menstruation keeps iron levels in check. So eggplant might be especially beneficial for men and for postmenopausal women. Iron chelators like eggplant help prevent free radicals from forming. This has beneficial effects on cholesterol and joints, and can help protect from cancer.
How to Cook Eggplant
You can choose to bake or sauté your eggplant. I'd recommend leaving the skin on, because that's where the antioxidant nasunin resides. But the skin on some big eggplants might be too thick and kind of gross, in which case you'll have to make a choice between taste and nutrition. Sprinkling some salt on the flesh before you cook it can draw out some of the moisture while it cooks, which might improve the taste. Make sure the eggplant you purchase still has a green cap and a firm texture.