The 4 Healthiest Nutrients Found in Eggplants, According to RDNs
Eggplant parm, please.
Eggplants can be a surprisingly divisive vegetable—you either love ’em or hate ’em. It could be its stark difference in textures: The insides are soft, while the skins are chewier. It could also be that eggplant-haters have never had the pleasure of eating a well-prepared eggplant dish that builds on its mild, versatile flavor and tender, silky texture. A lot of what makes eggplants so tasty (at least to eggplant fans) has to do with the way they’re cooked. Bad eggplant can be a real turn-off—but good eggplant is really good.
If you’re not much of a fan right now, it might be worth trying them again, because eggplants a are low-key nutritional powerhouse (and excellent meat-free stand-in). These famously purple—and occasionally purple-and-white-streaked—nightshade vegetables carry anthocyanins, a natural plant pigment found in several fruits and veggies (including berries) that do your body a lot of good. Eggplants are also packed with fiber, particularly soluble fiber, which plays a role in lowering cholesterol and blood sugar maintenance in the body. Here are the top health benefits of eggplants to know about in detail, so you now have the best excuse to start grilling, baking, rolling, and tossing it into pasta on the regular.
Related:The 30 Healthiest Foods to Eat Every Day
Eggplant Health Benefits
Eggplants offer lots of soluble fiber.
Most healthy adult women should aim for 25 grams of fiber per day (38 grams for men), and eggplant can help you get there: A cup of cubed eggplant provides you with 2.5 grams of fiber. Proper, regular fiber intake from a variety of plant sources (vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds) is beneficial for managing healthy cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels, and gut microbiome function, says Talia Follador, RDN, LDN, registered dietitian and owner at Follador Nutrition Services.
Eating 5 to 10 grams per day of soluble fiber can help to lower cholesterol,” Follador says. Of the fiber present in eggplant, around 20 percent is soluble fiber (a cup of cubed eggplant offers 0.5 grams of soluble fiber), which helps your body get rid of cholesterol that would otherwise be reabsorbed and stored in the body, explains Mckenzie Caldwell, MPH, RDN, fertility and prenatal dietitian at Feed Your Zest Nutrition & Wellness. She adds that fiber is important for healthy bowel movements and supporting healthy gut bacteria.
Soluble fiber can also help to control your blood sugar levels by slowing down the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates, Follador says. In your stomach, soluble fiber absorbs liquid and swells up, so it takes a longer time for it to pass from the stomach to the intestine, explains Follador. This slows down how quickly carbohydrates are digested and absorbed into the bloodstream, preventing blood sugar levels from spiking too quickly. “Soluble fiber also binds to some of the carbohydrates, which prevents them from being absorbed into the bloodstream,” says Follador.
Related:Top 10 High-Fiber Foods for Great Gut Health
Eggplants contain polyphenols, antioxidant plant compounds.
Eggplants contain two types of antioxidant plant chemicals called polyphenols: anthocyanins, mostly in the eggplant skin, and chlorogenic acid, mostly found in the pulp. Both anthocyanins and chlorogenic acid act like antioxidants in your body.
“Antioxidants help your body get rid of things called reactive oxygen species, or ROS, which are a waste product from damaging things we're exposed to in the environment, whether that's pollutants in the air, water or soil, UV rays from the sun—just being a human in general produces waste, even exercise produces some ROS,” Caldwell says.
When ROS levels in your body are too high, it can lead to excessive inflammation, which can cause cell breakdown, weaken the immune system, and damage DNA, Follador says. Anthocyanins and chlorogenic acid help keep your body from producing too much ROS, minimizing cell damage that can lead to chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
Related:These Foods are High in Flavonoids: Add Them to Your Grocery List ASAP
Eggplants are a source of potassium.
Eggplants provide you with potassium, an essential mineral that plays a role in keeping blood pressure within a healthy range. “Eating a diet rich in potassium can help the blood vessels relax, which lowers blood pressure,” Follador says. Additionally, potassium counters the effect of sodium, which raises blood pressure. When potassium from food enters your bloodstream, your kidneys end up removing more sodium from your blood, which in turn lowers your blood pressure.
It’s important to remember that if you have kidney disease or are on medications that affect how the body handles potassium, you need to speak to your doctor about how much potassium you can have per day.
Eggplants are also a good source of manganese.
Speaking of essential minerals, eggplants are also a source of manganese, which aids in carbohydrate and fat metabolism, the process your body uses to break down food components, like carbohydrates and fat, to use them as energy, Follador says. The body uses manganese to produce enzymes that break down carbohydrates and fat into these smaller, usable components. This lesser-known mineral also plays a part in producing antioxidants to prevent high levels of ROS in the body.
Eggplant Recipes You'll Love
Eggplant Parmesan Rollatini
Roasted Eggplant With Miso and Sesame Seeds
Roasted Eggplant and Olive Pasta Salad
Eggplant Tart With Lemon and Feta
Eggplant and Tofu Stir-Fry
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