Veggie Basics: Eggplant

Written by The Healthline Editorial Team on May 17, 2013
baked eggplant entree

Eggplant is a unique food rich in antioxidants. While the bulbous purple shape is the most commonly recognized form of eggplant, it can be slim, egg-shaped and even white in color. Eggplant is an acquired taste for many people. It's sweet, but not like a bell pepper or corn, and it's meaty, like a Portobello mushroom. Its slight bitter taste is adaptable and takes on the flavor of any accompanying seasonings.

Eggplant Nutrition
Dieters love eggplant for its low caloric content. A full cup of eggplant contains a scant 27 calories. The preparation method of the vegetable, however, can boost the calorie count significantly in some cases. Eggplant is a very good source of dietary fiber, as well as the essential nutrients potassium, magnesium, and folic acid. Eggplant also contains a phytonutrient called nasunin, which contributes to heart health.

Recipe Ideas
Eggplant can be cooked in a variety of ways, from saut?ing to broiling and baking. Salt slices of eggplant and lay them on a paper towel 30 minutes before cooking. Salting can both draw out excess water and render the vegetable less bitter. The food is very porous and soaks up quite a bit of oil and grease during frying or saut?ing, so use cooking oils sparingly to keep eggplant heart-healthy. Peel the eggplant before cooking for optimum tenderness. The ability of eggplant to meld with many flavors makes the vegetable an ideal addition to almost any flavor combination, including:

  • Pasta: Saut? chunks of eggplant with garlic and olive oil until tender and toss with rotini or penne.
  • Parmesan: Cover thick slices of eggplant with marinara sauce and cheese and bake.
  • Mediterranean salad: Broil eggplant until tender, slice and toss with red peppers, black olives, and feta cheese.
  • Grilled: Slice into slabs and grill three to four minutes on each side. Serve with a splash of balsamic vinegar.

Storage Tips
The size of an eggplant depends on the variety. The large oval variety can become quite large (up to eight inches long) and is so big around that you may have difficulty eating an entire eggplant in one sitting. Fresh eggplant can be stored in plastic wrap or an airtight plastic bag in the refrigerator for a day or two, but use the uncooked leftovers as soon as possible to prevent them from becoming bitter. Blanch and freeze washed and peeled slices of uncooked eggplant for later use.

Fast Fact
Eggplant contains nicotine, the same addictive substance present in tobacco products. The levels of the chemical are very low, however, and won't hurt you. You would have to consume at least 20 pounds of eggplant to ingest the same amount of nicotine found in one cigarette.

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