Eggplants, also known as aubergines, belong to the nightshade family of plants and are used in many different dishes around the world.
Although often considered a vegetable, they're technically a fruit, as they grow from a flowering plant and contain seeds.
There are many varieties that range in size and color. And while eggplants with a deep purple skin are most common, they can be red, green or even black (1).
In addition to bringing a unique texture and mild flavor to recipes, eggplant brings a host of potential health benefits.
This article takes a deep look at 7 health benefits of eggplants.
Eggplants are a nutrient-dense food, meaning they contain a good amount of vitamins, minerals and fiber in few calories.
One cup (82 grams) of raw eggplant contains the following nutrients (2):
- Calories: 20
- Carbs: 5 grams
- Fiber: 3 grams
- Protein: 1 gram
- Manganese: 10% of the RDI
- Folate: 5% of the RDI
- Potassium: 5% of the RDI
- Vitamin K: 4% of the RDI
- Vitamin C: 3% of the RDI
Eggplants also contain small amounts of other nutrients, including niacin, magnesium and copper.
Summary: Eggplant provides a good amount of fiber, vitamins and minerals in few calories.
In addition to containing a variety of vitamins and minerals, eggplants boast a high number of antioxidants.
Antioxidants are substances that help protect the body from damage caused by harmful substances known as free radicals (3).
Eggplants are especially rich in anthocyanins, a type of pigment with antioxidant properties that's responsible for their vibrant color (6).
In particular, an anthocyanin in eggplants called nasunin is especially beneficial.
Summary: Eggplants are high in anthocyanins, a pigment with antioxidant properties that can protect against cellular damage.
Thanks to their antioxidant content, some studies suggest that eggplants may help reduce the risk of heart disease.
In one study, rabbits with high cholesterol were given 0.3 ounces (10 ml) of eggplant juice daily for two weeks.
At the end of the study, they had lower levels of both LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, two blood markers that can lead to an increased risk of heart disease when elevated (9).
Other studies have demonstrated that eggplants may have a protective effect on the heart.
In one study, animals were fed raw or grilled eggplant for 30 days. Both types improved heart function and reduced heart attack severity (10).
While these results are promising, it's important to note that current research is limited to animal and test-tube studies. Further research is needed to evaluate how eggplants may affect heart health in humans.
Summary: Some animal studies have found that eggplants may improve heart function and reduce LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels, though human research is needed.
Adding eggplants to your diet may help keep your blood sugar in check.
This is primarily because eggplants are high in fiber, which passes through the digestive system intact (11).
Other research suggests that polyphenols, or natural plant compounds, found in foods like eggplant may reduce sugar absorption and increase insulin secretion, both of which can help lower blood sugar (13).
One test-tube study looked at polyphenol-enriched extracts of eggplant. It showed that they could reduce levels of specific enzymes that influence sugar absorption, helping reduce blood sugar (14).
Eggplants fit well into current dietary recommendations for controlling diabetes, which include a high-fiber diet rich in whole grains and vegetables (15).
Summary: Eggplants are high in fiber and polyphenols, both of which may help reduce blood sugar levels.
Eggplants are high in fiber and low in calories, making them an excellent addition to any weight loss regimen.
Fiber moves through the digestive tract slowly and can promote fullness and satiety, reducing calorie intake (16).
Each cup (82 grams) of raw eggplant contains 3 grams of fiber and just 20 calories (2).
Additionally, eggplants are often used as a high-fiber, low-calorie replacement for higher-calorie ingredients in recipes.
Summary: Eggplant is high in fiber but low in calories, both of which can help promote weight loss. It can also be used in place of higher-calorie ingredients.
Eggplant contains several substances that show potential in fighting cancer cells.
For instance, solasodine rhamnosyl glycosides (SRGs) are a type of compound found in some nightshade plants, including eggplant.
Some animal studies have shown that SRGs could cause the death of cancer cells and may also help reduce the recurrence of certain types of cancer (17).
Furthermore, several studies have found that eating more fruits and vegetables, such as eggplant, may protect against certain types of cancer.
One review looking at approximately 200 studies found that eating fruits and vegetables was associated with protection against pancreatic, stomach, colorectal, bladder, cervical and breast cancer (21).
However, more research is needed to determine how the compounds found in eggplants may specifically affect cancer in humans.
Summary: Eggplants contain solasodine rhamnosyl glycosides, which test-tube studies indicate may aid in cancer treatment. Eating more fruits and vegetables may also protect against some types of cancer.
Eggplant is incredibly versatile and can be easily incorporated into your diet.
It can be baked, roasted, grilled or sautéed and enjoyed with a drizzle of olive oil and a quick dash of seasoning.
It can also be used as a low-calorie replacement for many high-calorie ingredients.
This can reduce your carb and calorie intake, all while increasing the fiber and nutrient content of your meal.
Summary: Eggplant is a versatile ingredient that can be prepared and enjoyed in a variety of different ways.
Eggplant is a high-fiber, low-calorie food that is rich in nutrients and comes with many potential health benefits.
From reducing the risk of heart disease to helping with blood sugar control and weight loss, eggplants are a simple and delicious addition to any healthy diet.
They're also incredibly versatile and fit well into many dishes.