In some places, eggplant or brinjal is often referred to as the ‘King of vegetables’ and it is not without cause. It has a wide array of health benefits. It helps you get strong bones and offsets the onset of osteoporosis. It helps you to deal with symptoms of anemia, increases cognitive function, improves cardiovascular health and, even, protects the digestive system. Furthermore, it also helps you to lose weight, reduces stress levels, helps to protect infants from birth defects and also fights some strains of cancer.
Belonging to the genus Solanum, eggplant or aubergine is a species of nightshade and is primarily grown for its edible fruit. In South and South-East Asia, it is commonly known as brinjal. The wild varieties of this purple or black coloured glossy vegetable can grow up to a length of more than a foot. However, the normal edible versions are considerably smaller. The eggplant is basically a delicate and tropical perennial plant and it grows best in temperate climate. It is native to South Asia but different varieties of it are used in different cuisines all across the globe.
Eggplants are rich in a wide range of nutrients which are beneficial for our health. It is rich in dietary fiber, Vitamin B1 and copper. Other nutrients like manganese, vitamin B6, niacin, potassium, folate and Vitamin K are also found in good quantities. Eggplant or brinjal is low on cholesterol or saturated fat. It contains phytonutrients like nasunin and chlorogenic acid.
Eggplant contains Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, potassium and phytonutrient and, thus, is good for overall heart health. Eggplant helps to maintain the cholesterol level in our body by increasing the intake of good cholesterol (HDL) and lowering bad cholesterol (LDL). Risks of heart attacks, strokes and atherosclerosis are substantially reduced if LDL levels are reduced in our body. Eggplant also is effective in regulating our blood pressure and this ultimately reduces the stress and strain on our cardiovascular system. This helps to keep our heart in good shape.
Eggplant has polyphenols that exhibit anti-cancer effects. The anthocyanins and chlorogenic acid present in eggplant function as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory and, thus, help to fight the effects of cancer. These compounds help to eliminate the harmful free radicals in our body and thereby protect our cells. This further helps to prevent growth of tumor and the growth and spreading of cancerous cells. Vitamin C, also present in eggplant, stimulates the production of white blood cells, which are our body’s primary line of defense.
Eggplant is a rich source of phytonutrients, which are known to increase cognitive ability and to improve overall brain health. These phytonutrients eliminate the disease-causing free radicals from our body and protect our brain from getting affected. They help our brain to receive blood rich in oxygen and, thus, help neural pathways to develop. This, in turn, improves our memory and the ability to think analytically. Eggplant also contains potassium which is a vasodilator and is instrumental for the proper functioning of our brain.
Eggplant contains a very low content of cholesterol or fat. It is however rich in dietary fiber. This fiber adds bulk to our stool and helps in the effective elimination of waste materials from our body. The fiber stimulates the secretion of gastric juices which helps our body to easily digest food and also to absorb the nutrients.
You can incorporate eggplant in your diet if you are keen to lose weight. Eggplant has no cholesterol, no fat and is very low in calories. Consumption of this vegetable, rich in fiber, inhibits the release of a hormone called ghrelin. This hormone is instrumental in causing us to feel hungry again. The fiber fills us up and reduces any chance of overeating.
Being rich in Vitamin K and copper, eggplant helps to prevent osteoporosis, increases bone strength and also enhances mineral density. Collagen, present in this vegetable, helps in the formation of connective tissue and bones. The potassium in this vegetable helps to absorb calcium and, thus, helps your bones to be healthy and strong.
People having anemia suffer from headaches, migraines, fatigue, weakness, depression and cognitive malfunction. Eggplant, being a rich source of iron, helps to fight anemia and its resultant symptoms. It also contains copper which, together with iron, helps to increase the count of red blood cells. Adequate quantity of red blood cells is required to prevent the feelings of stress and fatigue and to feel energetic and strong.
Folate is essential for pregnant women as it aids in brain development of the baby that she is carrying. Folic acid protects the infants from any defects in their neural tubes. Thus it is advisable for pregnant women to include eggplant in their diet.
Eggplants are good for managing diabetes as it is rich in fiber and low in soluble carbohydrates. Consuming this vegetable helps to regulate glucose and insulin activity in the body. Stable levels of insulin help to avert the dangerous effects of diabetes in our bodies.
The skin of eggplant has a number of nutritional benefits. Eggplant is ranked among the top 10 vegetables in oxygen radical absorbance capacity. This is because it is rich in phenols which help to eliminate the free radicals in our body. Fried eggplant tastes good but they absorb a lot of oil. It is better to consume baked, roasted or steamed eggplant.
Inspite of all the health benefits that eggplant provides, consumption of this vegetable in large quantities can have some harmful effects on your body. Nasunin, present in eggplant, is a phytochemical which can bind with iron and remove it from the cells. The oxalates in this vegetable can cause stones in the kidney. Finally, eggplant belongs to the nightshade family of vegetables and may cause allergic reactions in some people if taken in large quantities.
Eggplant is believed to have originated in India and it has been cultivated there as well as in China for close to 1500 years. In Sanskrit, literary references to eggplant can be found dating back to 3rd century A.D. The use of different types of eggplant is also documented in Chinese history within a period of 7th – 9th century A.D. Aubergine, as it is known in the United Kingdom, first appeared in a British botany book in the 16th century. Later, this vegetable was introduced to different countries via different trade routes.
Eggplant grows best in warm climates and a temperature range of 70-85 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal. Rich, well-drained slightly alkaline soil is also best suited for the cultivation of this vegetable. This plant requires about 5 months of warm weather before it can bear fruits.