Though many think of eggplant as a vegetable, it’s technically a fruit, belonging to the nightshade family. Eggplants are most often purple in appearance though other colors and varieties do exist. To some, eggplant can seem like an intimidating ingredient and be passed over at the grocery store, but it doesn’t have to be! They have a whole slew of health benefits and can be used to make everything from dips to main dishes and even chips! Read below to learn why you should incorporate more eggplant into your diet (especially if you’re pregnant or trying to lose weight!) and our favorite healthy recipes and tips!
Health Benefits of Eggplant
- They can improve memory and cognitive function.
Eggplant gets it’s purple color from a substance called nasunin, a powerful antioxidant that protects the lipids (fats) in your brain and eats up free radicals in your body that can cause damage to cells. Eggplant also contains phytonutrients that keep your brain safe from toxins and increase blood flow to improve memory and cognitive function. Count us in!
- They’re beneficial for weight loss.
Eggplant is made up of 90% water making it incredibly low calorie. In fact, it’s roughly around 132 calories for the entire vegetable making it a good option for those looking to lose weight. The below eggplant chips make for a great low calorie snack or try using them in our eggplant parmesan recipes below rather than chicken to bring the calories down.
- They’re rich in vitamins and fiber.
Eggplants provide a wide variety of nutrients beneficial for health. Per 1 cup serving, eggplant provides 10% of your daily value of fiber, critical to digestion, and 7% of your daily value of copper and vitamin B1. Eggplant is also a good source of manganese, vitamin B6 & B3, vitamin K, potassium and folate (see below).
- They reduce your risk of heart disease.
Thanks to the combination of fiber, potassium, vitamin C and vitamin B6, eggplants have been shown to lower rates of heart disease. The addition of vitamin K and E also helps to prevent calcification in the arteries and lower blood pressure.
- They contain anti-cancer properties.
Like many other fruits and vegetables, eggplant contains polyphenols and antioxidants which are know to reduce inflammation in the body, which is the cause of many diseases. In fact, these properties can help prevent tumor growth and fight cancerous cells.
- They can fight aging.
As mentioned above, the presence of nasunin in eggplant can reduce cell damage and thus fight the effects of aging. Vitamin E, present in eggplant, also plays a role as an anti-aging nutrient due to it’s ability to improve moisture and skin elasticity. Some even recommend blending eggplant with yogurt and applying to skin as a mask to reduce age spots!
- They’re good for bone health.
Eggplants can also help create strong bones due to a number of nutrients and properties. They are a good source of iron, calcium, potassium and phenolic compounds that can all fight osteoporosis and improve bone health.
- They’re recommended for pregnant women.
Folic acid is necessary for a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby as folates are known to help prevent tubal defects in infants. Eggplant is a good source of folate which is why its’ recommended to expecting mothers.
- They can help manage diabetes.
Thanks to it’s high fiber content and low glycemic index which won’t spike insulin levels, eggplant can be used to control and manage diabetes. Plus, at only 21.1 grams of carbohydrates for a 1-pound eggplant and 12.5 grams of fiber, it’s a healthy low carb option with much to offer nutritionally.
Healthy Eggplant Recipes
- Paleo Stuffed Eggplant with Ground Beef by The Healthy Maven
As the temperatures start to cool, this stuffed eggplant dinner will be a comfort food hit for the family. If you’ve got little ones, they can even help you stuff the eggplant boats for a fun, interactive meal. Plus, this recipe is incredibly versatile so you can easily swap ingredients in and out based on what you have on hand. You can even skip the beef and add in extra vegetables or beans to make it vegetarian!
- Eggplant Parmesan Chips by Sugar Free Mom
Dehydrated or baked, we love making big batches of veggies chips to have on hand when the snack bug strikes. These eggplant parmesan chips are low carb, crunchy and everything you could want in a chip without the guilt! And even if you don’t like eggplant, you still have got to try these; it’s not the same flavor or texture.
- Slow Cooker Sausage and Vegetable Ratatouille by Everyday Maven
Originating out of France, ratatouille is what you might call a French vegetable stew. Eggplant is a staple in most ratatouilles but it’s also packed with tons of other vegetables like tomatoes, bell peppers, zucchini and onions. This particular recipe also adds sausage in for a nice punch of flavor and protein. Oh, and did I mention it’s made in the slow cooker? Easy!
- Healthy Eggplant Parmesan by Sugar Free Mom
Skip the chicken parmesan for an easier and lower calorie eggplant parmesan. We love eggplant parmesan, but even when you choose eggplant over chicken, it can still be a heavy dish. This lightened up recipe uses panko breadcrumbs and is baked in the oven to get that yummy crispy texture that everyone loves! This seemingly indulgent meal is great for both vegetarians and meat lovers alike.
- Roasted Eggplant and Zucchini Bruschetta with Basil and Feta by Ambitious Kitchen
Tired of the same old tomato bruschetta? This roasted eggplant and zucchini bruschetta is a fun twist on the classic. It still pairs well with basil, but instead of mozzarella, this recipe uses feta to incorporate a bit of Mediterranean flavor. These bruschettas are great to set out at a party or to serve as an appetizer before dinner.
- Healthy Baba Ghanoush by Minimalist Baker
Baba ghanoush is a Middle Eastern dip made with eggplants and it’s quite delicious if you’ve never tried it. It’s very similar to hummus using tahini, lemon, garlic and olive oil all blended together but instead of chickpeas, it uses roasted eggplant for a unique flavor. It’s perfect to eat with veggies or pita chips!
- The easiest (and often most delicious) way to cook eggplants is to simply roast them in the oven. Preheat to 475, cut into cubes and with a drizzle of olive oil, sea salt & pepper for 25 minutes. You can eat them as is as a side dish or put them into a recipe like baba ghanoush!
- Another simple way to include eggplant as a dinner side dish is to throw it on the grill. We like to marinate it as well as some other veggies like zucchini and bell peppers in Italian dressing for a fun kick and then give it a nice char until it’s softened.
- Panini’s are incredibly versatile so there’s no reason you can’t throw some eggplant slices into one. We recommend roasting the vegetable first as it won’t cook properly if it’s put into the sandwich raw. Pair with mozzarella or goat cheese and whatever other veggies you have laying around!
- Eggplant can easily go into any pasta dish as well! Cook your noodles al dente and sauté some onion, garlic and eggplant in a pan with olive oil. Add some roasted tomatoes, top with a bit of parmesan, salt and pepper and herbs and combine with your pasta!