Eggplant or Brinjal is a perennial vegetable belonging to the nightshade or Solanaceae family. It often grows to a height of 16 to 57 inch with spiny stems and comes in different shades like lavender, yellow-white, orange, and jade green. The flesh, however, is cream colored with a pleasantly bitter taste (due to the presence of small amounts of nicotinoid alkaloids) and spongy consistency. The first cultivation of this plant was done in China during the 5th century B.C prior to which it was found wild in the forests of India. Countries like Africa and Italy became acquainted with the plant during the Middle Ages while the spread to the European and the Middle East zones occurred during the 14th century. Today, the leading cultivators of this species of vegetables are Italy, Turkey, Egypt, Japan, and China. Some of the beneficial effects of consuming brinjal or aubergine (in France) are given below.
Health Benefits Of Eating Eggplant
- Although iron is essential for many biological process in the body, excess accumulation of iron is not beneficial and causes certain harmful effects in the body. Increased accumulation of iron causes rise in the production of free radicals in the body and is associated with high risk of heart disease and cancer. Hence, it is necessary to remove the excess iron to reduce the free radical production. This can be done by nasunin, a phytonutrient present in eggplant.
- Other beneficial effects of chelating iron are protecting blood cholesterol from peroxidation, reducing the rate of free radical damage in joints and preventing cellular damage that can promote cancer formation.
- Nasunin, the potent antioxidant, also shields the brain cell membranes from any kind of damage and injury. This is really important as the membrane protects the cells from free radicals, allowing the entry of nutrients and exit of harmful wastes. It also receives instructions from messenger molecules telling what activities the different cells should perform.
- Another important function of eggplants are that they act as antimicrobial, antiviral, antimutagenic and anti LDL, all of which is attributed to the action of a phenolic compound, chlorogenic acid, found in abundance in the vegetable. The acid is one of the most potent free radical scavengers found in the tissues of plants.
- The plant also has a high source of dietary fibers, which is helpful for the proper functioning of the digestive system, and also acts against coronary heart disease.
- The potassium content in the vegetable helps to strike a balance in the salt intake and maintain a good hydration level.
- The potassium level also plays a vital role in regulating the blood pressure of the body.
- For those of you who are planning to go easy on your diet and lose some extra weight, you can opt for eggplants as they are very low in calories and also have high moisture content. Hence, brinjal or eggplants can be safely and effectively used to control obesity.
- Eggplants are also used to reduce glucose levels of type II Diabetes. This is attributed to the fact that the vegetable contains low levels of carbohydrates and high fiber levels. In fact, the vegetable is regarded as a natural method of controlling diabetes.
- Egg plants contain measurable amounts of oxalates. One harmful effect that concentrated oxalate levels cause in the body is that they crystallize which lead to certain health problems. This is the reason why people with suspected or untreated kidney or gall bladder problems should avoid the consumption of eggplants.
- Certain cases of allergic symptoms to eggplants like itchy skin and mouth has been reported many a times. Contacting dermatitis from the plant leaves and hypersensitivity reactions to the flower pollens have also been reported a number of times.
- Prior to cutting the vegetable, wash it properly under cold running water and cut off the ends. Then using a stainless steel knife cut the vegetable into slices. Use of carbon steel knife is not advisable as it reacts with the phytonutrients present in the plant causing the vegetable to turn black.
- Eggplants can be consumed with or without the skin. For the larger ones with tough skins, you can either peel the skin before cutting or in case you are baking it, you can scoop out the flesh once it is cooked properly.
- Eggplants naturally have a slight bitter taste. To reduce this you can sweat the plant by salting it and keeping it aside for around half an hour. This way some of its water content will come out which will make it less permeable to absorbing any oil used in cooking.
- Eggplants can be cooked in a variety of ways. They can be baked, steamed, or even roasted in the oven.