What Are Eggplants Good For?

Story at-a-glance 

Eggplants contain fiber, copper, B vitamins, vitamin K, and potassium

Eggplants are a rich source of antioxidant anthocyanins, which may help protect cell membranes in your brain

Eggplant compounds have anti-proliferative activities against human colon and liver cancer cells

Eggplant  is a popular part of Indian, Middle Eastern, and Chinese cuisines, but in the  US the average American eats less than one pound per year.1 They are, perhaps, the  least popular member of the Solanaceae family, which includes tomatoes, pepper, and potatoes, as well as some  poisonous plants like Deadly Nightshade.

For  centuries, in fact, especially in Europe, eggplant was regarded as a bitter  plant more suited for decorating the garden than eating, and many believed it  was unhealthy or even poisonous. It was even blamed for causing insanity,  leprosy, and cancer.2

Early  on, most eggplants were yellow or white-skinned, small and resembled the shape  of an egg, hence their name. Through the years, however, new varieties of  eggplant emerged, including the more familiar dark-purple variety often  consumed in the US today.

In  the 18th century, its taste became much less bitter and this  vegetable rose out of obscurity and into some of the most beloved traditional  dishes around the globe – like Middle Eastern baba ghanoush, Greek moussaka, French  ratatouille,  and Sicilian caponata.

If  you’re new to eggplant, you might be surprised to find it can be quite sweet. Some even refer to it as a fruit, which, technically, it is (like the tomato).

Eggplants Are Packed with  Antioxidants

Eggplants contain fiber, copper, B  vitamins, vitamin K, and potassium, but their brightly colored skin is a sign  that they’re also rich in antioxidants. Anthocyanins are one type of  phytonutrient that are responsible for that dark-purple color.

One  variety, nasunin, has been found to have potent antioxidant and free-radical  scavenging abilities. It’s also known to protect the fats in your brain cell  membranes,3 and it has  iron-chelating abilities, which is beneficial if you suffer from iron overload.

The  predominant antioxidant in eggplants is chlorogenic acid, which also has  anti-cancer, antimicrobial, and anti-viral properties. Chlorogenic acid is also  one of the most potent free-radical scavengers found in plants. One variety of  eggplant in particular, known as Black Magic, has been shown to have nearly  three times the antioxidants as other varieties.4

In addition, nasunin and other phytonutrients in eggplant,  including terpenes, are thought to be beneficial for heart health. Animal  studies show that eggplant juice has beneficial effects on cholesterol levels and  also relaxes blood vessels for improved blood flow.5

Eggplant Extract May Kill  Cancer Cells

A cream containing eggplant extract,  known as BEC and BEC5, appears to cure and eliminate most non-melanoma skin  cancers in several weeks’ time. There are reports that extracts of plants  from the Solanaceae family of  vegetables are effective for treating cancer dating back nearly 200 years to  1825, according to natural health pioneer Dr. Jonathan Wright.

However, it  wasn’t until much later, after the 1950s, that they were formally studied. The  leading researcher in this area today is Dr. Bill E. Cham, who reported as  early as 1991 in Cancer  Letters that:6

“A  cream formulation containing high concentrations (10%) of a standard mixture of  solasodine glycosides (BEC) has been shown to be effective in the treatment of  malignant and benign human skin tumors.”

One of Dr. Cham’s more recent studies  was published in the International Journal of Clinical Medicine.7 The paper includes two impressive case reports of 60-something men who were  suffering from large basal cell carcinoma (BCC) or squamous cell carcinoma  (SCC), which had plagued them for years. The results upon treatment with a  cream formulation of BEC (eggplant extract) twice a day are astounding:

    • In the first case, treatment with  the eggplant-extract cream resulted in rapid break down of the tumor. After two  weeks, the lesion was reduced to about half its original size, and after 14  weeks the cancer was clinically eliminated with no scar tissue formation. Even  the hairs had regrown where the tumor was originally.
    • In the second case, after six weeks  of treatment with eggplant-extract cream, the large skin cancer lesion appeared  “cleaner” and some of the cancerous tissue had been replaced with  normal tissue.

In another three weeks, the lesion  was much smaller and more normal tissue was apparent. After a total of 14 weeks,  the lesion was completely eliminated with no scar tissue present.

Unfortunately, simply eating eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, or  similar veggies, while beneficial for many reasons, will not induce this same  effect because the active components are not able to effectively penetrate your  cells. This requires the addition of glycosides, molecules with various simple  sugars attached to them that can latch on to receptors found on skin cancer  cells.

That being said, eggplant compounds have also been found to  have anti-proliferative activities against human colon and liver cancer cells.8 The fact that eggplant has anti-cancer effects is one more testament to the  benefits of eating a wide variety of natural foods.

How to Choose and Prepare  Eggplant

For  best flavor, choose eggplants that are glossy in color, firm, and heavy for  their size. The stem should be bright green, and if you push on the flesh with  your thumb, it should bounce back. A lasting indentation is a sign that the  eggplant may be overripe. Overripe eggplants tend to be more bitter in flavor,  as do those that are stored too long.

You  can store an uncut eggplant in your refrigerator’s crisper drawer (in a plastic  bag), but they are quite perishable. Ideally, look for eggplants that are locally  grown and use them as soon as possible after harvest.

One  of the allures of eggplants is their versatility. They can be baked, roasted,  steamed or boiled, mashed, pureed, diced, and sliced. Although it’s not a  requirement, many people “sweat” their eggplant prior to using it in recipes to  help draw out some moisture, tenderize the flesh and reduce any bitterness. To  do so, the George Mateljan Foundation recommends:9

To tenderize the flesh’s texture and reduce some of its  naturally occurring bitter taste, you can sweat the eggplant by salting it.  After cutting the eggplant into the desired size and shape, sprinkle it with  salt and allow it to rest for about 30 minutes.

This process will  pull out some of its water content and make it less permeable to absorbing any  oil used in cooking. Rinsing the eggplant after ‘sweating’ will remove most of  the salt.”

Healthy Grilled Eggplant  Recipe

Eggplant  is a perfect addition to soups, stews, casseroles, and side dishes, and it’s  often used as a replacement for meat in those following a vegetarian or vegan  diet. But it’s also quite tasty on its own. To savor the unique flavor and  texture of eggplant, all you need is a bit of healthy oil, salt and pepper. The  grilled eggplant recipe below, from the Rodale Recipe Index, is one well worth  keeping:

Grilled Eggplant10

Ingredients

  • 4 eggplants (1 lb each), with peel, cut lengthwise into 1″ thick slices
  • 2 tsp kosher salt, divided
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive or coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Layer several paper towels on baking sheet. Place half of eggplant on top in  single layer. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the salt and cover with paper towels.  Arrange second layer of eggplant, sprinkle with remaining salt, and cover with  paper towels.
  2. Let eggplant stand 30 minutes, then rinse each piece  and blot dry. (This helps extract excess water, reducing bitterness and  preventing eggplant from absorbing excess oil during cooking.)
  3. Brush both sides of an eggplant slice with oil to coat and transfer to large  bowl. Repeat with remaining oil and eggplant slices. Season with pepper.
  4. Heat grill to medium. Grill eggplant, with  cover closed, 16 to 20 minutes, turning once, until lightly browned and tender.  Refrigerate leftovers in airtight container for a day or two.

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