The eggplant – or, as Europeans might say, aubergine – is an ingredient that has a long and curious history. Believed to have originated in Asia, where it grows wild to this day, the first written record of the plant dates to China, in 544 BC. It was cultivated extensively throughout the Mediterranean by Arabs in the early Middle Ages, who introduced it to Spain in the 8th century. And it has a curious place in folklore; in 13th-century Italy, the eggplant was said to cause insanity, an idea also found in 19th-century Egypt (it was alleged that insanity was "more common and more violent" during the eggplant’s summer season).
As a plant species in the nightshade family Solanaceae, it is related to the tomato, chili pepper, and potato.Like the tomato, its skin and seeds can be eaten, but, like the potato, it is usually eaten cooked. Botanically classified as a berry, the small, soft, edible seeds taste bitter because they contain or are covered in nicotinoid alkaloids just like tobacco (the flowers and leaves can actually be poisonous due to the presence of solanine).
Along with a unique texture and mild flavor, eggplants contain a host of potential health benefits – they’re nutrient dense, and have just 20 calories per cup of raw eggplant. A serving of eggplant can provide at least 5% of a person’s daily requirement of fiber, copper, manganese, B-6, and thiamine, and with just 5 grams of carbs, eggplants are great for those following a keto diet.
Eggplants are rich in antioxidants, particularly anthocyanins, the pigment with that’s responsible for their vibrant color. A high intake of anthocyanins has been shown to benefit the heart – as well as lowering the risk of heart disease and heart attacks, they can significantly lower blood pressure and lessen stiffening of the arteries.
Keeping your blood sugar in check is another health benefit. They’re high in fiber, which slows the rate of digestion and absorption of sugar in the body (slower absorption keeps blood sugar levels steady and prevents spikes and crashes). Other research suggests that polyphenols, a compound found in eggplants, reduces sugar absorption as well, and increases insulin secretion, making them a great dietary addition for those suffering from diabetes.
Cancer-killing compounds are prevalent in eggplants, particularly something called solasodine rhamnosyl glycosides (SRGs). Studies have shown that SRGs can kill cancer cells, and may also help reduce the recurrence of certain types of cancer, particularly skin cancer. And, much like carrots, eggplant also contains the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, both of which play a role in eye health, and may help prevent age-related macular degeneration, which can lead to vision loss in older people.
Beyond moussaka and baba ganoush, eggplants are incredible versatile, and are easy to add to your diet. They can be baked, roasted, grilled, or sautéed, and added to various soups, stews, curries, and one-pots. They can also be used as a low-calorie replacement for many high-calorie ingredients, allowing you to reduce your carb and calorie intake while increasing the fiber and nutrient content of your meal. Add some of our great organic eggplant to your cart today, and feel the benefits for yourself.