If eggplant isn’t currently part of your regular diet, then our list of the top eggplant benefits will definitely convince you that it should be! This round, purple fruit is both tasty and healthy.
Not only are eggplants nutritionally fantastic, but they can help your memory, regulate your blood sugars, prevent cancer, and much, much more. Read on to find out just how good eggplants are!
Before you jump in, is learning about health and nutrition your cup of tea? Take a look at OriGym’s level 4 advanced sports nutrition course to turn your interests into a career! Download our latest course prospectus as well to discover some other great career prospects.
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What is an eggplant?
Eggplant, or aubergine as it’s more commonly known in the UK, is an edible fruit from the Nightshade family (Solanaceae), that is very closely related to the tomato and the potato. It is commonly misconstrued as a vegetable, yet as it contains small, edible seeds it is actually a fruit (some even class it as a berry!).
For some other hugely beneficial fruits, check out our guide on the top 23 superfruits which will boost your health in other ways!
Eggplant is often used as a vegetable or meat substitute in cooking, and due to its ability to absorb oils and flavours into its flesh, it can be used in a huge range of different cuisines and dishes. Similar to tomatoes, an eggplant’s seeds can be eaten, and while eggplant is usually eaten cooked, it can be eaten raw too (similar to potatoes).
What does eggplant taste like, you ask?
Well, it depends: eggplant has been described as having a taste similar to summer squash or courgettes, which is a mild, sweet flavour, with a hint of bitterness.
However, eggplants absorb the flavour of whatever it is cooked with, so if you don’t like its natural flavour you can just add it to other flavoursome ingredients and its usual taste will be diminished.
Types of Eggplant
It might surprise you to know that there are a wide range of different types of eggplant available to purchase and eat. Some of these include:
- Globe - aka American Eggplants, the kind of eggplant you see in supermarkets
- White - same as Globe, just a different colour
- Fairy Tale - small with violet exterior and mottled white stripes; a creamy, sweet taste
- Indian - also known as baby eggplant; small and round in shape, purple exterior
- Italian - smaller, sweeter version of Globe eggplant
- Japanese - longer shape, sweet taste, delicate and spongy texture
- Chinese - similar purple exterior with white flesh and slender shape, less bitter tasting
- Thai - small and round, most have a green and white exterior, bitter tasting
- African Garden - green, white, or purple, small and round, very bitter
- Rosa Bianca - round in shape, mild flavour, no bitterness
- Graffiti - also known as striped eggplant, purple and white exterior, similar taste
As well as having a wide range of flavours, shapes, and textures, eggplant health benefits and nutritional values are also numerous.
In this article, we’re going to be looking at why they could be one of the best additions to your everyday diet, so read on for 9 of the top benefits of eggplant...
#1 - Rich in Nutrients
Eggplants are rich in nutrients, meaning they contain a wide range of vitamins, minerals, and fibre in them that the body needs to be healthy and function properly. For those of you asking “what vitamins does eggplant have?”, here’s a short list:
- Vitamin C - keeps cells healthy and maintains health of blood vessels, bones, and skin.
- Vitamin B6 - helps with immune function and haemoglobin formation.
- Vitamin K - a vitamin the body needs for blood clotting and healing wounds.
- Magnesium - supports muscle and nerve functions, and boosts energy.
- Potassium - helps the muscles work, especially those that control your heartbeat and breathing.
- Thiamine - plays an important role in the breakdown of carbs into products needed by the body.
- Folate - needed to make white and red blood cells in the bone marrow and produce DNA.
Eggplants also contain small amounts of other nutrients, such as copper, manganese, folic acid, and niacin, to name but a few.
As for the number of calories in a serving of eggplant, there’s very little in them with one cup of diced raw eggplant (82g) only containing 20 calories! Plus, the calories in an eggplant (whole, approximately 550g) amounts to only 136.
The rest of a cup of diced eggplant contains 5g of carbs and 3g of fibre. If you’re wondering about the average eggplant protein amount in a 100g serving, there’s 1 grams worth in it, meaning eggplant is also a decent source of protein when prepared alongside lean meats and poultry.
The huge range of minerals and vitamins in eggplants make them a great addition to your everyday diet and an excellent source of many nutrients that your body needs to stay functional and healthy.
So, is eggplant good for you? Judging from the host of nutrients and vitamins in this fruit alone, the answer would be a resounding yes!
#2 - Helps with Heart Health
Another of the humble eggplant health benefits is the fact that eating them can have a significant positive impact on the health of your heart.
Fibre, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, and potassium are just some of the many nutrients found in eggplants that can have a healthful effect on your cardiovascular system.
Fibre, for example, can help lower the amount of cholesterol that your body absorbs. If you have high cholesterol levels, you can develop fatty deposits that get stuck in your blood vessels. These deposits can grow, making it harder for blood to flow through your arteries.
This in turn can lead to increased blood pressure, which could eventually lead to you suffering from a heart attack or even a stroke.
The fibre in eggplants binds the cholesterol that your body absorbs with your digestive system’s bile, so that your body can get rid of it naturally. The more fibre you consume, the more efficient this process is!
Potassium, also found in eggplant, is essential to bodily functions: it regulates muscle and heart contractions and strengthens them. By strengthening your heart you are much less likely to suffer from high blood pressure, or even heart attacks.
Similarly, an increased risk of heart disease and strokes has been associated with high levels of a protein called homocysteine in the blood. Vitamin B, found in eggplants, helps lower homocysteine levels.
However, one of the few eggplant health risks is that because they’re part of the Nightshade family (a notoriously poisonous plant family!) they contain alkaloids, which can be toxic. Eating the leaves or flowers of these plants could lead to symptoms such as heart arrhythmias, which can be fatal. So be careful about which parts of the eggplant you eat!
#3 - Prevents Anaemia
Another of the health benefits of eggplant is the fact that it can help prevent iron deficiency anaemia.
Anaemia caused by a lack of iron has a wide range of symptoms, including: fatigue, lack of energy, pale skin, heart palpitations, and shortness of breath. Iron deficiency is more common in women than men, and can be caused because of pregnancy or blood loss.
Iron plays an important role in the creation of red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body. A lack of iron leads to less red blood cells, thus leading to less oxygen being carried around the body. This causes symptoms such as tiredness and shortness of breath.
There are tablets and vitamins you can take to ease the effect of anaemia, however, the health properties of eggplant means adding this fruit to your diet is a more natural (and tastier!) way to boost your iron levels.
If you're looking for vitamins to take for an energy boost, read our guide on vitamins and supplements for energy for some helpful advice.
Eggplants are also rich in copper too, which plays an important role in the creation and distribution of red blood cells, alongside iron.
However, it’s important to note that too much eggplant can have harmful effects on your body. One of the eggplant’s health risks is that there is a phytochemical in it called nasunin, which if you have too much of, can bind with iron and remove it from the cells. Therefore, if you’re going to use eggplant to help with iron deficiency, consume it in moderation to avoid making yourself feel even worse.
#4 - Improves Cognitive Function
One of the more surprising eggplant benefits is the fruit's ability to help improve cognitive function and mental health
Eggplants contain high levels of the anthocyanin, nasunin, which is found in the skin of the fruit and causes the purple colour of its exterior (it’s also found in other red and purple fruits, such as blueberries and raspberries).
Read our article on the benefits of blueberries to find out why these small yet mighty berries should be in your diet as well!
Anthocyanin is a type of flavonoid, which is actually a compound with antioxidant properties. Anthocyanins, like nasunin, help prevent inflammation of nervous tissue, with neuroinflammation being a cause of health problems such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimers.
Additionally, anthocyanins help facilitate the blood flow to the brain. Ensuring unhindered cerebral blood flow will benefit cognitive functions including memory, learning, problem solving, and decision making.
Maintaining and improving your memory and other cognitive functions could potentially aid in the prevention of age-related brain diseases, for example Dementia, from developing, which is something everyone can benefit from.
Additionally, there are some studies that have shown that the nasunin in eggplants can break down fats in the brain which can cause cell damage, keeping your brain healthier and safer.
As nasunin is a potent antioxidant, it is worth trying to incorporate foods containing this compound into your regular diet, and the nutrition of eggplant means these fruits are an excellent way to do this!
Eggplants are also rich in other phytonutrients, such as chlorogenic acid and potassium. Chlorogenic acid is another antioxidant that is effective for lowering blood pressure and regulating blood sugar, while potassium is essential for the body and can act as a vasodilator, which means that it can help widen the blood vessels.
Widening blood vessels allows more oxygen-rich blood to reach the brain, providing similar benefits as the anthocyanins mentioned above.
Just another example of how eggplant health benefits are also great for boosting your cognitive functions!
#5 - Can Aid Weight Loss
The eggplant nutrition facts and health benefits we’ve covered already are impressive enough, with low levels of calories and carbs, and high quantities in fibre and protein. However, these stats also mean that they’re effective for weight loss!
As we already know, there are 20 calories in eggplant servings of 82g, and 3g of fibre, making it a great replacement for higher-calorie ingredients that you would usually cook with. Eggplant also contains minimal amounts of fat or cholesterol, making it a very healthy food option for people trying to lose weight.
Another advantage is that you don’t just have to eat eggplants to experience its many nutritional and health benefits: eggplant water is a quick and easy drink to quench your thirst and keep hunger pangs at bay.
It's also a great alternative to standard water for keto dieters; if you need some inspiration on other keto drinks besides water then have a look at our guide on the 17 best keto drinks.
The water you boil these fruits in will absorb some of the minerals and vitamins from the eggplant itself, including vitamins C, B6, K, potassium, and antioxidants, so don’t just drain this water away once you’ve finished cooking the eggplant!
Adding lemon to this water and drinking it will not only provide a fresh supply of those raw eggplant benefits, but it also works to keep you feeling full by reducing your food cravings. Your body absorbs the nutrients from the water, which in turn will satiate your hunger.
Ultimately, if you’re not craving sweets and snacks, then you’re not going to be eating foods you shouldn’t be, such as foods that are high in sugar and fat. This means you’ll be able to lose weight more effectively, and keep the weight off.
So don’t let the health benefits of eggplant water go to waste - staying hydrated, fighting off hunger, and consuming essential nutrients all at the same time is a win-win situation!
#6 - Helps with Digestion
Another of the many health properties of eggplant is its ability to aid with digestion.
Due to its rich fibre content, eggplants act as a natural laxative which improves the function of the digestive system. This basically means that including eggplant as part of your typical diet will ensure smooth and regular bowel movements.
As a natural laxative, this also means that eating eggplant can help those who are suffering from constipation.
The rich fibre health properties of eggplant also mean that it can prevent the risk of inflammation in the digestive system. Fibre, along with the potent antioxidants and water content, all work together to combat any inflammation.
Inflammation of the digestive system provokes symptoms such as diarrhoea, fatigue, fever, abdominal pain, and weight loss, and is associated with conditions such as Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis.
However, it’s important to note that inflammation is one of the eggplant benefits and side effects. The right amount of eggplant can help prevent inflammation from happening, but too much of it can actually promote inflammation.
This is because eggplants contain cholinesterase, which is a group of enzymes necessary for chemical processes involving neurotransmitters and neurons. Overabundance of cholinesterase can cause inflammation as it blocks other anti-inflammatory substances in the body, potentially causing bloating and diarrhoea.
Briefly returning to the health benefits of eggplant water, drinking just one glass a day can help reduce bloating, so this is perfect for anyone who suffers from this.
Helping with your digestion is another one of the many health benefits of eggplant, if the fruit is consumed in moderation.
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#7 - Can Help Fight Cancer
A lot of people probably wouldn’t guess that fighting cancer is one of the answers to the question “what are the nutritional benefits of eggplants?”, but it’s true!
We’ve already briefly discussed the antioxidant health properties of eggplant, but they’re actually more important than previously mentioned. This is because antioxidants are one of best defenses against cancer (and other infections) that the body has available.
Antioxidants help protect the body against free radicals, which are molecules that can cause damage to the cells. They’re further described in the International Journal of Biomedical Science:
“When produced in excess, free radicals and oxidants generate a phenomenon called oxidative stress, a deleterious process that can seriously alter the cell membranes and other structures such as proteins, lipids, lipoproteins, and deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). Oxidative stress can arise when cells cannot adequately destroy the excess of free radicals formed.” (Pham-Huy, He and Pham-Huy, 2008)
Free radicals are linked to degenerative processes in the body, including aging, as well as diseases such as cancer, dementia, arthritis, cardiovascular issues, Parkinson’s, and more.
Eggplants contain good levels of antioxidants, with one specific antioxidant being manganese. One of the benefits of manganese is that it will fight the free radicals that can damage your body: ensuring your body has the right levels of this antioxidant can help protect your cells and prevent or delay the diseases mentioned above.
Nightshade plants, like eggplants, also have a compound called Solasodine Rhamnosyl Glycosides (SRG) in them. Human trials focused on the result of applying topical creams formulated with SRG to skin cancer have produced amazing results. One study stated:
“A mixture of naturally occurring glycoalkaloids has been shown to be highly effective in treating human skin cancers. This mixture consists of solasodine glycosides. These compounds are found in plants of the nightshade family like aubergine.” (Punjabi et al., 2007)
The skin cancer lesions are seen to be completely eradicated by these creams, with new, healthy skin cells taking the place of the cancerous cells.
The fact that eggplant nutrition values are so good that this is possible is incredible! Definitely another reason to include this fruit in your regular diet.
#8 - Regulate Blood Sugar
Additional eggplant benefits include the ability to help regulate blood sugar levels, which is great news for diabetics.
Eggplant is able to help maintain healthy blood sugar levels due to its high fibre content. Fibre prevents spikes in blood sugar levels by slowing down the speed and absorption of sugar by the body.
Eggplants specifically contain natural plant compounds called polyphenols. Polyphenols actually contribute to the majority of the eggplant health benefits on this list; they contain antioxidants, can reduce inflammation, boost brain functions, and more.
Polyphenols help prevent simple sugars entering the blood after being broken down from starch (this is usually the cause of spikes in blood sugar levels). Polyphenols also stimulate the secretion of insulin which is the key hormone for maintaining stable blood sugars.
Eggplant is particularly adept at aiding diabetes, as not only are the polyphenols beneficial for blood sugar levels, but the anthocyanins that contribute to eggplant nutrition are also considered “antidiabetic” - they help prevent insulin resistance in diabetic patients.
As if there weren’t already enough benefits of eggplant for diabetes here, but the levels of eggplant carbs are low too, with only 5g per cupful!
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#9 - Helps with Eye Health
Cooking eggplant and adding it to your regular diet could also have a positive effect on your eye health.
Eggplants are rich in lutein, which is another antioxidant. Lutein is classed as one of two carotenoids, which are colour pigments found in the eye, which work as a light filter to protect the eye from damage. Deficiency of lutein leads to eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts.
AMD tends to happen to people in their 50s and 60s: it starts off with blurring and distorting of the middle part of your vision, and can degenerate to the point where you can’t see anything in the middle of your vision. Whilst it isn’t a painful condition, it can make everyday activities, such as reading, more difficult and frustrating.
The antioxidant-rich nature of eggplants has been studied, with some results showing promising effects on delaying and reducing the effect of AMD through increased lutein intake.
Eating eggplants can also help lower intraocular pressure, which is the fluid pressure inside the eye. High fluid pressure can cause hazy or blurred vision, severe head and eye pain and even sudden sight loss, so it’s best to keep that under control.
Being able to boost eye health just with the addition of eggplant to your diet is fantastic!
Who knew that the common purple eggplant had such a profound list of health benefits (and who knew that it was actually a fruit?!). We’ll be adding this invaluable fruit into our next lasagne for sure.
So to sum up, what are the benefits of eating eggplant? Simply, a healthy heart, a great memory, good eyesight, easy digestion, and excellent general health!
If learning about the science behind some important nutrients has grabbed your attention then let’s take that further! Check out our level 4 advanced sports nutrition course and download our free course prospectus for all the information!
- Cham, B.E. (2011). Topical Solasodine Rhamnosyl Glycosides Derived From the Eggplant Treats Large Skin Cancers: Two Case Reports. International Journal of Clinical Medicine, 02(04), pp.473–477.
- Fluck, R.A. and Jaffe, M.J. (1975). Cholinesterases from Plant Tissues VI. Preliminary Characterization of Enzymes from Solanum Melongena L. and Zea Mays L. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) - Enzymology, 410(1), pp.130–134.
- Noda, Y., Kneyuki, T., Igarashi, K., Mori, A. and Packer, L. (2000). Antioxidant Activity of nasunin, an Anthocyanin in Eggplant Peels. Toxicology, 148(2–3), pp.119–123.
- Pham-Huy, L.A., He, H. and Pham-Huy, C. (2008). Free Radicals, Antioxidants in Disease and Health. International Journal of Biomedical Science, 4(2), pp.89–96.
- Punjabi, S., Cook, L.J., Kersey, P., Marks, R. and Cerio, R. (2007). Solasodine glycoalkaloids: a Novel Topical Therapy for Basal Cell carcinoma. a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, Parallel group, Multicenter Study. International Journal of Dermatology, 47(1), pp.78–82.