Eggplant Nutrition: Benefits, Risks, Recipes and More

Eggplant can be enjoyed in a variety of dishes for its delicious flavor and many health benefits.
Image Credit: OksanaKiian/iStock/GettyImages

Eggplant, also known as aubergine or Guinea squash, is a perennial member of the nightshade family. This dark-hued fruit grows wild in India and is grown as an annual plant anywhere with a warm growing season.

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Eggplant is a staple in a variety of different dishes — think: Middle Eastern baba ghanoush and Italian eggplant parmesan.

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Beyond the deliciously creamy texture that eggplant adds to any dish, it also has many health perks. Eggplant may benefit your heart health, blood sugar control and vision.

Eggplant Nutrition Facts

One cup of cubed eggplant is equal to a single serving. One cup of cooked eggplant contains:

  • Calories​: 35
  • Total fat​​: 0.2 g
    • ​​Saturated fat​​: 0 g
  • ​​Cholesterol​​: 0 mg
  • ​​Sodium​​: 1 mg
  • ​​Total carbs​: 8.6 g
    • ​Dietary fiber​: 2.5 g
    • ​​Sugar​: 3.2 g
  • ​​Protein​: 0.8 g

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Macronutrients

  • Total fat​: One cup of cooked eggplant has 0.2 grams of total fat, which includes 92 milligrams of polyunsaturated fat, 20 milligrams of monounsaturated fat, 0 grams of saturated fat and 0 grams of trans fat.
  • ​Carbohydrates​: One cup of cooked eggplant has 8.6 grams of carbs, which includes 2.5 grams of fiber and 3.2 grams of naturally occurring sugar.
  • ​Protein​: One cup of cooked eggplant has 0.8 grams of protein.

Vitamins, Minerals and Other Micronutrients

  • ​Copper​: 6% of your Daily Value (DV)​
  • ​Thiamin (B1)​​:6% DV
  • Manganese​: 5% DV
  • ​​Vitamin B6​: 5% DV
  • ​Niacin (B3)​: 4% DV

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Health Benefits of Eggplant

1. Eggplant Is Linked to Lower Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is defined as a level above 130/80 mmHg. An estimated 45 percent of adults over 18 years old have high blood pressure, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to stroke, aneurysm, heart failure, dementia and kidney failure, per the Mayo Clinic.

In a November 2019 study in ​Nutrients​, 100 people with normal-high or grade one high blood pressure were split into two groups, one receiving powdered eggplant and one receiving a placebo. The group taking the eggplant supplement (equal to 1/4 cup of raw eggplant) had significantly lower blood pressure and stress scores after 12 weeks compared to the placebo group.

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2. It's Heart-Healthy

Eggplant is a low-carb fruit with 2.5 grams of fiber per serving. Fiber can help lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in the blood, reduce inflammation and lower blood pressure, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Dietary fiber, especially soluble fiber from fruit, has an inverse relationship (the more fiber you eat, the lower your risk) with several diseases, including heart disease. In fact, soluble fiber is associated with a lower risk of heart disease and insoluble fiber is associated with a lower risk of death from heart disease, per a July 2020 study of more than 100,000 people in the ​American Journal of Clinical Nutrition​.

Including eggplant, as well as other fiber-rich fruits, vegetables and whole grains in your diet is a great way to support your heart health.

3. It's Gut-Healthy

Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, including eggplant, helps keep the good bacteria in your gut healthy while keeping the bad bacteria from making you sick.

Your gut bacteria ferment the fiber from fruits and vegetables creating short-chain fatty acids to absorb more important nutrients from the food you eat, according to an August 2019 review in ​Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety.

4. It's Rich in Antioxidants

The dark purple color in the skin of eggplant comes from the powerful antioxidant anthocyanin. Other foods high in anthocyanins include blueberries, cranberries and red cabbage.

Anthocyanins help protect plants from damage due to oxidative stress, per a February 2021 review in Physiologia Plantarum. As an antioxidant, it does the same for us when we eat them.

Animal, human and lab studies have found evidence that anthocyanins have antioxidative and antimicrobial properties and are linked to improved visual and neurological health, per an August 2017 review in ​Food and Nutrition Research​.

Health Risks

Solanine

Eggplants and other nightshade plants like tomatoes, potatoes and sweet peppers contain a toxic compound known as solanine.

Solanine poisoning is best known as a result of eating green potatoes or the new sprouts on potatoes. Symptoms can include stomach pain, hallucination, nausea and vomiting, headaches, paralysis and shock, according to the U.S National Library of Medicine.

The solanine amount in eggplant, like potatoes, varies with age. As the fruit ripens, the solanine content drastically decreases, with the flower bud and leaves containing the highest amount and the mature fruit containing the lowest, per a June 2017 study in Food Technology and Biotechnology.

It would be highly unlikely for you to get solanine poisoning from eating ripe eggplant fruit — even if you ate it every day.

Allergies

Allergies to eggplant are rare but possible. Most often, eggplant allergies are seen in people from India or Spain, according to a July 2013 study in ​Case Reports in Medicine.

The study also reported cases of allergic reactions from eggplant associated with a latex allergy. Some foods have proteins that are similar to latex and can cause an allergic reaction when eaten by someone with a latex allergy.

Other latex cross-reactive foods are avocado, bananas, chestnuts, kiwi, apple, carrots, papaya, potatoes, melon and tomatoes, per the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

How to Select and Prepare Eggplant

Here's how to pick a perfect eggplant:

  • Choose an eggplant that is heavy in weight with shiny, deep purple skin.
  • Avoid fruits with bruises or scrapes on the skin.
  • To test for the perfect ripeness, gently press the skin with your finger. The dent should quickly spring back. If the skin stays indented the eggplant is likely not yet ripe yet. If the skin is cracked or worn, the eggplant may be too ripe and will be overly bitter.

Yes, you can eat eggplant skin.​ You can eat eggplant with or without the skin and in a variety of different ways. Some people claim the skin is tough, so if this bothers you, it's easy to remove by peeling away the skin with a vegetable peeler. If you do remove the skin, remember you're also removing the antioxidant anthocyanin that's found in the skin.

Try salting the eggplant.​ Salting your eggplant before eating it can help remove some of the bitterness, per the Perdue University Extension. They recommend slicing the eggplant into your desired thickness, then sprinkling with salt an hour before rinsing, patting dry and cooking.

Raw eggplant won't hurt you, but cooking it is a better choice.​ There's some controversy about eating raw eggplant. The solanine that's present in the eggplant could act as an irritant at low levels and be toxic at high levels as described earlier.

But, any solanine in the food before cooking will still be there after it's cooked, according to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Even so, raw eggplant is likely to taste more bitter and won't be as enjoyable as it is cooked (like, into a delicious eggplant parmesan).

Recipes With Eggplant

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