Eggplant is a healthy vegetable that goes great with dishes like stir fry and lasagna. Besides being a mouthwatering addition to just about any meal, eggplant boasts several health benefits. It's fat free and contains antioxidants and nutrients essential for metabolism. Including eggplant as part of a balanced diet can also help you lose weight and keep your heart healthy.
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If you're overweight, the risk of developing serious health problems increases, including illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and even some cancers. Eating eggplant can help keep obesity at bay because it's a low-energy-dense food. Energy density is the number of calories per gram of food. Foods like eggplant let you eat more for fewer calories because they're packed with water and fiber that add bulk without calories. You can eat an entire cup of cooked, cubed eggplant and get just 35 calories.
Antioxidants are unique compounds found in plant foods like eggplant. Their job in the body is to protect your cells from the damage caused by free radicals. Free radical-induced damage can begin the process that leads to cancer. Eggplant contains a unique antioxidant known as nasunin. In a study published in the August 2000 edition of "Toxicology," Yasuko Noda of the University of California at Berkeley discovered that nasunin is a powerful antioxidant that protected brain cells from free radical damage in a test tube. It's beneficial to eat the peel of the eggplant, as this is where nasunin resides.
Vitamins and Minerals
Eggplant contains a smattering of important vitamins and minerals. A 1-cup serving of cubed, cooked eggplant supplies 6 percent of your recommended daily allowance of vitamin B-6 and thiamin. Both of these B vitamins are needed to metabolize the foods you eat into energy. Vitamin B-6 also helps synthesize serotonin, which regulates mood and sleep. The same serving also supplies 6 percent of your recommended daily allowance of copper. This trace mineral fills several vital roles. It works as an antioxidant, is essential for the functioning of your brain and it's used in the synthesis of connective tissue.
Eggplant is rich in heart-healthy dietary fiber. A single cup serving of eggplant contains 2.5 grams of fiber, the USDA reports. This represents 10 percent of women's recommended daily intake of fiber, while men get 6.5 percent. A healthy diet that includes fiber-rich foods like eggplant reduces cholesterol and heart disease risk, the American Heart Association states. To keep eggplant a heart-healthy choice, use limited amounts of oil and salt when cooking it.