Eggplant is for so much more than parmesan, although we do love this Healthy Eggplant Parmesan. Learn all about this healthy fruit (yes, it’s actually a fruit), why its good for you, how to begin using it at home, and of course some delicious recipes.
File eggplant into the category of most misunderstood vegetables (okay, technically it’s a fruit). I believe most people think only of eating the most common dish, eggplant parmesan. When I was a vegetarian, eggplant parmesan was my go-to, meatless order at a restaurant. Then I learned that just because it’s vegetarian doesn’t mean it’s healthy. I mean, one serving also includes all that breading, frying, and cheese, which probably contained all my calories for the day in one meal.
That being said, there are many ways to make the most of eggplant that won’t wreck your diet. Not only can you make eggplant parmesan healthier, but you can also include eggplant in dips and salads, grill, roast, bake, or stuff it. And you can forget the excuse that it tastes too bitter to eat it — because I’m going to tell you how to eliminate the bitter, and enjoy this healthy vegetable from here on out.
Once you’ve added eggplant to your vegetable rotation, you’ll be glad you did. It’s full of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. It comes in several varieties, so you are sure to be able to find one that you love.
Types of Eggplant
There are more than 10 types of eggplant, from the most common, the dark purple globe, to the stark white eggplant, and from darling little fairy tale eggplant to the green-and-white striped Thai eggplant. Most eggplants can be prepared similarly, though some can have a slightly different taste. For the purposes of this article, though, we are going to focus on the dark purple globe eggplant most easily found at your grocery store or farmer’s market.
Is Eggplant Good for You?
Yes! When you consider the low-calorie, high-nutrient content of the eggplant, it’s hard to find a way that eggplant couldn’t be healthy. That is, unless you cover it in cheese and fry it, of course. Eggplant is also made up of 75 percent water, which means that it will fill you up longer and help keep you hydrated. It is also high in calcium, potassium, phosphorus, vitamins A and C, and folate.
Is Eggplant Good for Losing Weight?
When watching your calorie intake, you want every last one to count. That’s why eggplant is good for dieters — it’s full of water, so it can help fill you up for very few calories. Eggplant is also low in fat, carbs, sodium, and sugar and contains fiber, which also helps keep you full. When you eat eggplant, you also know you’re getting lots of good nutrients as well. Eggplant is also great for vegetarians or those looking to eat more meatless meals, as it has a thicker, meatier texture. That sounds like a win all around to me!
The Nutritional Makeup of Eggplant
Eggplants are not only delicious, but they are super nutritious as well. One cup of cubed, raw eggplant contains 20 calories, 1 gram of protein, 0 grams of fat, 5 grams of carbs, 2.5 grams of fiber, and 3 grams of sugar. You’ll also get 7 mg of calcium, 11 mg of magnesium, 188 mg of potassium, 18 mg of folate, and 19 mg of vitamin A. Whoa — who knew eggplants were so nutrient-packed? (Okay, me, I knew.)
Is Eggplant a Fruit?
A member of the Solanaceae family, eggplant is a fruit, and is related to the tomato and potato. It’s also a member of the nightshade family, though the fruit isn’t poisonous. Although, if you eat a bunch (I mean A LOT) of the eggplant’s leaves or flowers, they can be poisonous. However, for the purposes of this article, we’ll just go ahead and call it a vegetable.
Do You Have to Peel an Eggplant?
You don’t have to peel an eggplant, though I do suggest to peel all or most of the skin off before cooking and eating, especially if it’s a bigger or older eggplant. The skin becomes more bitter the bigger and older it is. If you have purchased or grown some of the smaller, younger varieties of eggplant, the skin will be softer and better tasting.
Are Eggplants Fattening?
Nope. Not at all. Feel free to fill up on this nutritious, um, fregetable without worrying about its fat content. One serving of eggplant contains less than a gram of fat.
Are All Eggplants Bitter Tasting?
I wouldn’t say all eggplants taste bitter. The larger and older the eggplant, the more bitter it will be. You can eliminate most of the bitterness by peeling off the skin before preparing it. Another way to cut down on the bitterness is to salt the flesh. After you slice (or cube or dice) your eggplant, put it in a dish or lay it out on a plate, then sprinkle salt right on top of it. Let the eggplant sit for 20-30 minutes, then rinse the salt off of the flesh with cold water and add to your recipe.
Are Eggplants Keto-Friendly?
When you’re on the Keto diet, you tend to look for fruits and vegetables that are Keto-approved. Luckily, eggplant is on this list! With only 5 grams of carbs per serving, you can feel free to include eggplant into your Keto recipes.
Is Eggplant a Superfood?
It is pretty super. I’ve yet to meet a vegetable I don’t think is super, but that might just be me. Full of all the good stuff and low on all the less-desirable stuff, eggplant is considered a superfood. And, it’s making its way to a higher place of prominence on restaurant menus all across the country, thus showcasing its mass appeal as a trendy, nutritious up-and-comer. (So, lookout, kale!)
The Health Benefits of Eggplant
- It’s low-fat. I know, fat isn’t the enemy it once was. But, if you’re looking for filling foods that are low-fat, eggplant will soon become your new main squeeze. That will leave plenty of room in your diet for all those good-for-you fats you can find in avocados, salmon, and chia seeds.
- It’s good for your bones. The calcium you get from eating eggplant helps your bones stay strong well into old age and can help prevent osteoporosis. Calcium also helps maintain your gums and teeth, your joints, your hair, and your nails. It’s also beneficial to your immune system and helps keep your blood pressure within a normal range.
- It is low-carb. Those 5 little grams of carbs per serving of eggplant can help you easily stay on your low-carb diet. Eggplant is a great food to add to your food repertoire if you are following a Paleo, Keto, Atkins, South Beach, or another low-carb diet plan.
- It can help manage your blood sugar. If you are diabetic or watching your blood sugar levels, eggplant can help with that. Some studies have shown that the phenols contained in eggplant can help decrease insulin resistance. Eggplants also contain high levels of alpha-glucosidase and angiotensin, both of which have been shown to help your body absorb glucose.
- It is low-calorie. One cup of raw eggplant contains 20 calories — great news if you are trying to lose weight. That’s so few! You might as well go ahead and eat up a bunch of cooked eggplant, any way you enjoy. If you’re not sure, experiment with different recipes and spice combinations. What do you have to lose?
- They have antioxidants aplenty. Eggplant is high in anthocyanins (particularly nasunin) which can help prevent cancer, heart disease, and other chronic diseases. These antioxidants also protect our body from damage inflicted by free radicals, which can affect us at the cellular level.
How to Choose Eggplant
When buying eggplant (no matter the variety) you’ll want to look for ones that have smooth, shiny skin with a uniform color throughout. They should feel heavy for their size.
If you want to know for sure if an eggplant is ripe, press a finger into its skin. If you leave an imprint, it’s ripe. Remember smaller eggplants will taste less bitter than bigger, older ones.
How to Store Eggplant
You can leave eggplant out on your counter for a few days before eating if you desire. If you want to refrigerate it, an eggplant placed in the fridge will stay fresh for up to five days. There’s no need to put it in a plastic bag. Cut-up eggplant will rot fairly quickly in the fridge, so it’s best to wait to cut it until you are ready to eat it. If you want to freeze it, it’s best to blanch the eggplant first, let it cool, then put it in airtight freezer bags. It’s best to cook thawed eggplant as defrosted eggplant will look and taste rather mushy.
Can You Eat Raw Eggplant?
It is recommended that you not eat eggplant raw, since it is a member of the nightshade family. Although you technically have to eat A LOT of raw eggplant to experience the symptoms of solanine poisoning, it’s best to cook it and be on the safe side.
Eggplant Recipes: How to Cook & Eat Eggplant
Be sure to slice all (or most) of the eggplant skin off, and salting, and rinsing the flesh before cooking with it to ensure the least bitter (and most delicious) dishes.
The dish that first comes to mind when I think of eggplant is, of course, eggplant parmesan. Since the original is so full of fat and grease, I lightened it up for this Healthy Eggplant Parmesan dish. It’s a great vegetarian dish, and the eggplant here will taste somewhere between slightly more bitter, and less sweet, than a zucchini.
Remove most of the skin, salt, and drain your eggplant before chopping it into bite-sized cubes. Toss the cubes in salt and pepper and a little olive oil before roasting on a baking sheet at 425 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Add roasted eggplant to a nice, hearty grain salad with other vegetables and a homemade dressing, like I did in this Roasted Eggplant and Quinoa Salad with Feta. Or mix it up and make your own salad with roasted eggplant.
One of my most favorite ways to enjoy eggplant (or almost any vegetable, really) is to slice it up and grill it. As an entree or a side dish, there are so many ways to grill up eggplant. I like to grill it up and top it with other vegetables (and maybe a little cheese). This recipe for Grilled Eggplant with Tomatoes and Feta checks all the boxes — healthy, easy, and delicious. If you’d rather use your eggplant as a substitute for meat in a burger, try these Grilled Eggplant Sandwiches with Black Olives Feta Spread.
Move over, hummus. There’s a new dip in town. Made from roasted, then blended eggplant, Baba Ganoush is a Middle Eastern eggplant dip that’s great for hot summer days or just about any occasion, really. You can roast or grill the eggplant first, then whip it up with some garlic, olive oil, spices, and tahini. Replace your typical ranch dip for baba ganoush on a veggie tray, pair with pita wedges or crackers, or add it as a spread to your favorite sandwich.
You all know how much I love my stuffed vegetables. Peppers, tomatoes, spaghetti squash,…and eggplant. Yep, that’s right you can stuff an eggplant, too! Simply half the eggplant right down the middle lengthwise, scoop out the middle, stuff, and bake for 30-35 minutes at 375 degrees like I did in this recipe for Vegetarian Greek Stuffed Eggplant with Feta.