Call it eggplant, aubergine, or a Barney the dinosaur lookalike, but this bottom-heavy purple nightshade is a staple of summer. Sliced thin in a colorful ratatouille or grilled alongside chicken or steak, eggplant is a versatile veggie—and a somewhat polarizing one as well. While some people crave its mild, almost meaty flavor, others have strong opinions about its soft, somewhat rubbery texture.
Whether you’re an eggplant superfan or a more occasional eater, you can benefit from including this veggie in your diet. Check out these five surprising health effects of eating eggplant (and if you’re whipping up that ratatouille, don’t miss the of effects eating cherry tomatoes, too!)
In recent years, some have thrown shade at nightshade veggies (which include eggplants, tomatoes, bell peppers, and white potatoes) for potentially causing inflammation. The idea goes that substances called alkaloids in nightshades are poisonous to humans, increasing inflammation—and ultimately worsening conditions like arthritis, psoriasis, and irritable bowel syndrome.
Fortunately, science doesn’t support removing eggplant from your diet to tame inflammation. No large-scale studies have associated eating nightshade vegetables with inflammatory health conditions. In fact, anthocyanins, the pigments that give eggplants their signature dark purple color, are also powerful antioxidants. Diets rich in antioxidants have been shown to reduce—not promote—inflammation.
You can add eggplant to your list of tasty, blood-sugar-friendly foods. Estimates of eggplant’s glycemic index—aka how much it raises blood sugar—range from about 15 to 30. (Foods that rank below 55 are considered low on this scale.)
Not only does eggplant not raise blood sugar, but its fiber content could also help keep your glucose in check. Unlike other carbs, fiber passes through the body undigested and slows the absorption of blood sugar. Each cup of cubed eggplant contains 2.4 grams of this nutrient.
The fiber in eggplant isn’t just good for blood sugar (and, of course, digestive health). It’s also an important component in a successful weight loss plan. Eating plenty of fiber can help keep you feeling fuller longer, minimizing cravings. Not surprisingly, tons of studies have associated a higher-fiber diet with greater weight loss and even better adherence to a chosen diet.
Meanwhile, eggplant is seriously low in calories. An entire cup contains just 20 cals! If you’re looking to lose weight, feel free to add it to salads, curries, or baba ghanoush for extra flavor and heft—without the high-calorie price tag.
Got manganese? Eggplants sure do. Each cup of the purple vegetable contains 0.19 milligrams, about 8% of the recommended daily intake for men and 11% for women. You might not think much about manganese, but this little mineral has a role to play in bone health. Manganese interacts with other nutrients like calcium and vitamin D to form strong, healthy bones. Even though deficiency is rare in developed countries, getting enough is always a good goal.
You’ve probably heard of the dreaded “metabolic syndrome,” a cluster of related symptoms that include obesity, higher risk of cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes. One of the best ways to prevent this constellation of conditions is a nutritious diet full of fruits and vegetables (like an eggplant).
A 2021 study found that, because of its anti-hypertensive, anti-diabetic, and weight loss-promoting effects, eggplant could be useful in the treatment of metabolic syndrome. For a satisfying side dish that ticks all the healthy boxes, try roasting eggplant with other antioxidant-rich veggies (such as tomatoes, onions, or garlic) and flavor it with olive oil or fresh herbs. Or try these 21 delicious eggplant recipes.
Sarah Garone, NDTR
Sarah Garone, NDTR, is a registered nutrition and dietetic technician, and a health, nutrition, and food writer. Read more