The Misunderstood Eggplant

By Dr Harold Gunatillake Health Writer

Sri Lankan housewives cook eggplant in oil – one of their first choices when they prepare alms for Buddhist priests. This vegetable invariably absorbs all the oil in the frying pan when it cooks, and becomes heavy. Hence, some people do not like eggplants thinking that saturated fats cause heart disease. In addition, they usually reason with others showing its bitterness or heaviness. We should dispel this misunderstanding.

Oil absorption
Roasting the vegetable before frying or being sautéed will reduce the amount of oil that the vegetable receive. Then, you can cut it into pieces and cook it again with the other ingredients like spices, curry leaves etc.

Grilling
Eggplant when grilled becomes silky and delicious especially when you steam it after grilling and toss with a dressing. It is said that the eggplant originated in India. South Indians make 'Sambal" with it which they eat it with Thosai – the staple food there and in Northern Sri Lanka.

It was a wild plant till the Chinese grew it first. The Moors introduced it to Europe, where it soon became popular during the Middle Ages. About the 18th century, both French and Italians started cultivating the plant. They called it, 'Aubergine'. Thomas Jefferson, a botanist, introduced the plant to the United States in 1806. In Sri Lanka we call it, 'Brinjal'.

Nutritional values:
Eggplant, raw Nutritional value per
100 g (3.5 oz.)
Energy 102 kJ (24 kcal)
* Carbohydrates 5.7 g
Dietary fiber 3.4 g
* Fat 0.19 g
* Protein 1.01 g
Thiamine (Vit. B1) 0.039 mg
Riboflavin (Vit. B2) 0.037 mg
Niacin (Vit. B3) 0.649 mg
Pantothenic acid (B5) 0.281 mg
* Vitamin B6 0.084 mg
* Folate (Vit. B9) 22 mg
* Vitamin C 2.2 mg
* Calcium 9 mg
* Iron 0.24 mg
* Magnesium 14 mg
Phosphorus 25 mg
Potassium 230 mg
Zinc 0.16 mg

Eggplants reduce serum cholesterol levels The fat content in an eggplant is about 0.19 grams, mainly unsaturated variety. So, for sure the eggplant does not make anyone fat (24 kcals) or increase their serum cholesterol. Even the unsaturated vegetable oils, including coconut oil (saturated oil) will not increase cholesterol level when cooked in such oil. However we need further studies to prove that eggplant lowers cholesterol.

Good for diabetes
The Glycemic Index of eggplant is only 15. You cannot get another vegetable that has such low GI level. Since they are high in fiber and low in carbohydrate people who suffer from type 2 diabetes could benefit by frequently eating cooked eggplants.

Mayo Clinic and American Diabetes Association recommend an eggplant based diet for managing type 2 diabetes. That is because its high fiber and low soluble carbohydrate content.
Antioxidant Nasunin

The eggplant has an antioxidant called nasunin, supposed to inhibit cancer growth. Mainly, eggplant's peel contains nasunin.

Angiogenesis is a term coined to describe increased blood supply in our body tissues. This is considered a normal process in growth and it plays an important part in healing. It also plays an important role in the growth and spread of cancer cells by feeding the cancer cells with oxygen and nutrients.

The Department of Nutritional Science in Japan found out in a study. So, the antioxidants in the eggplant can be considered an angiogenesis inhibitor. Anthocyanin found in red wine, also found in eggplant skin and other plants, show inhibitory effects on the growth of some cancer cells.

High calcium
Those who dislike milk should eat more eggplant as it contains 9 mg of calcium per 100g. People suffering from Gout or arthritis should eat less eggplant as it could cause adverse reactions due to the rich source of uric acid.

Over cooking of eggplant can lower its nutrient values. Some suggest that it should be half cooked.

Roasting eggplant
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Cut the eggplant length-wise. Score down its middle with a tip of a knife as far as the skin, but not cut. Cover baking sheet with foil and brush the foil with extra-virgin olive oil. Arrange the eggplant pieces on the foil. Place in the oven and roast large fat eggplants for 20-25 minutes depending on their size.

Remove when the skin is shriveling and cut surfaces are browned and softened. Remove from the oven; detach the eggplants from the foil. Now place the eggplant halves cut side down on a rack set over the baking sheet. Allow them to cool and drain for 15-30 minutes.

Grilling eggplant
Grilling needs very little olive oil. None if you are grilling a whole eggplant
Grilled Eggplant Slices with Tomatoes and Feta cheese
• 2 cups finely chopped tomatoes
• Salt and freshly ground pepper
• 1 to 2 garlic cloves, finely minced or puréed
• 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley or basil
• 1 1/2 to 2 pounds eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch slices if using a Panini grill, slightly thinner for an outside grill
• 1/4 cup olive oil
• 1/2 cup crumbled feta (about 2 ounces)
1. Preheat a Panini grill or prepare a medium-hot fire in an outdoor grill.
2. Mix together the chopped tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste (keep in mind that feta is salty), the garlic and parsley or basil. Set aside.
3. Sprinkle the eggplant slices lightly with salt if desired, and brush with olive oil on both sides. If any olive oil remains, stir it into the tomatoes. Grill the eggplant slices for three minutes in a Panini grill, two to three minutes on each side in an outdoor grill, or until tender. Remove to a bowl, cover and allow the eggplant slices to continue to soften for 15 minutes. Arrange on a platter, top with the tomato mixture, sprinkle on the feta and serve.
Yield: Serves four as a main dish, six as a starter or side Nutritional information per serving (based on four servings): 219 calories; 17 grams fat; 4 grams saturated fat; 13 milligrams cholesterol; 15 grams carbohydrates; 7 grams dietary fiber; 168 milligrams sodium (does not include salt added during preparation); 5 grams protein (Recipe reference: Martha Rose Shulman-can be contacted at Martha-rose-shulman.com))

Indian Eggplant Curry
(Baingan Bharta)
Courtesy: Yakuta/allrecipes.com
Cooking time 45 min
Ingredients
1 large eggplant
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 tomato, diced
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 fresh jalapeno chili pepper, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 bunch cilantro, finely chopped
Directions
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C).
Place eggplant on a medium baking sheet. Bake 20 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven, until tender. Remove from heat, cool, peel, and chop. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat Mix in cumin seeds and onion. Cook and stir until onion is tender.
Mix ginger garlic paste, curry powder, and tomato into the saucepan, and cook about 1 minute. Stir in yogurt. Mix in eggplant and jalapeno pepper, and season with salt. Cover, and cook 10 minutes over high heat. Remove cover, reduce heat to low, and continue cooking about 5 minutes. Garnish with cilantro to serve.

Nutritional Information
Amount per Serving Calories: 146 | Total Fat: 8g | Cholesterol: 2mg

Now you realise the health benefits of the misunderstood eggplant, of course, there are hundred and one ways of cooking that chefs love to experiment.

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