Eggplant: The Good and Bad

A favorite in vegan and omnivore cuisine, eggplant, can be baked, roasted, grilled, and used as a pizza topping or in stir-fry recipes. It has a pleasantly bitter taste and spongy texture that may vary depending on the color/variety of eggplant selected. Dress your cooked eggplant with herbs, sauces, and condiments and you’ll be sure to please even the pickiest guest at your dinner table.

Like everything else in life, eggplant comes with the good and the bad.

It is a member of the nightshade family of vegetables along with tomatoes, potatoes, and all types of peppers and even some fruit.

GOOD. Eggplant contains a phytonutrient (plant chemical with nutritional benefits) and antioxidants, protecting from cells damage, supporting brain and heart health and a great source of fiber, copper, potassium and B vitamins.

BAD. Eggplant contains cholinesterase that blocks anti-inflammatory substances in the body and therefore promotes INFLAMMATION.

The amount of these substances may vary but usually small and good often negate the bad, however some patient may be very sensitive to those substances.

Especially people with high pre-existing level of inflammation will respond with more symptoms, usually pain, after eating eggplant and other nightshades (potato, peppers, etc). That is why we ask our patients to avoid those vegetables for 4-6 weeks during the elimination food plan. Upon reintroduction of these foods, some people will report increase in symptoms, usually inflammatory joint pain (osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis) and some gastrointestinal symptoms (abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, etc.).

The bottom line, if the level of inflammation in the body is low, one can enjoy eggplant and nightshades in moderation. But if you suffer from any chronic inflammatory conditions you might consider limiting your consumption of eggplant until the causes of inflammation resolved.

In our functional medicine practice, Dr.Klimenko and entire team of Healthy Wealthy & Wise Medical, P.C. will help you to understand which foods are best for you and why. Call our office 212-696-HEAL if you want to receive a medical consultation and guidance on how to improve your health.

For those who can and love to eat eggplant, enjoy this recipe.

 

Eggplant Caponata

Satisfying and versatile, eggplant can handle a variety of flavorful accompaniments, several of which give a kick to this Sicilian favorite. The tomato base is spiked with anchovies, garlic, and capers, creating a mouth-watering aroma and a burst of flavor in every bite. Serve as an appetizer, a main dish or as a side with your favorite fish.

Makes 4-6 Servings

 

Ingredients

  • 2 large Italian eggplants, peeled and cut into medium dice

  • 2 Tbs kosher salt

  • 5 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced

  • 4 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced

  • 4 celery stalks, thinly sliced on an angle

  • 2 anchovies, in oil

  • 1/4 cup tomato paste

  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar

  • 1/4 cup sugar

  • 1/2 cup capers, in brine

Preparation:

  1. Peel and dice the eggplants, peel and slice the onion, peel and slice the garlic, slice the celery.

  2. In a large bowl, toss the eggplant with the salt. Transfer the eggplant to a colander to drain for 2 hours. In order to facilitate the draining, top the eggplant with a heavy weight, such as a dinner plate topped with full cans.

  3. Heat 3 Tbs of the olive oil over medium heat in a large sauté pan. Add the onion and sauté until translucent, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and celery and sauté for 5 minutes more, or until the garlic softens but does not brown. Add the anchovies and cook for 1 minute.

  4. Add the tomato paste and stir to thoroughly combine. Cook for 2 minutes, or until the paste turns a deep red, almost brown, and starts to stick to the pan. Add the vinegar and sugar and stir until the mixture thickens, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn off the heat.

  5. In another large sauté pan, heat the remaining 2 Tbs olive oil over high heat until smoking. Add the eggplant and carefully toss it in the oil, letting it sear before stirring. Turn the heat down to medium and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the eggplant is translucent and soft.

  6. Transfer the eggplant to the caponata mixture and cook over low heat for 3 minutes, until the flavors combine. Add the capers and their brine and stir to incorporate.

  7. Serve warm or at room temperature accompanied by toast points or crostini.

References

  • Worlds Healthiest Foods. “Eggplant” Accessed on 4 July 2016: http://whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=22

  • Whitaker, B.D., Stommel, J.R. “Distribution of hydroxycinnamic acid conjugates in fruit of commercial eggplant (Solanum melongena L.) cultivars.” J Agric Food Chem. (May 2003) 51(11): 3448-54. Accessed on 5 July 2016: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf026250b

  • Murray, Michael T., Pizzorno, J. The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods (2005). Atria. Excerpt on eggplant available at: https://doctormurray.com/healing-facts-eggplant/

  • Das, S. et al., “Cardioprotective properties of raw and cooked eggplant (Solanum melongena L).” Food Funct. (2011) 2, p. 395-399. DOI: 10.1039/C1FO10048C. Accessed 5 July 2016: http://pubs.rsc.org/en/Content/ArticleLanding/2011/FO/c1fo10048c#!divAbstract

  • EatingWell.com. “10 Healthy Eggplant Recipes.” Accessed 5 July 2016. http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes_menus/collections/healthy_eggplant_recipes