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Medicine in the garden: Eggplant

Last Modified: August 03, 2023

Nutrition & Recipes


This post was written based on a presentation by Rachel Stohlman, RDN, LD, community outreach dietitian, Parkview Health.

Have you ever cooked with eggplant? This deep purple vegetable is often overlooked in the United States, but with its mild flavor and silky texture it can be a nutrient-rich addition to a variety of meals. Let’s learn more about this fiber-packed vegetable and how you can prepare it as a regular part of your healthy diet.

The benefits of produce in our diet

When shopping at the grocery store, how much time do you spend in the produce section? It’s important for our bodies that we stock up on fruits and vegetables as they are nutrient-dense foods. This means they provide maximum nutrients for our bodies in every bite, especially when compared to processed foods which are calorie dense.

Eating a diet rich in produce can have a positive effect on our health. Benefits of eating fruits and vegetables include:

How many fruits and vegetables should you eat?

Data suggests that 9 out of 10 Americans are not getting the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables. Those recommendations are:

  • Adults: 2 cups of fruit and 3 cups of veggies per day
  • Children: 1 – 1 ½ cups fruit and 1 – 2 ½ cups veggies per day

Excellent eggplants

Eggplants are a part of the nightshade family, and while they are typically thought of as a vegetable, they are botanically a berry, as they contain seeds and grow from a flowering plant.  The origin of eggplants is a little unknown. They grow wild in India and are also native to Africa and South Asia. Eggplants are also grown throughout the Mediterranean area and often feature in the cuisine of that region.  

When you think of an eggplant you probably picture them in as oblong and in a deep purple color, but they come in a variety of colors and shapes including white, green, lavender and striped varieties with shapes that are broad globes or long, narrow globes.

Eggplants are in season from July to September. When shopping for eggplants in the store or at the farmer’s market, look for one that is firm and that has green leaves on top. Avoid eggplants that have discolorations or cracks.

Keeping eggplants fresh

Eggplants are best eaten as soon as possible, but you can store them for a short time in a cool spot away from direct sunlight. They can also be refrigerated in the crisper drawer for up to five days.

To store eggplant longer, you can freeze raw eggplant for up to 1 year or grilled eggplant in a freezer bag for up to eight months.

The health benefits of eggplants

Eggplants provide a range of nutritional benefits. These healthy vegetables contain:

  • Fiber – Beneficial to our digestive health, fiber slows down digestion and makes us feel fuller for longer. This can help minimize blood sugar spikes. Fiber also helps lower bad cholesterol, keeps us regular, and is associated with healthy bacteria in our gut. Eating an appropriate amount of fiber can also reduce the risk of colon cancer.
  • Phenolic compounds – Help to prevent damage caused by free radicals on our DNA.
  • Anthocyanin – Beneficial for heart health, cancer prevention and cognition.

Cooking with eggplant

There are many ways eggplant can be prepared including:

  • Raw – Eggplant can be eaten raw, but it is often bitter. Salting it can remove some bitterness and some water.
  • Baked – To bake, remove the end, cut lengthwise and cook at 350°F for about 20 minutes.
  • Grilled – To grill, cut into slices and brush with oil. Flip after about 2-3 minutes, cooking each side until the slices are glossy and begin to bubble.
  • Roasted – To roast, cut into cubes and drizzle with oil. Place on a sheet pan and bake at 475°F for 20-30 minutes.
  • Sautéed – To sauté, cut into cubes and drizzle with oil, cooking until soft.  

More about healthy produce choices

Learn more about the health benefits of other fruits and vegetables including cherries, carrots and radishes on the Parkview Dashboard. For more ideas on how to cook with eggplant and other ways to add more produce to your diet, browse Pinterest for inspiration.



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