Eggplant is a high-fiber food with only
minimum amounts of vitamins and minerals. One-half cup steamed eggplant
has 2.5 g of dietary fiber and 0.5 mg vitamin C (0.8 percent of the RDA).
In 1992, food scientists at the Autonomous University of Madrid studying
the chemistry of the eggplant discovered that the vegetable's sugar
content rises through the end of the sixth week of growth and then falls
dramatically over the next 10 days. The same thing happens with other
flavor chemicals in the vegetable and with vitamin C, so the researchers
concluded that eggplants taste best and are most nutritious after 42 days
Eggplants are members of the nightshade
family, Solanacea. Other members of this family are potatoes, tomatoes,
and red and green peppers. These plants produce natural neurotoxins (nerve
poisons) called glycoalkaloids. It is estimated that an adult would have
to eat 4.5 pounds of eggplant at one sitting to get a toxic amount of
solanine, the glycoalkaloid in eggplant.
The eggplant's two culinary virtues are its
meaty texture and its ability to assume the flavor of sauces in which it
is cooked. As a result, it is often used as a vegetarian, no-cholesterol
substitute for veal or chicken in Italian cuisine, specifically dishes ala
parmigiana and spaghetti sauces. However, in cooking, the eggplant absorbs
very large amounts of oil. To keep eggplant parmigiana low in fat, use
non-fat cheese and ration the olive oil.