Growing up, my mother never cooked or grew eggplants. I heard stories of my late grandfather growing it, which he referred to as a Garden Egg. In my adult life, I’ve grown to love it. It’s extremely healthy and versatile to cook with. Eggplant is a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin B1 and copper. It is also a good source of manganese, vitamin B6, niacin, potassium, folate and vitamin K. Eggplant also contains phytonutrients such as nasunin and chlorogenic acid. The nasunin is the antioxidant responsible for providing your brain with food. In animal studies, nasunin has been found to protect the lipids (fats) in brain cell membranes. Cell membranes are almost entirely composed of lipids and are responsible for protecting the cell from free radicals, letting nutrients in and wastes out, and receiving instructions from messenger molecules that tell the cell which activities it should perform. Nasunin is located in the purple skin of the eggplant so don’t peel it. It’s job is to search and defeat free radicals.
According to Rice University, free radicals are atoms or groups of atoms with an odd (unpaired) number of electrons and can be formed when oxygen interacts with certain molecules. Once formed these highly reactive radicals can start a chain reaction, like a dominoe effect. Their chief danger comes from the damage they can do when they react with important cellular components such as DNA, or the cell membrane. Free radicals are basically bad for you and they are everywhere. They can break down healthy cells and multiply.
What are free radicals?
Free radicals are highly unstable and reactive molecules that damage living cells. These can come from everyday pollution and other common stressors, like the ones listed below:
- Everyday air pollutants
- Smog / UV rays
- Up to 80% of free radical damage is caused by the sun (1). Always wear a broad spectrum SPF!
- Lack of sleep and exercise
- Fried foods
- Alcohol & Tobacco
Oxidative stress occurs when there are too many free radicals running amuck. It leads to stressed out cells that are broken down and weakened. Then, diseases like cancers, cardiovascular disease, emphysema, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ulcers and a boatload of other inflammatory diseases can developed.
Free radicals are also associated with aging skin. That’s right! Sunblock isn’t the only defense for aging. What you feed your body/cells is extremely important too. Eating dark leafy greens and high pigmented fruits that are rich in vitamin C helps to protect your cells and support fighting off free radicals. Don’t forget to eat up your eggplant too because it will protect your skin from aging prematurely.
Did you know?
The high purple skin pigment on eggplants is also a form of protection for the plants. Researchers at the US Agricultural Service in Beltsville, Maryland, have found that eggplants are rich sources of phenolic compounds that function as antioxidants. Plants form such compounds to protect themselves against oxidative stress from exposure to the elements, as well as from infection by bacteria and fungi. If we eat the eggplant, these antioxidants protects us. Can you name a fast food chain that can do that? I think, NOT!
Resources: Protective effects of dietary nasunin on paraquat-induced oxidative stress in rats.