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In the Nightshade Family
Nightshades are part of the Solanaceae botanical family which include bell peppers, eggplants, goji berries, hot peppers, paprika, potatoes, tomatillos and tomatoes. According to Ayurveda, nightshades are not favored as foods as they are generally too heating to the body and, in excess, can aggravate vata, pitta and kapha. They are also high in oxalates, which can be inflammatory in cases of weak digestion.
That said, there are always exceptions to every rule. Some nightshades, like goji berries and ashwagandha, have a strong record for being potent natural medicines. Eggplant is emerging as one of the important exceptions to the rule.
1. Loaded With Antioxidants
Eggplant originally grew wild in India before it was cultivated throughout Asia and Europe. In Ayurveda, its use as a medicine was well understood. Today, researchers are beginning to understand why. They have identified over 14 powerful antioxidants in eggplant. (2) One of the most abundant is chlorogenic acid, which is the antioxidant found in coffee that researchers believe is responsible for many of coffee’s health benefits. (2)
2. Healthy Blood Sugar
The National Diabetes Education Program, the Mayo Clinic and the American Diabetes Association all recommend eggplant for type 2 diabetes. (1)
While eggplant is a high fiber/low carb vegetable, it also offers much more in the way of supporting healthy blood sugar. Eggplant is high in certain antioxidants that inhibit alpha-glucosidase, therefore slowing the absorption of sugars into the bloodstream. (1) The same antioxidants have been shown to reduce cellular oxidation caused by high blood sugar levels. (1)
3. Healthy Blood Pressure
The same antioxidants that support healthy blood sugar seem to offer support for healthy blood pressure as well. (1) In one study, the constituents in eggplant were found to have moderate to high levels of ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme activity) inhibitors, which is the active component of many blood pressure medications. (1) While these studies are far from conclusive, they provide a strong rationale for further research into the health benefits of eggplant.
4. Healthy Brain Function
The skin of the eggplant is loaded with a potent phytonutrient and antioxidant called nasunin, which has an affinity for brain cells. In one study, nasunin protected brain cells from free radical damage. (3) There are a bounty of other antioxidants in eggplant, such as chlorogenic acid, that also support healthy brain and cognitive function.
Note: Due to the high oxalate content in eggplant, anyone with kidney problems or calcium metabolism issues should avoid eggplant.