Though you may think of the eggplant as a delicious vegetable for recipes like eggplant Parmesan, it actually is a fruit just like the good old tomato–a berry no less. And just like the tomato, it has some stigma attached to it that may surprise you. Therefore, here are some surprising facts about eggplant that you may not know as well as its health benefits.
Eggplants have a long history and originated in China and India about two thousand years ago, where they were used for medicinal purposes first. The health benefits attributed to them have been for getting rid of gas, cooling the blood, relieving pain, and skin ailments. However, they realized the dangers of eating them raw as causes of pimples, convulsions and death to emotional changes such as anger and sadness. Later, both countries realized cooking them with other ingredients and methods of cooking reduced their toxicity. In fact, India considers the aubergine as the king of vegetables for the many dishes they are used for.
Believe it or not, eggplants being from the nightshade family like the tomato, were considered poisonous when European explorers brought them to America in the 1500s. This deeply rooted fear of the aubergine remained in the early colonists minds until the 1800s when Thomas Jefferson brought back the white and purple varieties from a European trip in 1812. By 1825, the trend that eggplants were safe and delicious to cook with finally caught on in the states.
Something else fascinating you may not know is the eggplant has the most nicotine in comparison to other vegetables according to an article that appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine based on a 1993 research study conducted at the University of Michigan. A typical eggplant has 0.01 to 0.26 micrograms per gram of fresh weight. This averages to about 0.14 micrograms per gram. On the other hand, a cigarette has 10 milligrams, which boils down to 10,000 micrograms. In other words, you would need to eat 71 eggplants to be the equivalent of one cigarette.
Another of these surprising facts about eggplant is that they also possess histamine. Although in extremely low levels, but even at the highest concentration, the amount of histamine in eggplant is much lower than fermented foods, alcohol, aged cheeses to packaged processed meats. As rare as developing an eggplant allergy for those highly sensitive individuals can be, there have been some cases in India.
Though China grows the most eggplants in the world, New Jersey outranks our other states as the top producer of those aubergines in the United States with California coming in second place.
Eggplant may be a curious, odd-shaped berry, but it is a delicious and good source of vitamins and minerals with health benefits that range from helping blood sugar levels, heart disease, brain function, weight loss, and cancer prevention.