Embracing the EggplantPublished: Wednesday, November 14, 2012
- Megan Madden, MS, RD, CDN
- 1 Comment
Much to my surprise, I actually liked it!
Speaking of family, eggplant belongs to the nightshade family, which also includes the tomato and bell pepper. Here in New York, this heat-loving vegetable matures during the warm summer months, ready for harvest in early fall. This September, I had the opportunity to visit one of the dozens of farms that dot the eastern tip of Long Island and pick ripe eggplant straight from the vine! While a trip to the farm is a rare occasion, I do buy locally-grown produce whenever possible. By reducing the distance from farm to table, you maximize nutrient retention and even minimize your carbon footprint while doing so. Plus, it’s a real treat for your taste buds!
In addition to being rich in fiber, potassium and folate, eggplant is also chock-full of heart healthy and cancer-fighting compounds. A 2011 animal study found that eggplant reduced cardiac muscle cell death and improved left ventricular function. Chlorogenic acids, a family of phytonutrients present in eggplant, have been shown to have both anti-LDL and anti-cancer properties. Another compound, nasunin, is a potent antioxidant and the major component of the anthocyanin pigment responsible for the deep purple color of an eggplant’s peel. Nasunin decreases free radical formation via the removal of excess iron and may also play a role in inhibiting the blood vessel formation that’s necessary for tumor growth and metastasis.
Clearly, eggplant is a nutrient powerhouse that all of us should incorporate into our produce selections. I’m just sorry it took me so long! Try eggplant grilled or sprinkled with cheese and oven-baked. And next "pizza night," I challenge you to make your own: use locally-grown vegetables for the freshest toppings and substitute pureed eggplant for flour to make a healthy, low-carb crust!
Eggplant Pizza CrustRecipe by Megan Madden, MS, RD, CDN Ingredients
1 cup cooked and pureed eggplant (peel removed)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup shredded, part-skim mozzarella cheese
¼ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp dried, chopped onion
Green bell pepper strips
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Peel raw eggplant and chop into small cubes. Steam until very tender. Place cooked eggplant in blender and pulse until smooth. Add 1 cup pureed eggplant to mixing bowl with egg, cheese, garlic powder and dried onion bits. Mix thoroughly.
Spread crust mixture into a circular shape onto a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake for approximately 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven when crust looks fairly crispy.
Adjust oven temperature to 425°F, while adding toppings. When ready, return pizza to oven and bake for approximately 5 more minutes to melt cheese topping and brown crust further.
Megan Madden, MS, RD, CDN is the owner of The Healthy Diet, a private practice offering nutrition counseling services in New York City.