Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Enjoying Eggplant

Eggplant belongs to the nightshade family along with tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes. They contain an impressive array of nutrients such as
fiber, folate, potassium, manganese, thiamine, and B6 making it a great food to eat regularly.

Eggplant contains many phytonutrients which have been linked to lower risk of disease. One phytonutrient called nasunin, located in the skin, was found to be a powerful antioxidant protecting brain cell membranes from damage. This is encouraging for people who suffer from cognitive disorders and those working to reduce their risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

As a good source of fiber eggplant can reduce cholesterol in the body helping to lower your risk of stroke and heart disease. Fiber also helps you feel full longer which is helpful for people trying to lose weight. At only 35 calories per cup eggplant is a low calorie food to enjoy.

Eggplant comes in many different varieties ranging from purple and egg shaped to yellow and skinny. The different varieties vary slightly in taste and texture, although generally eggplant has a slightly bitter taste and spongy texture.

Many times recipes recommend tenderizing eggplant and reducing some of its bitter taste by sprinkling it with salt. This helps pull out some of the water content and make the eggplant less permeable. Rinsing the eggplant will remove most of the salt, however people who are salt
sensitive or who have high blood pressure should avoid this process as a precaution.

Many people make the mistake of frying eggplant which results in a large amount of oil being absorbed. This increases the calories
dramatically and can have a negative impact on cholesterol. Grilling, roasting, and steaming are healthier cooking methods to target.

When picking out eggplant select those which feel firm with a smooth and glossy skin. Store in the refrigerator until ready for consumption. Use stainless steel knives rather than carbon steel knives to prevent a reaction which can cause the eggplant to turn black. For a healthy spin on Eggplant Parmesan try the recipe below.  

Grilled Eggplant Parmesan

Serves: 4
301 calories per serving
2 medium eggplants, cut lengthwise into 1/2 inch slices                  
2 tbs fresh torn basil, minced
2 tsp olive oil, divided                                           
2 tbs parsley, minced
1 tsp minced garlic 1/4 tsp black pepper
1 can (28 ounces) low sodium, peeled whole tomatoes, drained 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup low sodium tomato paste 8 ounces part-skim mozzarella cheese, sliced

Directions: Brush both sides of eggplant with 1 tsp of oil. Place on a hot grill and cook until tender and brown, about 4-5 minutes each side.

Meanwhile in a skillet heat 1 tsp olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, basil, parsley, and pepper. Simmer, stirring occasionally for about 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350° F. Layer eggplant, sauce, and parmesan in an 8x11-inch baking pan, beginning and ending with the sauce and parmesan. Arrange the mozzarella slices on top. Bake for 35 minutes, or until brown and bubbling. Serve with side salad.


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