A favorite in numerous dishes from ratatouille to eggplant parmesan, eggplant is a delicious and healthy ingredient to include in your daily diet.
But is eggplant a fruit or vegetable? How is it classified?
You may assume it’s a vegetable, based on its use in the kitchen. But is it?
This article will discuss whether eggplants are fruits or vegetables, different eggplant varieties, and the health benefits of eggplants.
- Related article: How to Distinguish Fruit vs Vegetable
Is Eggplant a Fruit or Vegetable?
Eggplants are both fruit and vegetable. What it is depends on the point-of-view and how you’re perceiving its function and use.
Botanically, eggplants are in the nightshade family and considered a fruit. Not only is the eggplant a fruit, but it’s specifically a berry. That’s because fruits that grow from a single flower are classified in the berry subgroup. They contain seeds inside.
- Related article: Vegetables That Have Seeds
Eggplants are considered vegetables in the culinary sense for their uses in food preparation. We use them as vegetables when baking, roasting, grilling, frying, and more. The eggplant gains a place on a long list of fruits that are also vegetables due to their use in cuisines, exactly like tomatoes or cucumbers.
They do belong to the five-portions-a-day category of fruits and vegetables as they are packed with nutrients and antioxidants.
Where Did Eggplant get Its Name?
Eggplants boast a long culinary history and come in various colors that include black, red, green, and even white. They will also have various monikers depending on where you reside.
In the U.S., this fruit was named “eggplant” due to its size, that of an egg, upon arrival. These were the first eggplant varieties to arrive at North American shores.
In the South, it was also known as Guinea Squash because these fruits arrived from West Africa during the 18th century.
In certain areas of Europe, it is called aubergine, which originates from this fruit’s ancient Arab name “al-badinjan.” The Arabic also influenced the arrival of the fruit in India where it is called “brinjal”.
What Are Some Eggplant Varieties?
There are numerous varieties of eggplant available, so if you’re not sold on this fruit, you may not have found the best variety for your taste buds.
1. Graffiti, Zebra, or Sicilian Eggplant
With mottled white and purple stripes, the skin is thin, and it contains small seeds. This variety is great for eating puréed or even whole.
2. Indian Eggplant
Known as baby eggplants, they boast a dark purplish-red hue and are small, resembling cherries. These are generally used in Indian curry dishes.
3. Globe or American Eggplant
American eggplants are generally referred to as “Globe Eggplants” and will be what you usually find in the produce department of your supermarket.
Somewhat squatty and short in shape, they boast a deep purple hue. This is an all-purpose eggplant that is very meaty and can be integrated into diets as a protein substitute.
4. Italian Eggplant
The Italians know their foods, and their eggplant is no exception when it comes to quality. In shape and color, they resemble the Globe Eggplant, but are sweeter and smaller in size. The flesh is also more tender, and it is ideal when used for melanzane parmigiana or caponata.
5. Japanese Eggplant
This fruit resembles the Chinese eggplant with a slender, elongated shape and dark purple color. They cook more rapidly, so they are wonderful when used for stir-fries.
6. White Eggplant
There are several white eggplant varieties, and they all bear bright white skin. Inside, however, they resemble the typical flesh of other eggplant varieties. Historically all eggplants were once white on the outside, but lost their favorite status to darker-hued globe eggplants that are more resistant to both pests and drought.
Eggplant Health Benefits
Along with their delicate flavor and unique texture, eggplants offer some surprising health benefits that will encourage you to include them in your diet if you haven’t already.
1. Eggplants Contribute to Overall Health
The eggplant is nutrient-dense and contains substantial amounts of minerals, vitamins, and fiber, yet it is low in calories. A single cup of eggplant weighs approximately 82 grams and contains these super nutrients:
- 3 grams of Fiber
- 5 grams of Carbohydrates
- 1 gram of Protein
- 3% of the Recommended Daily Intake of Vitamin C
- 4% of the RDI of Vitamin K
- 5 % of the RDI of Potassium
- 5% of the RDI of Folate
- 10% of the RDI of Manganese
These fruits also contain trace amounts of niacin, copper, and magnesium, all in just 20 calories.
1. Eggplants Help to Prevent Chronic Diseases
This attractive fruit not only contains lots of nutrients, but is also very high in antioxidants. These are compounds that protect the body and cells from oxidative damage caused by free radicals.
Research has demonstrated that antioxidants contained in food can aid in the prevention of numerous chronic diseases, including cardiovascular diseases and cancer.
Several studies have also demonstrated that specific pigment anthocyanins with antioxidant properties known as nasunin are great at protecting cells from free radical damage.
2. Eggplants Reduce Risks of Cardiovascular Disease
These tasty fruits aid in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease thanks to their antioxidant content. In one research project rabbits were given eggplant juice daily for 2 weeks. At the end of the study, both triglycerides and LDL cholesterol levels were lower. In another study, eggplant improved cardio function.
3. Eggplant Aids in Blood Sugar Management
Want to keep your blood sugar levels in check? Consider adding eggplant to your diet.
Eggplant is high in fiber content that will pass through your digestive tract intact. Fiber is a great tool as it absorbs sugar in the body and slows down the speed of digestion. Slower sugar absorption helps to maintain stable blood sugar levels without spikes.
Also, the natural plant compounds known as polyphenols may reduce sugar absorption and increase your insulin secretions resulting in lower blood sugar levels. Eggplants can be used in diets for controlling diabetes because of their high fiber content.
4. Eggplants Aid in Weight Management
Eggplants are a great-tasting diet food that is low in calories, and high in fiber.
Their high fiber content moves through the digestive tract slowly and confers a sensation of satiety and fullness, so you’ll be less inclined to eat more calories.
They also work as a low-calorie replacement food in many recipes that might normally use calorie-rich vegetables.
Adding Eggplant to Your Diet
This lovely fruit, used in savory dishes as a vegetable, can be grilled, roasted, and sautéed with a bit of virgin olive oil and a pinch of seasoning. It will reduce both calorie and carbohydrate intake while improving nutrient and fiber intake.
It also is a favorite in many Mediterranean dishes such as Pasta Norma, Caponata, and Eggplant Parmesan.
Is Eggplant a Fruit or Vegetable? Final Thoughts
Eggplant is both a fruit and vegetable. It is an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. Its health benefits include aiding in weight management, lowering cholesterol, preventing cardiovascular disease, and managing blood sugar levels.
Definitely consider adding more eggplant to your diet for its numerous benefits.
For more on fruits and vegetables, check out these articles: