I doubt I will ever be a vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian, or flexitarian. But I will confess to periods, as short as a day, maybe longer, where I avoid eating red meat or chicken. One of my favorites now, is eggplant, an often-forgotten purple vegetable. What do any of us know about it? Another favorite is Brussels sprouts, along with many Chinese greens (like gai lan), names of which I cannot spell or pronounce very well. Here is more on both:
From “Explore” Health: Eggplants, one of the few purple vegetables you’ll find in a mainstream market, aren’t very popular with consumers. In fact, they don’t even rank in the top 20 veggies sold in the U.S. But after reading about the nutritional benefits of eggplant, you may want to step up your intake. Here’s the lowdown on this somewhat mysterious plant, and easy ways to incorporate it into your everyday eating routine.
One cup of cubed eggplant provides just 20 calories, but offers up some important nutrients. Anthocyanins, the pigments that give eggplants their purple hue, have antioxidant properties linked to anti-inflammation and obesity protection. Another, called nasunin, is particularly good at fending off free radicals, and protecting cells from damage that can lead to premature aging and disease. This may be especially true in the brain, making eggplant an important food for protecting against neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s.
Eggplant’s chlorogenic acid supports immunity through its antimicrobial and antiviral activities. And a cup of eggplant also provides about 10% of the daily target for manganese, a mineral that helps produce collagen and promote skin and bone health. The veggie supplies smaller amounts of folate and other B vitamins, potassium, and vitamins C and K.
In addition to the antioxidants, nutrients, and fiber eggplants provide, they may offer protection against the top killer of men and women in the U.S.: heart disease. Eggplant anthocyanins have been shown to help reduce artery stiffness and central blood pressure in women. Central blood pressure, the pressure in the aorta, which sends blood from the heart out to the body, is a predictive measure of heart disease and stroke. Anthocyanins also help prevent the oxidation of “bad” LDL cholesterol, a precursor to artery hardening, which can lead to either heart attack or stroke.
Eggplant is a non-starchy, or low-carb vegetable. A one cup portion, about the size of a baseball, contains just 5 grams of carb, and just 2.5 grams net carb. In addition to supporting digestive health and bowel regularity, eggplant fiber helps regulate blood sugar and insulin levels, and supports weight loss by boosting fullness. It also makes a great filler when cutting back on other higher carb foods. For example, serving one cup of cubed eggplant with a half cup of cooked penne pasta instead of the reverse saves about 20 grams of carb per meal.
Eggplants are a member of the nightshade family, which also includes tomatoes, bell peppers, and potatoes. Tom Brady famously avoids this group, due to compounds they contain called alkaloids, which are linked to inflammation. If you have an existing inflammatory condition, such as rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis, avoiding nightshades may help to not exacerbate your symptoms. But there is no solid research to show that nightshades cause inflammatory conditions to develop.
It’s also important to know that steaming, boiling, and baking all help reduce the alkaloid content of nightshades by about 40% to 50%. In addition, you lose out on the anti-inflammatory antioxidants and other nutrients nightshades provide when you avoid the entire group. If you have chronic inflammation consider trying an experiment. Without making any other changes to your diet, cut out nightshades for two to four weeks and monitor your symptoms. If you do notice a difference, and symptoms return after adding them back to your diet, minimizing or avoiding them may be for you.Another favorite of mine, Brussels sprouts (also from Health):
Brussels sprouts (yes with an s, like the city) are named after the veggie’s history of cultivation in Belgium. Part of the cruciferous vegetable family, the sprouts’ cousins include cauliflower, kale, broccoli, cabbage, collard greens, and bok choy.
Low in calories, at less than 40 per cup, Brussels sprouts are also low-carb, packing just 8 grams per cup raw, including 3 grams as fiber. And they’re nutrient powerhouses, providing a range of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and a little bonus plant protein. Here are seven more impressive reasons to incorporate them into your regular eating routine.
Brussels sprouts are antioxidant powerhouses. One study found that when volunteers ate about two cups of Brussels sprouts per day, damage at the cell level was slashed by nearly 30%.
The fiber in Brussels sprouts (about 4 grams per cooked cup) helps regulate blood sugar levels, supports digestive health, and helps feed the beneficial gut bacteria tied to positive mood, immunity, and anti-inflammation.
One cup of cooked Brussels sprouts packs over 150% of the minimum daily vitamin C target. This important nutrient acts as an antioxidant, supports immunity, vision, and iron absorption, and is needed for collagen production.
Per cup, cooked Brussels sprouts pack over 250% of the recommended daily target for vitamin K. In addition to helping to clot blood, this nutrient plays a role in bone health and may help protect against bone loss.
Compounds in Brussels sprouts act like natural detoxifiers, meaning they help deactivate potentially damaging chemicals or shuttle them out of the body more quickly.
In addition, the sulfur compounds in Brussels sprouts are known to reduce ulcer risk by limiting Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) overgrowth and preventing bacteria from clinging to the stomach wall.
Just to cleanse your palate: Life Savers made their debut in 1912, when chocolate manufacturer Clarence Crane decided to branch out and produce a candy that wouldn’t melt as easily in heat. According to ThoughtCo, their name came from their life-preserver-like shape, which was created by a pill-making machine. The first flavor Crane used for his product was peppermint, which was sold as Pep-O-Mint when Edward Noble bought the rights to the candy in 1913.
So, there are two of my favorites. When I eat them, I automatically feel better, good fiber too. Not because I am trying to be a vegetarian, but because I really enjoy eating them.