As a follow on from the recent series on the Weekly Grocery Shopping List of foods that contain the nutrients the body needs I am going to repeat my series from 2017 on the health benefits of some of our most common foods.
Food therapy is a broad term for the benefits to the body of a healthy, varied and nutritional diet of fresh foods.
Most of us walk through the fresh produce departments of our supermarkets without really paying much attention to the individual fruits and vegetables. This is a great pity because the vast majority of these foods have been cultivated for thousands of years, not only for their nutritional value but also for their medicinal properties. If you eat a healthy diet you are effectively practicing preventative medicine. A robust immune system, not only attacks external opportunistic pathogens, but also works to prevent rogue cells in the body from developing into serious disease.
NOTE – If you are on any prescribed medication do not take yourself off it without consultation with your doctor. If you follow a healthy eating programme and lose weight and are exercising you may not need the same dose and with your doctor’s agreement you may be able to reduce or come off the medication all together.
Food Therapy -Aubergines -Don’t forget to eat your purples!
There are certain foods that on my shopping list regularly as daily or weekly additions to our diet and others that we might have a little less often.. One of these is aubergines which I love but only eat occasionally as I have a tendency towards gallstones. If you do not suffer from either gallstones or kidney stones then you can enjoy a couple of times a week at least.
We were all encouraged to eat our ‘greens’ when we were children, and we know that the brighter the food colour the more anti-oxidants they contain, but I cannot recollect being told to eat my ‘purples’. But it is this colour which gives this food its uniqueness.
When we are enjoying a moussaka or ratatouille made with this versatile food we don’t tend to dwell on its medicinal properties, but like the majority of fresh produce we eat, aubergines have some powerful health benefits.
The History of the aubergine.
The aubergine has its origins in ancient India and is mentioned by different names in Sanskrit, Bengali and Hindustani languages. It was grown in China as well but only came to Europe around 1,500 years ago. There is no Latin or Greek name for it but there are Arabic and North African names indicating that it came to this continent via that trade route.
Americans call it the eggplant, and in India it is known as Brinjal. In Spain, aubergines are called berengenas or ‘apples of love’ for supposed aphrodisiac properties. Something that I take on faith! In northern Europe they had a strange notion that eating the vegetable caused fevers and epileptic seizures and named it Mala Insana or ‘mad apple’. It is also known as melanzana, garden egg and patlican in other languages.
The aubergine belongs to the nightshade family that includes tomatoes, sweet peppers and potatoes. It grows from a vine and will vary in size and colour although the flesh of all the different types tends to be slightly bitter and spongy in texture.
When you are selecting the aubergine go for the smaller, smooth skinned vegetable. Gently push with your thumb and if the flesh gives slightly but springs back it is ripe. If the indentation remains it is overripe and will be soggy inside. If you knock on the fruit and it sounds hollow it will be too dry and inedible.
What are the therapeutic properties of the aubergine.
As with all plants, the aubergine has a sophisticated defence system to ensure its survival. When we eat it, we inherit some of these properties and our bodies process and use specific nutrients to benefit our own health. The aubergine has an abundance of nutrients including antioxidants, phenolic compounds including chlorogenic acid and flavonoids such as nasunin.
Nasunin is a potent antioxidant in the skin of the aubergine and has been studied for its ability to prevent free radical damage to cell membranes. Lipids or fats are the main component of cell membranes and not only protect the cell from damage but also regulate the passage of nutrients and waste in and out of the cell. The research is focusing on brain cell health and eating aubergines regularly may help protect us from degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Nasunin may also help prevent oxidative damage to the LDL or the unhealthier cholesterol in our blood that leads to plaque in the bloodstream and blockages in the arteries.
Nasunin also assists with the regulation of iron in the body. Iron is an essential nutrient required for the transportation of oxygen in the blood and our immune function. However, too much iron can increase free radical damage and is linked to heart disease, cancer and degenerative joint diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. Nasunin is an iron chelator, which means that it binds with the iron processed from the food we eat and transports it safely in the blood stream preventing excess iron from causing damage to cells.
What are the benefits of Chlorogenic Acid.
Chlorogenic acid is a phenolic compound and one of the most potent free radical scavengers in plant tissues. It is very abundant in aubergines and very effective against free radical damage to LDL cholesterol. Additionally it may help prevent certain cancers and viral infections. Like Brussel sprouts some varieties of aubergine can be very bitter and it is thought that this is due to very high levels of Chlorogenic acid, which is also responsible for the rapid browning of the flesh when it has been cut.
Other good reasons to include aubergines in your diet on a regular basis.
The aubergine is a good source of dietary fibre, which not only helps prevent constipation but also helps eliminate waste from the body and prevent the build-up of plaque in the bloodstream leading to arterial disease. Recent research is identifying some very interesting properties in certain fibres including the ability to absorb and eliminate harmful bacteria from the body without the need for antibiotics. Fibre in the diet has been shown to reduce the risk of colon cancer and also regulate blood sugar levels
By eating aubergines regularly you will also be including healthy amounts of potassium, manganese, copper, vitamins B1, B3, B6, folate, Vitamin C, magnesium and tryptophan. It is what I call a well-rounded food.
Are there any drawbacks to eating aubergines?
The majority of us can enjoy aubergines on a regular basis in our diet and obtain its full health benefits, but as I mentioned earlier, a small proportion of people should avoid eating it.
The aubergine contains relatively high concentrations of oxalates, which are found in all plants and humans. If oxalates are too concentrated they crystallise and form stones in the kidneys and the gallbladder. If you already suffer from kidney or gallbladder problems then it would be best to avoid aubergines. This also applies to rheumatoid arthritis and gout sufferers, as this vegetable is part of the nightshade family and could increase the symptoms of these diseases. This applies to tomatoes as well. I have found that cooked tomatoes cause me less problems and they are too nutritionally rich to avoid completely. I suggest you try eating cooked tomatoes twice a week, three days apart and monitor your symptoms.
You will find many great recipes online for the preparation of aubergines and if you have one that you particular enjoy then please let us all know.
For a wonderful range of recipes featuring aubergines/eggplants, I have edited the original cook from scratch post where Carol Taylor makes it easy and delicious for you to include in your diet: Cook from scratch – Aubergines
©Sally Cronin Just Food for Health 1998 – 2020
I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty-two years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines and posts here on Smorgasbord.
If you would like to browse my health books and fiction you can find them here: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2019-2020/
Thank you for dropping in today and your feedback and questions are very welcome.. thanks Sally.