How nutritious is eggplant?

Sep 28, 2007 at 9:29 p.m. ET

Eggplant's reputation has changed a lot. Formerly, nutritionists could only say that eggplant is a good source of fiber, since its vitamin and mineral content is small. But now scientists are discovering health-promoting phytochemicals in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and it's a whole different story.

Eggplant is rich in antioxidant phytochemicals. In fact, the phenols, a class of phytochemicals eggplant contains, are among the most potent scavengers of highly reactive "free radicals" -- molecules that can promote cancer development or heart disease. Unfortunately, higher levels of these protective phytochemicals tend to cause a more bitter taste. Researchers are at work creating varieties of eggplant that balance protective phenols with good taste.

Meanwhile, choose only fresh eggplant with dark, shiny skin, and use them within a day or two. As eggplants age, they lose their mild flavor and become more bitter. When you cook eggplant, grill, roast or broil it, rather than fry it. Otherwise, a high fat and high calorie content may outweigh the antioxidant benefits.