Eggplants in Ayurveda and Other Healing Traditions

Do you like eggplant? The ancient medical discipline of Ayurveda suggests that there is a certain personality type, kapha, for whom eggplants would be appealing. Persons of the kapha type have solid, powerful bodies of great strength and endurance, providing steady energy for slow and graceful action. They have cool, smooth, supple skin, and they tend to be affectionate, tolerant, and forgiving. And they tend to have weight problems.

Eggplants are an everyday food in India, home of Ayurveda, and throughout much of Asia and southern Europe. Few vegetables are as "meaty" as the eggplant, and few can serve as well as the main course of a meal.

In Ayurvedic medicine, a stew of eggplant and curry is used to treat fatty liver and alcoholic liver disease. There is actually some scientific confirmation of this ancient practice. The "green" in the eggplant contains the relatively rare enzyme, 9-hydroxy-octadecadienoic acid, that decelerates inflammatory reactions in the liver and lungs. Curry contains curcumin, an antioxidant that shunts a series of chemical reactions away from forming irritants and towards forming pain relievers. There is also some recently published evidence that the hydroxycinnamate caffeic acid and chlorogenic acid in eggplant enhance the storage of cholesterol. This is a good kind of increased cholesterol, since the cholesterol that is stored in the liver does not circulate in the arteries.

These natural chemicals also help preserve the most important forms of vitamin E (alpha- and beta-tocopherol), both of which are important to cardiovascular health. The only peculiarity of the eggplant is that these beneficial phytochemicals are in different concentrations in different parts of the fruit, some more concentrated in the stem end and some more concentrated in the terminal end of the fruit. The way to get the most of all these beneficial plant compounds, of course, is to eat a second serving of eggplant.

When you buy an eggplant, length is not important, but width is. Long, narrow eggplants usually contain few seeds. Broader eggplants tend to contain more seeds and to spoil more readily. Use eggplants within two to three days of purchase. When you store eggplants in the refrigerator, the skin may stay the same, but the flesh will quickly become bitter and soft.

Trim the ends of the eggplant before cooking. You do not need to peel eggplants unless the skin is very thick. Soaking eggplant slices in a cold, salted water for thirty minutes to two hours before use will remove bitterness as well as excess moisture. Eggplants can be sliced into rounds or chunks.

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