Eggplants earn new respect for high antioxidant levels

January 26, 2004, Brace yourself for a slew of summer salads featuring the latest dietary wonder-kid—the eggplant. Scientists at the US Agricultural Research Service found that chlorogenic acid, one of the most powerful antioxidants produced in plant tissues, was the predominant phenolic compound in nearly all the eggplant samples analyzed.

Plants produce antioxidant compounds to protect themselves against stress and infection. In humans these compounds serve to deactivate certain particles called free radicals and show promise of preventing cancer, heart disease, and stroke.

The scientists studied seven eggplant varieties grown commercially in the United States, and a collection of exotic and wild eggplants (called aubergine in Europe) from other countries. Researchers want to identify valuable traits to introduce into popular commercial varieties through breeding.

Editor’s Note:
Variations on the traditional oblong, dark purple “black Beauty” eggplant have proliferated with the rise of farmers’ markets and CSA. Bi-color lavender and white, round orange, tiny white, long green and slender black varieties are giving the long-ignored eggplant new popularity.

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