Can You Eat Raw Eggplants?

Also referred to as aubergines in the United Kingdom, eggplants are a plant species in the nightshade family, alongside potatoes and tomatoes. 

Whilst you might be able to eat small amounts of raw eggplants without experiencing drastic side effects, eggplants contain a neurotoxin called solanine, which can cause headaches and nausea.  

What Exactly Is Solanine?

Solanine is an alkaloid found in the nightshade family (Solanaceae), which is essentially a neurotoxin that may lead to poisoning. 

Despite being present in eggplants and tomatoes, most solanine poisonings reported have arisen from the ingestion of greened potatoes, as they generally have higher quantities of solanine. 

green potato

Potatoes are more dangerous than eggplants because they develop a green color when stored in light — a phenomenon caused by chlorophyll, a natural compound present in plants that gives them their green color.

Unfortunately, the green part of a potato contains solanine, and the more potatoes are exposed to light, the more solanine they have. 

The normal amount of solanine in a potato’s peel means a 200-pound person would have to eat 20 pounds of potatoes to experience a toxic level, however, light exposure can increase the solanine content in potatoes by 10 times, which means eating two pounds of potatoes could be dangerous. 

Symptoms of Solanine Poisoning

While symptoms of solanine poisoning are rare, you still have to be careful.

Solanine poisoning symptoms might include: 

  • fever
  • headache
  • pain in the stomach or abdomen
  • diarrhea
  • body temperature lower than normal
  • vomiting
  • slow pulse
  • slow breathing

If you notice one or more of the symptoms after eating potatoes or any other members of the Solanaceae nightshade family, you should seek immediate medical advice. 

So, Can You Eat Raw Eggplants?

Whilst it’s true that eggplants also contain solanine, they’re not anywhere as dangerous as green potatoes, which can accumulate higher amounts of solanine. 

eggplant

Typically, the average eggplant has about 11mg of solanine. Therefore to consume anything close to a lethal dose of solanine, you would have to eat 12 eggplants.

This means if you want to consume raw eggplants, you can do so moderately without running into issues, although it’s also worth mentioning that some people are more sensitive than others, and may experience gastrointestinal discomfort. 

Is Raw Eggplant Edible?

There is no shortage of ways to eat eggplants, and while they can be eaten raw, I’m afraid that it is most delicious when grilled, baked, braised, or cooked and pureed into a dip.

A raw eggplant will typically have a bitter taste, and as we’ve covered, it will contain the toxin solanine, which can be poisonous if consumed in excess. 

It’s possible to eliminate solanine by frying the eggplant. 

Health Benefits of Eggplants

Eggplants are a nutrient-dense food, which means they contain a generous amount of vitamins, minerals, and fiber in just a few calories. 

For instance, one cup (82 grams) of raw eggplant contains the following nutrients:

  • Calories: 20
  • Carbs: 5 grams
  • Fiber: 2.8 grams (11% of the RDI)
  • Protein: 0.8 grams
  • Manganese: 0.2 mg (10% of the RDI)
  • Magnesium: 11.5 mg (3% of the RDI)
  • Folate: 18 mcg (5% of the RDI)
  • Potassium: 189 mg (5% of the RDI)
  • Vitamin K: 2.9 mcg (4% of the RDI)
  • Vitamin C: 1.8 mg (3% of the RDI)

You can also find smaller amounts of other nutrients, including niacin, zinc, phosphorus, and even calcium. 

Like most fruits and vegetables, eggplants also contain antioxidants, which are substances that help protect the body from damage caused by harmful substances called free radicals. 

Free radicals are unstable atoms that can damage cells, causing illness and aging.

Due to their antioxidant content, eggplants may be able to prevent many types of chronic diseases, such as heart disease and cancer. 

Eggplants are especially rich in anthocyanins, a type of pigment with antioxidant properties that’s responsible for their vibrant color. 

Some studies show that the anthocyanin called nasunin (which is present in eggplants) is particularly effective at protecting cells against damage from harmful free radicals. 

Eggplants, like many other vegetables, are known for providing different benefits— which is in part due to their vitamins and minerals, as well as fiber content. 

veggies

For example, the Harvard School of Health suggests that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables (such as eggplants) can:

“Lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, prevent some types of cancer, lower risk of eye and digestive problems, and have a positive effect upon blood sugar, which can help keep appetite in check”.

Does Eggplant Cause Gas?

Yes, eggplants can cause gas as they’re rich in fiber. The same can be said for most fruits and vegetables, but it will usually depend on your overall fiber intake. 

Once people increase their fiber intake, one of the side effects they experience is bloating and gas. Experts believe that adopting a high-fiber diet increases populations of certain healthy, fiber-digesting gut bacteria, which produce gas as a by-product of their digestion of fiber.

To relieve bloating and gas it is suggested that you increase your fluid intake, so drinking a lot of water will help you feel much more comfortable. This is key for anyone adopting a high-fiber diet. 

Does Eggplant Need To Be Refrigerated?

Unfortunately, like most vegetables, eggplants do not last a long time at room temperature. In fact, they generally last between one and three days before they begin to develop brown spots. 

If you don’t intend to eat your eggplants in a few days, it would be better to refrigerate them as you can increase their life for more than 2-3 days.

Another way to increase their shelf life is by chopping them into pieces and storing them in the freezer inside an airtight container or sealable bag. This should make them last a few months. 

Does Eggplant Need To Be Peeled?

If you intend to cook the eggplant, you don’t have to remove the skin as it’s edible.

In fact, it’s in the skin that you can find its powerful antioxidant, nasunin, which is associated with different health benefits, including lowering blood pressure. 

Larger eggplants, however, have tougher skin, so you might want to remove them just to be able to chew better and have a better culinary experience.

Alexandre Valente

Hey there! My name is Alex and I've been vegan for more than five years! I've set up this blog because I'm really passionate about veganism and living a more eco-conscious life. Hopefully, I can use this website as a channel to help you out on your own journey!

Why Are Eggplants Also Called Aubergine?
Previous Post Why Are Eggplants Also Called Aubergine?
Which Eggplants Have Fewer Seeds?
Next Post Which Eggplants Have Fewer Seeds?