If you choose to eat eggplant while you are pregnant, there are some ways that are better to prepare it than others. Large quantities of eggplant can be toxic if you eat it raw.
Eating eggplant in pregnancy is perfectly safe when cooked and eaten in regular food amounts, as long as you are not allergic. There are many eggplant dishes that you can enjoy safely when pregnant, and it contains many useful nutrients for pregnancy.
There are numerous myths around eggplant too, and we’ll look at them here, as well as the best ways to enjoy eggplant while pregnant!
Is Eggplant Safe During Pregnancy?
Eggplant – also called aubergine or brinjal – is perfectly safe to eat during pregnancy as part of a balanced diet.
There are no counterindications for eggplant during pregnancy, except if you are allergic to nightshades.
Eggplant is most often eaten cooked in savory dishes, rather than raw. Eggplant has a bitter taste when eaten raw, which you may or may not like, in addition to its spongy texture.
Some raw food enthusiasts slice and freeze raw eggplant first and then thaw it, squeezing out the water – which is what gives it a bitter taste. They then make dishes by blending the raw thawed slices.
Raw eggplant contains a toxin called solanine which some people are allergic to. Most of us can handle solanine in small amounts, but too much solanine can be toxic.
Solanine poisoning – although rare – can cause gastrointestinal syndromes serious enough to be fatal, though (Source: NCBI). Solanine is found not only in eggplant, but also in green potatoes (Source: NCBI).
Though solanine is not removed by boiling, it can be destroyed by frying (Source: ScienceDirect), so fry or bake your aubergines to be on the safe side. They’re very rarely boiled anyway, as this makes them have a sloppy texture.
Can I Eat Eggplant in Early Pregnancy?
You can safely eat eggplant in early pregnancy as long as you cook it (see above), and also provided you are not allergic to it.
Eggplant allergies are rare, but can happen. The major symptoms of an eggplant allergy include skin rashes, wheezing and angioedema (a swelling similar to hives but happening beneath the skin).
Most allergens in eggplant are in the peel, so peel your eggplant first if you have any concerns (Source: WAOJ).
There are no reported dangers of consuming eggplant in the first trimester as opposed to the other periods of pregnancy, but there have been very little studies done on the allergic reactions to eggplant and on other risks of consuming it. Most allergic reactions seem to occur in Asian countries (Source: WAOJ).
The Health Benefits of Eggplant When Pregnant
Eggplants are a healthy food to eat when pregnant, as they contain a variety of vitamins and minerals, including niacin, vitamin A, vitamin E and Vitamin B complex.
They also contain good amounts of iron, copper, potassium and manganese, as well as folic acid and dietary fiber (Source: NutritionData).
The vitamins in eggplant help contribute towards the healthy development of the fetus as well as a reduction in the risk of anemia, low fetal birthweight and other pregnancy complications (Source: NCBI).
Vitamin E is essential for the metabolic function of the body and deficiencies can lead to placental aging, abortion and premature birth.
Vitamin A is essential for cell growth as well as red blood cell production and other key functions during pregnancy, and a deficiency can increase the risk of miscarriage, night blindness and pregnancy complications as well as affected embryonic development (Source: NCBI).
Folic acid is particularly important as it is one of the most important nutrients needed for healthy fetal development, in particular, the growth of the spine and nervous system.
Risks of defects such as neural tube defects or spinal bifida are reduced with significant intake of folic acid. The current recommendation is that women should have 400 mg of folic acid daily (Source: CDC).
Eggplant’s dietary fiber can help regulate the bowel. Such foods that are rich in dietary fiber can thereby help with constipation, which is a common pregnancy complaint (Source: PGHN).
Eggplant Dishes and Pregnancy Safety
Some common dishes that are safe to eat when pregnant include:
Eggplant dip – aka Baba ghanoush. Eggplant dip is safe to eat while pregnant. Most baba ganoush is cooked eggplant blended with lemon juice, tahini and sea salt, all of which are pregnancy-safe ingredients.
Eggplant pasta – e.g., rollatini. Rollatini is cooked eggplant which is often filled with ricotta. Ricotta is safe to eat while pregnant provided that it has been pasteurized.
Other types of eggplant pasta often contain wheat or egg pasta with pieces of cooked eggplant, which are also safe to eat.
Eggplant parmesan. Eggplant parmesan is made of cooked eggplant, tomato sauce, and cheese. Once again, these ingredients are all safe to eat – just be sure that any cheese that is used has been pasteurized.
Can Eggplant Parmesan or Parmigiana Induce Labor?
It is a common myth that eggplant parmesan can induce labor.
Most of these stories come from Scalini’s restaurant outside Atlanta – the restaurant claims that nearly 300 babies have been born within 48 hours of the mothers having eaten their eggplant parmigiana (Source: Scalinis.com).
Although this is a lovely story, there is currently no scientific evidence to back this up. So though you may love the taste of eggplant parmigiana, don’t eat loads of it expecting to meet baby any sooner!
Eggplant Recipe Ideas for Pregnancy
Here are some tasty ideas for how to enjoy eggplant while pregnant.
Note: For best results, slice your eggplant and salt it and let it sit for 30 minutes before using it in a recipe. The salt will draw out the water, where most of the bitter taste is found.
Crispy eggplant. If you don’t want the tomato version, coat your eggplant slices with olive oil, smoked paprika, Italian seasoning, garlic and parmesan cheese. Bake in the oven for a cheezy eggplant side dish.
Stuffed eggplant. Eggplant lends itself well to stuffing with couscous, rice, lentils, beans, or ground beef. Top it with pregnancy-safe cheese and bake till crispy.
Sauteed eggplant. Eggplant has a satisfying texture when stir-fried that can be an excellent meat substitute. Make curries, casseroles and other dishes using cubes of cooked eggplant. Eggplant will soak up the oil along with the spices in your sauces, making its contribution to delicious culinary results.
In conclusion, there are many ways to enjoy eggplant while you’re pregnant as part of a healthy diet. Happy eggplant eating!