Japanese Eggplant: The New 'It' Food

This season's in-demand food is tasty, easy to cook and chock-full of nutrients.

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To get this season's new "it" food, keep an eye out for vibrant purple the next time you're at the store or farmers' market. The Japanese eggplant may look like a smaller, longer version of its better-known cousin, but it is much easier to prepare. This low-calorie food is also chock-full of nutrients that will keep both your body and tongue happy.

The Japanese eggplant's thinner skin may be more easily cooked and consumed than the thick skin of a normal eggplant. The skin is also full of fiber that can help keep you feeling full, regulate your digestion and even lower cholesterol. The spongy inside is nearly seedless and easily soaks up sauces and extra flavor, so you don't need to add much to give the taste a kick. Japanese eggplant is also less bitter than regular eggplant.

Not only is it tasty, but Japanese eggplant (which is technically a fruit) also has few calories – only 20 calories per cup – and is very low in saturated fat and sodium. It delivers a hefty nutrient punch of vitamin C, folate, potassium and manganese. It also contains antioxidants such as nasunin, which gives eggplant its purple color and may help protect cell membranes in the brain.

To pick the best Japanese eggplant, choose one that's firm, shiny and heavy – this will up your chances that it is fresh and not overly spongy. Its shelf life is a little shorter than a normal eggplant's, so use it within a week after buying it. You can cut it into slices and grill, sauté or bake it, and eat it alone or added to your favorite pizza, pasta or stir-fry dish. But make sure you don’t go overboard with marinades that can add sugar, salt and calories.