If you follow a Mediterranean style diet (or enjoy eggplants), you may be wondering if you can continue to enjoy eating eggplants during pregnancy.
This big purple squash is classified as a “nightshade”, a group of over 2,000 plants. Although few of them are actually eaten. Examples of some other foods in the nightshade family include tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers.
While not super common, some individuals refer to eggplants as brinjals. Eggplants, or brinjals, are two different terms for the same exact vegetable.
You may have heard eggplants are dangerous to consume during pregnancy, but is this true?
Are eggplants safe to consume during pregnancy? Below we will take a look at the safety of eggplants while pregnant. We will also review any possible side effects of eating eggplants. Plus, we will discuss the nutrients eggplants provide for you and your growing baby.
Eggplants during pregnancy: are they safe?
Yes, eggplants (or brinjals) are safe to eat during pregnancy. They are also safe to eat for those diagnosed with gestational diabetes. However, when it comes to eating eggplants during pregnancy, you can get too much of a good thing.
Nightshades such as eggplants contain a substance called solanine. This substance can be poisonous if consumed in high quantities.
Solanine in eggplants
Have your potatoes ever turned green?
This green color is essentially a warning that the solanine in the potatoes may be at a toxic level. Eggplants don’t come with a warning. They do not turn green like potatoes do.
Solanine poisoning occurs when you are exposed to high levels of solanine and can cause symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and/or stomach pains.
But you would have to try really hard to overdo it. It’s likely you’d need to consume a lot of eggplants for it to be “too much”.
You would need to eat over 400 mg of solanine for it to be poisonous. And most nightshade vegetables contain anywhere from 2-13 mg of solanine (1).
So, unless your cravings are very strong, you will be just fine indulging in that eggplant parm dish from your favorite Italian restaurant.
Eggplant nutrition breakdown
1 cup or 82 grams raw, eggplant (2)
Calories: 20.5 calories
Carbohydrates: 4.8 g
Sugar: 2.9 g
Protein: 0.8 g
Fat: 0.2 g
Fiber: 2.5 g
Manganese: 0.2 mg
Folate: 18 μg
Potassium: 188 mg
Benefits of eggplant during pregnancy
You may have heard this fancy word before but what is an antioxidant and why do I want it in my diet?
Antioxidants are substances that help protect the body from free radicals or harmful substances that may be floating around. These are helpful in the prevention of chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer (3). This is one reason eating a variety of colorful plant-foods each day is encouraged.
Eggplants are a source of antioxidants. More specifically, eggplants contain anthocyanins. This is the antioxidant that is responsible for eggplants bright and vibrant purple color (4).
As you read above, 1 cup of raw eggplant contains 2.5 g of dietary fiber.
Increasing dietary fiber intake along with fluid intake is the first line of treatment for constipation during pregnancy. Staying hydrated with plenty of fluids is key when upping fiber intake. This helps to prevent digestive issues.
Fiber has many other functions besides keeping you “regular” too (5). It helps keep you full longer and slows the rate at which your blood sugar rises. Truly a win, win, win.
Keeping blood sugar levels balanced is important for all pregnant women. Not just those diagnosed with gestational diabetes. Elevated blood sugar levels have been linked to less than optimal pregnancy outcomes. Including preterm delivery and preeclampsia for mom.
Fiber is also important for heart health. It can help increase our “good cholesterol”, also called HDL.
Eggplants contain folate, a nutrient vital for the growth and development of your baby. Inadequate folate intake has been linked to several poor pregnancy outcomes (6).
Folate is especially important during the first trimester of pregnancy. This is because folate plays a role in the prevention of neural tube defects.
Even 20 years after the US required folic acid fortification in grain-based products, around 20% of women are still deficient (7). Adding more high folate foods to your diet pre-pregnancy and during pregnancy is wise.
Manganese is one of the least studied micronutrients when it comes to pregnancy. Although you are unlikely to be deficient, it is still important to consume the recommended amount. Both deficiency and excessive consumption of manganese can lead to negative outcomes (8).
The AI, or adequate intake, for manganese is set at 2.0 mg per day during pregnancy.
How to include eggplant in your diet during pregnancy
Eggplants are a versatile ingredient. While focusing exclusively on “low-calorie” food finds is generally not recommended during pregnancy, if you find yourself in a situation where you are gaining too much weight too quickly, this is a great addition to any meal.
Eggplant can be baked, broiled, grilled, or even put into the airfryer to cook. It can be used as a vegetable side or incorporated into various other dishes.
Here are some recipe and meal ideas to incorporate eggplant into your meals:
- Eggplant parmesan
- Eggplant lasagna
- Marinated teriyaki eggplant
- Eggplant pizza
- Eggplant fries
- Eggplant “BLT”
- Roasted eggplant
The bottom line: eggplants during pregnancy
While you can eat too much eggplant, a daily serving of eggplant will not harm you or your baby during pregnancy.
Not only is consuming eggplant during pregnancy completely safe, but it also comes with health benefits for mom and baby!
Eggplant provides fiber, folate, manganese, potassium, copper, and antioxidants, amongst other nutrients important for you and baby during this time.
By Lauren Gannon, Dietetic Intern and Ryann Kipping, RDN, CLEC | Owner & Founder