The African eggplant, locally known as ‘intoryi’, is a tropical perennial plant that is closely related to the eggplant (aubergine) and widely cultivated for its use as a food, medicinal purposes, and ornamental plant. The plant is grown for its edible fruits which are cooked and eaten as a vegetable.
It can be steamed, fried, grilled, pureed, or dried for later use, among other ways.
Emmy Ntamanga, a Kigali-based nutrition consultant, says the African eggplant is an excellent source of fibre and B-complex vitamins that provide manganese, copper, potassium, and iron.
He says beta-carotene is extremely high in the African eggplant, therefore, important for healthy skin, the immune system as well as good eye health and vision.
He says African eggplants contain fibre, potassium and ascorbic acid, iron, and calcium.
He explains that potassium is one of the most important minerals in the body, as it helps regulate fluid balance, muscle contractions, and nerve signals.
What’s more, the nutritionist says, a high-potassium diet with African eggplant may help reduce blood pressure and water retention, protect against stroke, and prevent osteoporosis and kidney stones.
The fibre found in the African eggplant, Ntamanga says, increases the weight and size of one’s stool and softens it.
“A bulky stool is easier to pass, decreasing one’s chance of constipation. If you have loose, watery stools, fibre may help to solidify the stool because it absorbs water and adds bulk to stool,” he says.
Vitamins and minerals
Dieudonne Bukaba, the nutrition programme coordinator at Africa Humanitarian Action (AHA) Rwanda, says African eggplant contains vitamins and minerals as it is a great source of vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B6, thiamine, niacin, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, copper, fibre, folic acid, potassium which all play a crucial role in health.
Because of its fibre, he says, it improves gastrointestinal and heart health.
Bukaba says African eggplant is also a good source of natural antioxidants such as manganese.
He further explains that having a high level of antioxidants like manganese in your body helps to ensure that your organs are protected from cancer.
In addition, he says, it reduces risk of osteoporosis (a condition in which bones become weak and brittle), as the iron and calcium found in African eggplants are crucial in improving and preserving overall bone health.
Ntamanga says not getting enough iron in your diet can be dangerous to your health.
In some cases, he says, iron deficiency can result in anaemia, which is characterised by a general feeling of tiredness and weakness caused by not having enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout the body.
He says African eggplants are rich in natural chemicals called phytonutrients, which have been known to improve mental health.
This benefit is a result of increased blood flow throughout the body and in the brain.
“Phytonutrients help boost memory by stimulating your neural pathways to develop,” says Ntamanga.