Wondering what to do with your bounty of fall veggies? Or maybe you’re curious which is healthier, zucchini vs eggplant? As a dietitian, I love both, but read on to see if one outweighs the other for you!
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Zucchini vs Eggplant
While both are technically fruits, zucchini and eggplant play the role of a vegetable in most cooking. They are versatile and find their way into various dishes in the United States and around the world.
Both have unique flavors, textures, and nutritional profiles, making them popular choices for cooks and food enthusiasts alike.
What is Zucchini?
Zucchini’s scientific name is Cucurbita pepo. It is a summer squash that belongs to the gourd family, Cucurbitaceae. Typically harvested when they are still immature, zucchinis have a tender texture and a mild, slightly sweet flavor.
Zucchinis come in various shapes, sizes, and colors, with the most common type being elongated and green. However, there are also yellow and round varieties. The skin of zucchinis is edible and is usually tender, so it doesn’t require peeling before eating.
How to Choose Zucchini at the Grocery Store
To choose the best zucchini, look for small to medium-sized ones (6-8 inches) with vibrant green, glossy skin. Check for a smooth and firm texture, avoiding zucchinis that are soft, wrinkled, or have blemishes.
Ensure the stem end is slightly firm, and the blossom end (opposite end) is free from mold or rot. The zucchini should feel heavy for its size. If it feels too light, it may be dry on the inside.
What is Eggplant?
Eggplant, scientifically known as Solanum melongena, is part of the nightshade family of vegetables. It is also referred to as aubergine in some parts of the world, particularly in Europe and Asia.
Eggplants are known for their distinctive dark purple or black skin, though there are also varieties with white, green, or purple-streaked skin.
Eggplants have an oval or elongated shape and can vary in size, from small varieties the size of an apple to larger ones that resemble a small football.
The flesh inside the eggplant is typically creamy white or pale yellow with tiny, edible seeds. This inner flesh has a mild, slightly earthy flavor and a somewhat spongy texture.
How to Choose Eggplant at the Grocery Store
To select the best eggplant, look for medium-sized ones (6 to 8 inches) with a deep purple color and shiny, uniform skin. Avoid eggplants that are dull, wrinkled, or have blemishes.
Check for firmness by gently pressing the skin; it should yield slightly but remain firm. A heavy eggplant indicates freshness and moisture content. Examine the stem at the top; it should be fresh and green, not withered.
Zucchini vs Eggplant: Nutritional Comparison
Let’s start by breaking down the nutritional value of zucchini and eggplant to see how they stack up against each other.
One cup of sliced zucchini contains (1):
Zucchini is a low-calorie vegetable packed with vitamins and minerals, making it an excellent choice if you are looking to maintain a healthy diet. Its high water content also helps keep you hydrated.
One cup of cubed eggplant contains (2):
Eggplants are low in calories and a good source of dietary fiber. They provide anthocyanins which are antioxidants that protect against obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. They also may protect the health of your eyes and brain (3).
Both zucchini and eggplant are incredibly versatile in the kitchen and can be great as a main dish or a side dish depending on how you prepare them.
You can prepare zucchini in many different ways, including sautéing, grilling, roasting, frying, and baking. It’s a popular choice for adding a mild and slightly crunchy texture to dishes.
Eggplants are known for their ability to absorb flavors and spices during cooking. They can be prepared in numerous ways, such as grilling, roasting, frying, baking, or even steaming.
Zucchini vs Eggplant: Health Benefits
Both zucchini and eggplant offer various health benefits due to their high nutritional content. They can both contribute to the colorful variety of produce that you want to aim to have on your plate.
Both foods have a low glycemic index, which means they don’t cause a large increase in your blood sugar when you eat them. They also both have a high water content which helps you stay hydrated and supports healthy digestion.
Zucchini Health Benefits
Weight Management. Zucchini is low in calories and carbohydrates, making it suitable for weight management and low-carb diets.
Antioxidant Boost. Rich in antioxidants like vitamin C and manganese, zucchini can help bolster your immune system and combat oxidative stress.
Happy Belly. Zucchini contains fiber, which supports a healthy gut and can help regulate blood sugar levels.
Eye Candy. Zucchini is a good source of the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin which are important for eye health.
Eggplant Health Benefits
Weight Management. A good source of dietary fiber, eggplant aids digestion and promotes a feeling of fullness. It is also low in calories, making it a suitable choice for anyone who is weight-conscious.
Antioxidant Boost. Eggplant is rich in anthocyanins which help protect brain health and reduce the risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Happy Heart. A recent study showed that eggplant may help improve blood pressure (4).
Cancer Fighter. Though research is still in the early stages, compounds in eggplant called solasodine rhamnosyl glycosides (SRGs) may cause cancer cell death (apoptosis).
Zucchini vs. Eggplant: Which Is Better for You?
When it comes to choosing between zucchini and eggplant, both vegetables offer unique advantages. While I think eggplant might slightly edge out zucchini, your decision should depend on your personal preferences, dietary goals, and the specific dishes you plan to prepare.
You may have heard that nightshade vegetables cause inflammation. While research is limited and mixed, if you suspect nightshade vegetables are problematic for you, experiment with removing them from your diet. Just be sure to get important nutrients elsewhere!
Choose Zucchini If:
Choose Eggplant If:
Ultimately, the best veggie for you is the one you like to eat! You can enjoy the benefits of both these veggies by incorporating zucchini and eggplant into your diet. Experiment with different recipes to savor their unique qualities.
Whichever you choose, you’re sure to elevate your meals and reap the health benefits of these versatile vegetables.
Want to learn about other superstar fruits and veggies? Check out these articles:
Kate is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and certified yoga instructor with a Master’s in Public Health. She loves to share what she has learned about nutrition and yoga to help people live healthier, more balanced lives. When not working on this blog or teaching yoga, Kate is usually spending time with family and friends or reading a good book.