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With Labor Day prep in the air, we’ve decided to post a healthy grilling recipe that your family will love. When someone says “grill,” most people jump to burgers, hot dogs, or filet, but really, vegetable and even fruit (grilled fruit recipe coming up next week!) are just as delicious when grilled and better for you, too! Below, you’ll find some insight on what makes this sandwhich recipe special and give you tips on how to prepare it.

Overall healthy ingredient profile

Just about all the ingredients in this sandwich are associated with health benefits. Many of the nutritional benefits gained from consuming eggplants are obtained from its skin which is full of fiber, potassium, magnesium, and antioxidants. Eggplant contains chlorogenic acid, one of the most potent free radical scavengers found in plant tissues, and is also antiviral, antibacterial, and helps lower harmful cholesterol (LDL). Olives have healthful acteosides, hydroxytyrosol, tyrosol, and phenyl propionic acids, as well as squalene, terpenoids, and peroxidation-resistant oleic acid. Bell peppers are rich in α- and β-carotene, lycopene, lutein, luteolin, cryptoxanthin and zeaxanthin. We will go into detail on the evidence for cancer prevention on the main ingredient, eggplant. (Warning: eggplant can have negative effects if consumed in excess.)

Evidence for cancer prevention by polyphenols in eggplant

Polyphenols in eggplant are associated with anti-cancer effects. The phenolic content makes it such a potent free radical scavenger that eggplant is ranked among the top 10 vegetables in terms of oxygen radical absorbance capacity. Chlorogenic acid is the polyphenol most present in eggplant, comprising between the 70% and 90% of the total polyphenol content. More specifically, chlorogenic acid is the most potent functional inhibitor of the microsomal glucose-6-phosphate translocase (G6PT), which a recent study has shown may be involved in tumorigenesis. MMP (matrix metallopeptidase)-9 is known to be involved in tumor cell invasion and metastasis; chlorogenic acid inhibited MMP-9 activity with a potent IC50 = 30-50 nM. Anthocyanins, the pigments which gives eggplant its color, also function as antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds.

One study demonstrated that anthocyanins have antioxidant activities in colon cancer cells and also protect cells from DNA damage. Nasunin, an anthocyanin, had activity in in vitro angiogenesis models. An extract from eggplant (solasodine rhamnosyl glycosides) induced apoptosis in a wide variety of cancer cells. Anticancer therapies with solasodine rhamnosyl glycosides have been used orally, intravenously, and topically. 

Safety Suggestions

Researchers have found that nasunin could be detrimental for those who have low iron levels because it binds to the iron within cells and removes it. People who are prone to kidney stone formation should also avoid eating too much eggplant because the oxalates it contains can contribute to stone formation as well as acute oxalate nephropathy and kidney death. It should also be noted that it is better to eat a varied diet as a key to good health and disease prevention than to concentrate on individual foods.

Adapted from Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby’s Big Flavors of the Hot Sun

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