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Healthy Eggplant Parmesan Recipe

August 17, 2010 Written by JP       [Font too small?]

Recently, Mrs. Healthy Fellow and I celebrated our 11 year anniversary. When we first started dating one of our favorite meals was a dish known as Melanzane Alla Caprina – a devilish, culinary creation from Italy, the land of my ancestors. Goat cheese is rolled into breaded and fried slices of eggplant, then topped with marinara sauce, mozzarella cheese and served with freshly baked, artisan bread. We’ve long since abandoned that style of eating. But the lovely recollections of that time period were in my thoughts while I was thinking up a recipe for this week.

One of the most positive changes you can make in your life is to lose weight around your midsection. A risk marker known as “waist circumference” is increasingly being identified as a leading indicator of mortality risk – even more so than a high body mass index (BMI). A recent cohort study published in the August issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine examined a proposed link between abdominal obesity and “higher mortality independent of body mass index” in a population of 100,000 mean and women aged 50 or older. Even after adjusting for BMI and other risk factors, those with the highest waist circumference were found 2 times more likely to die over the course of the 9 year follow up study. Two additional examinations focusing on elderly patients with or without chronic heart failure and patients with type 2 diabetes essentially came to same conclusion. But that’s not all. This type of fat accumulation may also lower brain volume in middle-aged adults and hasten aging and chronic disease in women by shortening telomere length. The take home message is this: Abdominal obesity appears to dramatically impact quality of life and risk of death even in those who aren’t obese or overweight. (1,2,3,4,5)

Stop sucking in your gut and hear this: One of the best ways to discourage the formation of abdominal fat is to eat a diet with a very low glycemic load. This means avoiding or at least limiting your intake of foods that are high in starch and sugar. As an example, the glycemic load (GL) of cooked pasta is about 23. The GL of cooked eggplant is only 2. Glycemic loads of 10 or under are considered ideal. (6,7,8,9,10,11,12)

Melanzane Alla Healthy Fellow
2 medium, organic eggplants
16 oz organic marinara sauce
15 oz organic ricotta cheese
12 oz organic mozzarella cheese
4 oz organic Parmesan cheese
4 Tbs organic basil
2 Tbs organic oregano
4 cloves organic garlic
1/4 tsp organic nutmeg
organic ground pepper
NutraSalt or salt

Nutritional Content - Calories: 500. Protein: 35 grams. Fat: 33 grams. “Net” Carbohydrates: 12 grams. Fiber: 7 grams. 6 servings per batch.

Cut the eggplants into 1/4 ” slices. Add a few tablespoons of organic olive oil to a non-stick pan. Turn to medium heat and add 4 smashed cloves of garlic. Once up to temperature, brown eggplant slices on both sides, working in batches and adding more oil as necessary. Drain on paper towels. Remove the garlic when it’s mildly toasted. Do not allow it to burn as it will become bitter.

Pre-heat the oven to 400°F. Chop the roasted garlic and fresh herbs – basil and oregano – and mix into the ricotta cheese. Finally, add the nutmeg and salt to taste.

Ladle enough marinara sauce to lightly cover the bottom of a 9X9 baking dish. Place an overlapping layer of the eggplant slices on top of the sauce. Spread the herbed ricotta cheese over the eggplant, followed by a layer of shredded mozzarella. Drizzle another layer of sauce over the cheese and repeat layers. As a final touch, generously blanket the top with Parmesan cheese. Place the baking dish in the 400°F oven and bake for about 30 minutes or until the cheese on top is bubbling and golden brown. Allow to cool for 5 to 10 minutes prior to cutting and serving.

A Higher Waist Circumference is a Predictor of All-Cause Mortality Risk
Source: Obesity (2009) 17 8, 1615–1620. (a)

Eggplants are rarely included on lists of the healthiest vegetables. I can’t tell you exactly where they’d rank in comparison to asparagus, broccoli or spinach. Ranking produce in such a manner isn’t very useful because there are so many nutritional variables involved. But here’s what I can tell you about these nightshades:

  • Purple eggplants contain select antioxidants (flavonoids and phenols) which may confer protection to the liver – one of the primary detoxifying organs in the human body. (13,14)
  • Organic cultivated eggplants are documented as having higher levels of nutrients (calcium, copper, magnesium and potassium) and protective phytochemicals (total phenolics) than conventionally grown eggplants. (15)
  • Cooking eggplants results in increased levels of antioxidant compounds (caffeic acid and chlorogenic acid) and greater antioxidant biological activity. This appears to be an instance where cooked food outperforms its raw counterpart. (16)
  • Eggplant phytochemicals have “demonstrated a strong biochemical basis for management of type 2 diabetes by controlling glucose absorption and reducing associated hypertension“. This evidence is preliminary, but encouraging nonetheless. (17)

Our healthier version of Eggplant Parmesan isn’t an exact replica of the Melanzane Alla Caprina dish from our cherished past. It’s actually much better. Mrs. Healthy Fellow and I worked on this recipe together. In essence, we were consciously recreating a memory in the present that we can hopefully look back on for many years to come. Likewise, we hope that the content and recipes you find here support you and those you love to live a healthier, longer and more joyful life together.

Be well!

JP

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7 Comments & Updates to “Healthy Eggplant Parmesan Recipe”

  1. Dr. Josh Axe Says:

    This recipe looks delicious. Thanks for sharing. Eggplant is also high fiber and low on glycemic index

  2. JP Says:

    Many thanks, Dr. Josh! :)

    Be well!

    JP

  3. Nicole Says:

    I love this version of eggplant parm. It is one of my favorite dishes and I love making it healthy. yum!

  4. anne h Says:

    I love that you have been together for so long!

  5. JP Says:

    Thank you, Nicole. :)

    We just prepared it again last night and it turned out very well. It’s as good, IMO, as the higher carb versions we’ve enjoyed in the past.

    Be well!

    JP

  6. JP Says:

    Thank you, Anne! Me too! :)

    Hopefully there will be many more years to come. I’d love to read a similar comment from you in 11 more years too!

    Be well!

    JP

  7. CoolSprings TN Says:

    There is nothing better than fresh eggplant from the garden with homemade marinara sauce!

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