The mighty eggplant

Aubergine:

"'According to Marie-Christine Daunay, who is in charge of eggplant studies at the French agronomic research institute INRA, eggplant is somewhat of a mystery even to those who work with it daily. But at least we know a little about its propensity to drink. It is due partly to the spongy texture, of course, but Daunay tells me that the eggplant also contains compounds called saponins 'that have a natural affinity for lipids.' They love fat, in other words, and work as hard as they can to soak up as much of it as possible. Saponins are also responsible for the bitter flavors that in small quantities can be nice but in older or undercooked eggplant can be overwhelming. Although it's not yet scientifically proven, saponins are believed to help lower cholesterol and, if not satisfied in their craving for fat, to absorb fats present in our digestive system.'
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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.