Should You Be Eating Nightshade Vegetables?
Written by: Kat Gal
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel like the food police is always after us. There are new discoveries and suggestions every day about what you should and should not eat.
For instance, they tell you that you need to eat more veggies; 5 servings a day is hardly enough. Then they tell you to stay away from nightshade vegetables. Seriously?
Yes and no. It’s not so cut and dry. Nightshades are a bit more complicated than that.
What’s one man’s poison is another man’s medicine. Even foods that are not beneficial to any of us may be more harmful to some than to others.
For example, if you have celiac disease, you cannot have gluten at all, you even have to pay attention to foods that might have been ‘glutened’ (contaminated with gluten). If you have a moderate sensitivity to gluten, you may be able to get away with it once in awhile with mild tummy issues. If you are not sensitive to it at all, you can include it in your diet occasionally without running into any problems at all.
It is just the same with everything.
Nightshade vegetables are good for some and a big ‘no’ for others.
Let’s take a look at what nightshades are and whether or not you should include them in your diet.
What Are Nightshade Vegetables?
Nightshades are members of the Solanaceae family. Though there are over 2,000 different nightshades out there, some common nightshades include: tomatoes, bell peppers, eggplants, white potatoes, jalapenos, cayenne peppers, chili peppers and paprika.
Some of them, including the well-known belladonna, are deadly to humans, while the nightshades mentioned above are frequently used in the kitchen and are part of your everyday diet.
Generally speaking, nightshade vegetables that are feasible for human consumption are healthy for most people, but for some who are dealing with certain health conditions, they are not a good idea and can even be harmful.
Who Should Avoid Nightshade Vegetables?
Nightshades can be the concern for those with a compromised gut or immune system. If you have an autoimmune disease, leaky gut, muscle and joint pain, rheumatoid arthritis, or other conditions that are related to your gut or immune system, nightshades are probably NOT the best idea for you.
What is the big deal with nightshades anyways?
The issue compounds they have are called alkaloids which are the plant’s own natural pesticide and fungicide parts that protect it. In small quantities these are completely edible and are harmless to humans.
However, according to a 20-year study, there is a connection between arthritis and nightshades. It has been found that 74-90% of people with inflammation and pain are sensitive to nightshades as well.
Another study carried out on mice found the link between irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) – a condition related to the gut and the immune system – and alkaloids in potato skin. Turns out the higher the alkaloid content was, the higher the pain and inflammation was as well.
The issue with alkaloids is that they seem to inhibit an important enzyme called cholinesterase that is responsible for regulating muscle sensitivity. This can lead to stiffness, inflammation, pain and spasming.
One of the alkaloids that is found in tomatoes and potatoes is called solanine which gets released in times of stress. This may increase inflammation in a sensitive individual’s body.
Calcitriol is another compound found when a person is stressed that promotes high levels of calcium in your bloodstream that, by depositing calcium in your soft tissues, can also cause inflammation.
Moreover, nightshades are high in lectins and saponins that can aggravate an already irritated digestive system in those with gut problems.
Peppers and tomatoes may also cause heartburn and reflux in those who are sensitive to nightshades.
Is It Necessary To Eliminate All Nightshades?
A total elimination of nightshades is usually not necessary, but a reduction in consumption can lead to improved joints and pain reduction or elimination.
The following strategies can also help you to reduce Alkaloids:
- Always peel your potatoes
- Avoid green potatoes
- Avoid sprouting potatoes
- Only eat ripe nightshades
- Avoid green tomatoes
- Cook your nightshades instead of eating them raw
Who Can Eat Nightshades?
As mentioned earlier, some people have no issues with nightshades at all. If you have a healthy gut, healthy immune system and are not sensitive to any of them, you will likely be able to enjoy nightshade vegetables and their benefits without any problems.
If you suspect sensitivity to nightshades, have an autoimmune disease, gut health problems, or immune condition, avoid nightshades for 15-30 days, then slowly reintroduce them one by one every 3 days. Keep a food diary to observe if they cause any issues. A health coach or nutritionist can help you with the elimination process, if you need.
If you are sensitive to nightshades, here are some ideas that can help you to substitute them and receive similar health benefits from other nutrients and antioxidants.
- Tomatoes substitutes: red grapes, beets, plums, mushrooms, red cabbage
- Pepper or tomato sauce substitutes: pickles, sauerkraut, mustard, ginger, relishes, chutneys
- Potato substitutes: sweet potato, carrots, yams, cauliflower, turnips
- Peppers substitutes: radishes, red onion, celery, scallions, daikon
Are you sensitive to nightshade vegetables? In what creative ways do you replace them in your recipes? Share in the comments below; as always, we’d love to hear from you.
Kat Gál is a multi-passionate writer, world traveler, nomad, runner, and cat-person. She is a lifelong learner who lives outside of her comfort zones stretching her boundaries and discovering beauty around the world. She is a Certified Holistic Health and Life Coach who encourages others to embrace their unique authentic selves, follow their heart and find their own version of freedom in life.
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