Tue, 05/10/2022 - 16:12
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Nightshades… Tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, potatoes are all vegetables in the “nightshade” family. Multiple herbs, spices, and condiments cayenne pepper, crushed red pepper, chili powder, paprika, ketchup, salsa, and marinara sauce also fall into this category of foods as they are derived from nightshade vegetables.
That said, these foods have been nourishing people across the globe for thousands of years… with the Mediterranean diet being the most obvious example.
Recently however, some people have chosen to eliminate these foods because they believe that have “inflammatory effects” on the human body. They claim the alkaloids in the plants (predominantly found in the leaves and stems), which function as a natural insect repellent, are the culprit.
So what in particular are these alkaloids supposedly doing to wreak havoc in our bodies? Let’s look at each issue…
Some who suffer from inflammation in their digestive tract have sworn off these foods. Conditions like irritable bowl disease, Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, acid reflux etc. notice an improvement when they avoid these foods. The research linking alkaloids to these types of conditions is extremely limited (a few animal studies and test tube studies), however there is no question that when you struggle with these conditions acidic foods can exacerbate the problem. So, while there isn't concrete evidence to suggest these foods create the problem, it is irrefutable they can cause irritation in a gut that is already compromised. Pay close attention to which of these foods bother you. It’s likely going to be the peppers and the tomatoes, which are more acidic, not the eggplant or the potatoes. The key is to listen to your body and if you notice these foods cause irritation then avoid them.
Now, beyond preexisting stomach issues, the only other concern would be a food sensitivity or allergy. This is rare and has nothing to do with nightshades being having inflammatory properties as a general rule. If you have a sensitivity to these foods you would know it right away, likely suffering from a rash, hives, and in extreme cases shortness of breath. Of course, if you noticed this after consuming any food, nightshades included, you should avoid them at all costs.
Ultimately, there is nothing inherent in nightshades that we should be avoiding barring the aforementioned. And the shame would be cutting out these incredible super foods for no reason. In fact, organic tomato sauce is one of the most potent super foods you can eat when it comes to preventing diseases like cancer and eggplant is loaded with fiber making it fantastic for your overall gut health. Peppers are packed with vitamin C. Potatoes provide a rich source of b6, manganese, and potassium. The health benefits of nightshade vegetables is long.
That said, if you feel that you’re sensitive to nightshades, there are plenty of other healthy options you can eat instead.
Here are a few changes you can make to eat healthy while avoiding nightshades. Swap out:
- Potatoes for sweet potatoes, artichokes, taro root.
- Tomato Sauce for olive oil and garlic or green pesto.
- Peppers for more leafy greens
If you still want to eat nightshade vegetables but want to avoid their alkaloid content “just in case”, you can accomplish this by peeling your potatoes, avoiding green tomatoes, and fully cooking these vegetables.