Myths and Truths of Nightshades

should you include nightshades in your diet?

Public perception about nightshades is often negative but there are many benefits to these fruits and vegetables The majority of the negative effects only occur to a small population of people. The benefits of this group of vegetables outweigh the negative effect only a small group have.

Nightshades are a group of plants technically called Solanaceae and it includes eggplant, peppers, potatoes, tomatoes and many more. Other foods including nightshades are curry, hot sauces and pasta sauces. The term “nightshade” was coined because the majority of these plants grow in shady areas and some flower at night.

Potential negative properties of nightshades

Nightshades have been linked to inflammatory issues that result from their alkaloid content, specifically solanine. Solanine is a bitter-tasting substance that acts as a natural insect repellent for the plant and are concentrated in the leaves and stems rather than the fruit or vegetable. However, there is no conclusive peer reviewed medical research that shows a connection between inflammatory conditions and alkaloids.

Nightshades are also linked to medical issues like migraines, arthritis pain and contributing to osteoporosis. The root causes for inflammation and other health issues can be difficult to target. People with food allergies or are prone to have food sensitivities are the most common people to have issues stemming from nightshades.

Benefits of nightshades

This group of fruits and vegetables provide quality benefits to a person’s health. The benefits of nightshades include:

Tomatoes: Tomatoes are a major source of the antioxidant lycopene. This antioxidant has been linked to helping reduce heart disease and cancer. Tomatoes also contain a high amount of vitamin C, potassium, folate and vitamin K.

Potatoes (Not Sweet Potatoes): Potatoes are rich in flavonoids, carotenoids and phenolic acids, all antioxidants helping reduce heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Potatoes also contain a type of starch known as resistant starch. This starch does not break down fully by the bodies digestive system. When it reaches the large intestine, it becomes a beneficial source of bacteria in your gut.

Eggplant: Eggplants are rich in vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B6, thiamine, niacin, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, copper, fiber, folic acid and potassium. These nutrients help with digestion, reducing heart disease and cancer, promotes bone health and increases brain function.

Bell Peppers: Red, green, orange and yellow bell peppers are packed with vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, fiber, folate and iron. The nutrients in bell peppers help promote eye health, prevents anemia, and boosts your immune system.

Paprika: Paprika is made from the dried peppers. The spice is full of antioxidants, and vitamin A. These nutrients promote healthy vision, reduces inflammation and can help improve cholesterol levels.

Tomatillos: Tomatillos are an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, niacin, manganese, magnesium and potassium. Tomatillos are also known to help with diabetes.

Verdict on nightshades

While a small population of people may have negative effects resulting from nightshades such as, inflammation, migraines and issues with osteoporosis, the benefits of this group of fruits and vegetables outweigh the negatives. The vitamins and antioxidants provided by these vegetables promote health and are not dangerous if eaten in moderation.

If you are experiencing any health issues and you think nightshades may be playing a role consult your personal physician. They can do testing to find the cause of your issues and help treat them accordingly.

Author: Stephanie Seitz MT (ASCP), ND, MPH is a licensed naturopathic doctor at Natural Kid Doc who specializes in women’s health and fertility. Seitz has spent the last 10 years at Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine teaching medical students and treating patients. She graduated from Augustana College in Rock Island Illinois, with a B.A. in Clinical Laboratory Sciences in 2000. In 2010 she achieved her Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine from Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine.

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