Nightshade Vegetables and Nutrition

Nightshade Vegetables


Nightshade Vegetables

Common nightshade vegetables that you may be familiar with are tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, paprika and eggplants. Plenty of diets recommend these foods as healthy and beneficial inclusions. For a great many people, some or all of these foods are dietary staples and eaten in large amounts.

However, there are also others who claim these food types are not good for human health. Some health care professionals prohibit their patients from eating nightshades, especially those that are diagnosed with GERD, arthritis and gout.

The vegetables, fruits and other foods that fall under the banner of “nightshade” include:

  • white potatoes
  • eggplant
  • bell peppers
  • tomatoes
  • cayenne pepper
  • paprika

The list above is by no means exhaustive.  CLICK HERE a list of foods – this list is maintained on an ongoing basis and as such a work in progress!

These vegetables contain a naturally occuring chemical called solanine which is considered toxic in high concentrations.

Toxic Chemical in My Food!?

The alkaloid chemical, solanine, is found in trace amounts and is considered sae under normal circumstances, however the stalks and leaves of the potato plant should not be ingested as that is regarded to be toxic and solanine poisoning has been reported.  The same applies to green potatoes – it is considered that green coloring of the potato indicates higher than safe levels of the alkaloid solanine and can result in toxic poisoning.

Note though that this glycoalkaloid poison is found in all members of the nightshade family of plants, not just potatoes.  This does not however mean that you must never eat any of these vegetables or other foods.

As with any foods you ingest, research what you eat and strive for a balanced diet with lots of greens, packed with nutrition, some fruits of course, and protein, fats, etc.  Consult a qualified nutritionist and/or your medical professional to ensure you are eating healthy and a balanced diet.

Nightshades and Arthritis

The biggest claim against nightshade plants is that they cause inflammation which manifests usually as painful arthritis and joint pain. Nightshades are also claimed to contribute to the effects of muscle tremors and stomach discomfort.

There is even a foundation called the ‘Arthritis Nightshades Research Foundation’ which has been around for a long time. This foundation claims to study the effects of nightshade consumption on humans and has many publications available detailing their research. The foundation came into being when the founder, who suffered badly from arthritis, achieved relief by removing nightshades from his diet.

Many others have had similar experiences and there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to support it. However, there are many, many more people who eat plenty of nightshade vegetable without any arthritic effects. There are also other Arthritis Societies who claim there is no scientific evidence that nightshades cause arthritis.

Reasons for Nightshade Reactions

Obviously, a percentage of the population appears to have an adverse reaction to these plants, or actually the compounds they contain. These plants do contain compounds called alkaloids in higher amounts than other plants and these are claimed to cause the attributed problems. One of these is alkaloids is solanin e, which is particularly high in potatoes.

While there are extreme advocates and decriers, it seems that this is yet another area of diet that shows what works for one may not work for another. It is quite likely that in some people the effects of eating nightshade plants are either mitigated or compounded by the effects of other dietary components, which would help explain why only some people experience negative reactions after eating nightshade foods.

Nutritional deficiency may play a role. For instance, those who have low levels of magnesium were found to be more sensitive to the effects of nightshades. If they are also deficient in vitamin D their symptoms could be even worse. If these nutrients and not being supplied by other foods, the alkaloids present could have greater effect. This may also help explain why some have tried to link nightshade consumption to osteoarthritis, as a lack of magnesium and vitamin D will certainly contribute to osteoarthritis effects and symptoms.

Our excretory organs – liver and kidneys – must work that much harder to detoxify the compounds found in nightshades. Those whose organ function is sluggish, for whatever reason, may also suffer more.

Although there may be no hard and fast rules about eliminating nightshades from the diet, it can’t be denied that many people have experienced a reduction in their pain or a complete recovery from chronic inflammation once they avoided nightshades. This is certainly a common claim among those who have been afflicted with arthritis.

Setting Your Own Control Scenario

If you would like to confirm if you are sensitive to these kinds of foods, a common-sense approach would be to avoid eating nightshades for fifteen days or if possible one month, to see if you can notice any relief from your symptoms.

You may not be aware you have a sensitivity at all unless you set up your own control situation and therefore make before and after comparisons. Those who have reported relief by abstaining usually experienced relief with two weeks. They also reported that if eating nightshades is resumed, symptoms return quickly, within days. This means you should be able to test your own susceptibility fairly simply.

If it seems you may be affected but don’t like the idea of totally removing potatoes and tomatoes from your diet, try reducing them, as the total amount eaten would certainly be a factor. It may help to know that baking, steaming, and boiling nightshade foods can help reduce their alkaloid levels up to as much as 50%.