You might not even know it, but you may have already been consuming veggies and fruits from the nightshade family. It’s a staple for the diet of most individuals. However, are nightshade vegetables really dangerous for one’s health? If they indeed are, then should you be avoiding them as well?
What Are Nightshade Vegetables?
Veggies and fruits from the family of nightshade food are said to contain the chemical called solanine. Some claim that it aggravates inflammation or pain caused by arthritis. However, the Arthritis Foundation claims that this is information is false.
While there are more than 2,000 varieties of plants, only a few are edible. One such that is avoided due to its toxicity is belladonna. Nightshade berries are the deadliest and can be quite attractive to kids. It is deceptively sweet upon the first bite. In fact, only two berries can be lethal to a child whereas 10 or more can kill a grownup.
In the past, rumor has it that nightshades were used as hallucinogens or narcotics. Nonetheless, nightshades have long been a staple food for more than a hundred years. Some who are a common addition to the diet include the following.
- Aubergines or Eggplants
- Bell Peppers and Chili
- Potatoes Except Yams and Sweet Potatoes
Other condiments found in the typical kitchen contain nightshade food as an ingredient. These would include salsa, marinara sauce, and ketchup. While some of the nightshade food mentioned are veggies, a variety of them is considered as fruits like eggplants, peppers, and tomatoes.
Benefits of Consuming Nightshade Food
Don’t let what other people say about nightshade food fool you. Some nightshade veggies are actually a great source of vitamins, nutrients, fiber, and protein. Here are just a few nightshade veggies that are beneficial to one’s health.
It is rich in potassium which is considered one of the vital minerals needed by the body. Potassium helps regulate muscle contractions, nerve signals, and fluid balance. Moreover, it is also an excellent source of fiber as well as vitamins K, B-6, and B-1.
Tomatoes are considered a fruit more than a vegetable. These are rich in zinc, iron, potassium, and biotin. It is also rich in lycopene. This an antioxidant that helps reduce inflammation.
As mentioned, all potatoes except for the sweet variety and the yams are rich sources of fiber. It also carries vitamins B-6 and C that help boost one’s immune system.
It is rich in vitamins C and A as well as potassium. Moreover, peppers are rich in folic acid. Folic acid helps in the production and maintenance of cells. Also, the formation of red blood cells is greatly dependent on folic acid.
Risks of Consuming Nightshades
Even though the Arthritis Foundation debunked claims of nightshades worsening arthritis, some individuals still stand by this belief. On the other hand, a majority of claims state that nightshades are high in alkaloids which contribute to other health issues.
One such health problem is inflammatory bowel disease or IBD. This is an autoimmune disorder that mainly involves the irritation and swelling of the digestive tract. The protective coating or lining of the intestine isn’t functioning properly for an individual affected by IBD. Thus, bacteria can easily permeate the bloodstream.
With bacteria infecting the bloodstream, the immune system works by attacking it but worsens the inflammation. It also leads to adverse symptoms in the gastrointestinal area such as malabsorption, diarrhea, and pain.
So, what does the alkaloid content in nightshades have to with IBD? According to tests done on mice, the alkaloid content may aggravate the lining of the intestines further, especially for individuals with IBD. Nonetheless, studies conducted on humans should be done for a definite recommendation.
Allergies Caused by Nightshades
An allergic reaction to nightshades may occur. You may be allergic to this variety of food if you manifest the following upon consumption:
- Achy Joints
- Coughing or Wheezing
- Pale Skin
- Skin Rash or Hives
- Shortness of Breath
A more severe allergic reaction is anaphylaxis which needs immediate medical attention. Use an EpiPen if available or rush the person experiencing anaphylaxis as soon as possible. Take note, however, that allergies to nightshades are extremely rare. It affects only a minor percent of the population but can be quite a problem for those affected.
Intolerance to Nightshades
While there are allergic reactions to nightshades, other individuals develop symptoms of intolerance once this variety of food is consumed. Some of the symptoms that are quite noticeable include the following:
Keep a food diary or record of the nightshade food eaten in a day. If the symptoms appear, then take it out of your diet for at least four weeks. Add it again after two days to see if the symptoms return. If it does, then seek advice from your dietician regarding your intolerance or allergies to nightshades. Your dietician may refer you to alternatives to consume.
Alternatives to Nightshades
If you wish to avoid the risks or feel that it aggravates your arthritic pain, then here are a few alternatives to the nightshade variety of food.
- Citrus Fruits
Nightshade vegetables are excellent sources of vitamin C. If you wish to skip these, then adding tangerines, grapefruit, or oranges to your diet can fulfill the vitamin C requirement.
- Leafy Greens
Collard greens are a good source of dietary fiber, minerals, and vitamins. Spinach is also another leafy green rich in these nutrients.
- Green Pesto
Red pesto, which has tomatoes, should be avoided if you want to take nightshades out of your diet. Opt for green pesto instead.
- Sweet Potatoes
For vitamin A-rich food, sweet potatoes are a great source.
However, for those who still want to consume nightshades but without the alkaloid in it, peeling the skin off potatoes should help. Also, cooking nightshade veggies fully can help lessen the alkaloid content as well.
Up to today, no scientific research has linked nightshade vegetables to an increase of pain or inflammation for arthritis. Speak with your dietician if you think the food you eat is causing you allergies or sensitivities. Stay on the safe side and remove nightshades from your diet.