Are Nightshade Vegetables Bad for Your Health?

Are Nightshade Vegetables Bad for Your Health?

What are Nightshade Veggies?

Nightshades are properly named vegetables that are grown in the shade of night!

Some of the most common vegetables we eat everyday belong to the nightshade family: tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant and peppers.

You want to get technical?

Solanum tuberosum - Potatoes

Lycopersicon esculentum - Tomatoes

Solanum melongena - Eggplant

Capsicum - Pepper

Tomatillos, tamarillos, pepinos, pimentos, paprika, cayenne and Tabasco sauce are also classified as nightshade foods.

A plant commonly smoked also falls into the nightshade category: tobacco. Although most claims about the nightshade family are up for debate, the studies showing the harmful effects of chemical tobacco have long been substantiated.

The Claims

Alkaloids, natural chemical compounds mostly containing nitrogen atoms, found in these nightshades have been blamed for their negative impact on nerve-muscle miscommunication, as well as digestive and joint functions.

Some researchers have speculated that nightshade alkaloids contribute to excessive loss of calcium in bones and that its implantation into soft tissue is the cause of inflammation. For this reason, some doctors have recommended elimination of nightshade foods from the meal plans of individuals with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or other joint problems like gout.

A tiny amount of the solanine (nicotine) alkaloid is present in nightshades including eggplant and tomato, however the amount is so minimal, that most healthcare practitioners ignore it as a potential compromising factor to our health. Still, we cannot rule out that some individuals may be overly sensitive to these alkaloids and that some symptoms may appear.

A 1993 study (ancient history in the research field!) published by two M.D.s in the Journal of Neurological & Orthopedic Medical Surgery showed a link between arthritis and nightshades. However, this study was poorly designed, asking participants to mail in a survey rather than compounding more scientific evidence.

In 1980, The Arthritis Nightshades Research Foundation was established to study the nightshade/arthritis connection. They claim, "If nightshades can be eaten or used sparingly, arthritis can be slowed in developing."

But is this a widespread problem?

According to Ronenn Roubenoff, MD, a nutritionist at the Tufts University School of Medicine, "Potatoes, tomatoes and eggplant, for example, frequently are blamed for causing arthritic flares. Studies have shown this occurs in only 1-2% of patients."

Should YOU Avoid Nightshades?

Some things we know for sure…

  1. Avoid green or sprouted potatoes, as this is a sign of increased alkaloid content.
  2. Cooking can reduce alkaloid content by 40-50%.
  3. For individuals who have existing joint problems like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, nerve-muscle issues, or gout, you may wish to test which nightshades might be symptom triggers.

How to determine if you are affected by these nocturnal foods

Eliminate all nightshades for 2-3 weeks and then slowly introduce them again. See if symptoms disappear when they are eliminated and if they return upon reintroduction. You may need to introduce each category one at a time for a more in-depth test. Repeat until all four categories are complete.

In Conclusion

There is no solid scientific evidence showing that these foods have a damaging impact on the nervous system or joints, but it appears there are certain segments of the population that find relief of mental, emotional and physical conditions when nightshades are eliminated.

Read more about alkaloids and the importance of rotating your greens.

Registered Dietitian

I am sensitive to certain night shades and only eat them in moderation. Potatoes and cauliflower are the worst. Can hardly walk after sitting for a few minutes after dinner. However, I was raised on potatoes. Remember then during grow spurts my dad had to carry me sometimes as my legs were in such pain. Did not go to the doctor. I love eggplant but eat rarely. I do however, eat tomatoes and peppers most regularly and don't really notice much inflammation. I smoke also ( didn't know that tobacco was a nightshade). Interesting.
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