Truth About Nightshades – Is It Safe For Consumption?

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Eating healthy plays an important role in the well-being of our overall health. Some foods could worsen certain health conditions. There have been researches on our body’s inflammatory condition and GI problems being triggered by diet. Despite the rumors surrounding it, there is no solid proof implying nightshades can worsen such conditions.

What are nightshade vegetables?

Nightshade vegetables refer to plants belonging to the Solanaceae family including tomatoes, eggplant, white potatoes, and peppers. Despite sharing genetic ties with toxic species like belladonna, nightshade vegetables are generally considered to contain high nutrients and low calories.

The reason for their name stands unclear. It could be either because earlier those plants were earlier grown under shady areas or it could be due to their mystical and dark past. Some of the foods belonging to nightshade vegetables have been used as hallucinogens and narcotics in the past.

Source: Cleveland Clinic Health Essentials

Gout and nightshade vegetables:

The misinformation surrounding nightshade vegetables has got people confused. Learn the truth behind the rumors. This article from goutandyou.com explains in detail about gout’s association with nightshade vegetables. It explores if nightshades could worsen inflammation and gastrointestinal problems for people with gout.

The blog owner suffers from gout and presents you with reliable information on the ways to get relief from gout. Among the 2000 varieties of plants that fall under nightshade vegetables, only a few are consumed, while some of the vegetables have been used as staple foods for over centuries. The commonly consumed nightshade vegetables are:

  • Eggplants/ aubergines
  • Varieties of pepper including bell, sweet, chili and others
  • All varieties of potatoes except yam and sweet potato
  • Tobacco
  • Tomatillo is a green veggie that resembles tomato and used predominantly in Mexican cuisine.
  • All varieties of tomato
Source: Dreamstime.com

Rumors surrounding nightshade vegetables:

Presence of lectins:

Some diet experts have recently come up with claims that the presence of lectins in nightshade vegetables is harmful to health. Lectins aren’t toxic compounds. They are proteins found naturally in most plants. These experts claim that lectins can cause problems for those with digestive problems, acne, arthritis, high cholesterol, weight gain, and muddiness.

Lectins can cause gastrointestinal problems in few foods like undercooked or uncooked beans, but it is possible to denature lectins by cooking beans. When beans are soaked, boiled, and cooked, the lectins are deactivated. Check out the following data analyzed by observing people who regularly consume nightshade vegetables.

  • No scientific proof: No major medical journals have proved that lectins are harmful to health.
  • Longevity zones: For decade’s people residing in ‘Blue zone’ areas like Loma Linda, Okinawa are the longest-living people. They have been consuming nightshade vegetables regularly. Two-thirds of their calories are from beans, whole grains, and starchy vegetables.
  • Thin zones: Some claim lectin-rich foods cause obesity. When looking at the statistics, obesity was less common in these ‘Blue Zones’. People who consumed more lectin-rich plant foods were found to be healthier than those who included less lectin-rich foods in their diet.
  • Lectin and whole grains: Whole grains like whole wheat, brown rice, corn, and barley are rich in lectins. The wheat germ, which is consumed both raw and cooked, offers very minimal gastrointestinal problems in people who aren’t used to consuming it.
  • Other vegetables and lectins: Several other vegetables including beets, mushrooms, carrots, zucchini, pumpkin, cucumber, and fruits like lemon, oranges, berry, watermelon, papaya, and bananas have night lectin content. They are nutritious and don’t cause GI problems when consumed raw or after cooking.
Source: Pritikin Longevity Center + Spa

Inflammation:

Some claims have arisen that nightshade vegetables are linked to triggering more inflammation, especially in people with arthritis. Foods in the nightshade category contain solanine compounds. Back during 1863 16 school children and staff were affected due to solanine poisoning after consuming green potatoes.

Nightshade vegetables contain only small amounts of solanine that wouldn’t cause solanine poisoning. Moreover, though conditions like cardiac disease and arthritis are driven by inflammation, it is a natural body process to heal infections. For example, when you accidentally get a cut, your body promotes natural healing by releasing pro-inflammatory compounds.

In the case of some autoimmune diseases, our body’s immune system causes inflammation without reason. This hyperactive immune response can be triggered more by our diet. The processed food, refined sugar, foods with high salt content, and red meat increase the inflammation, while vegetables including nightshade vegetables and fruits help with easing the inflammation.

Source: Gardening Know How

Benefits of nightshades:

Many health experts recommend nightshades due to its rich nutrient density, which is as follows:

  • Tomato: Rich in Vitamin A, C, and antioxidant lycopene and hence eases inflammation and lowers the risk of certain chronic diseases.
  • Pepper: Contains Vitamin C and enhances iron absorption.
  • Chili Peppers: Contain capsaicin, which reduces heartburn symptoms and aids weight loss.
  • Eggplants: Rich in fiber content, eggplants lower risk of heart diseases, and regulate bowel movements.
  • Potatoes: Potatoes along with their skins contain vitamin B6, potassium, and magnesium.
Source: Cheap Simple Living

Sensitivity to nightshades for people with arthritis:

Some people with arthritis claim that eliminating nightshades have improved their health. According to theory since nightshades are rich in vitamin D, it can cause calcium deposits and make arthritis-like joint pain. There is no evidence supporting this claim though. If you are healthy you can go ahead and consume nightshades.

But some people are sensitive to certain nightshade vegetables. They can confirm the same by eliminating nightshades from their diet for about 4 weeks and track the severity of symptoms during this period. Post this elimination period, they can add the nightshades into their diet and see if there are any changes in symptoms.

If you noticed the symptoms subsiding during the elimination period, you may be better off without including nightshades into your diet. If you don’t find any changes when including/ eliminating nightshades, you can carry on consuming nightshades and seek other treatment procedures.

People in certain countries who consume nightshade vegetables almost daily are found to be very healthy. Hence the rumors regarding nightshade vegetables aren’t fair. It is safe of consumption but some may be sensitive to it in which case you should eliminate it from your diet.

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