Nightshade Foods List: What Nightshades Are, Health Benefits and Concerns

Pin on PinterestShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someone
Nightshade vegetables List
Advertisement

Nightshade foods are fruits and vegetables that are members of the Solanaceae family of plants. The list of nightshades includes fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, potatoes (but not sweet potatoes), eggplant, bell peppers, and goji berries. Many people are concerned about foods in the nightshade family being linked to inflammation, autoimmune conditions, allergies, or sensitivities.

Most healthy people don’t need to avoid nightshades as they are good for you. Nightshade fruits and vegetables are often a good source of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that your body needs.

Advertisement

Some people avoid nightshades because they contain alkaloid compounds such as solanine that are toxic in high concentrations. However, fruits and vegetables in the nightshade family that are commonly consumed don’t contain high levels of these compounds and are safe to eat.

It is important to remember that although we refer to “nightshade vegetables,” many of them are botanically fruits. Because most nightshade fruits are used as vegetables in the culinary world, we will talk about them as vegetables in the nightshade family.

In this article, you will learn what exactly nightshades are and which fruits and vegetables belong on the list of nightshade foods.

You will also find out if nightshades are bad for you and if you should avoid them if you have arthritis, digestives issues, or immune-related problems.

What are Nightshades?

Nightshades include a wide range of fruits and vegetables that belong to the Solanaceae family of plants.

The nightshade family of plants contains more than 2,000 varieties, but very few of them are actually eaten as food.

The most well-known types of edible nightshades are tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and potatoes. Far from being dangerous foods, researchers say that foods from the Solanaceae family of plants are important foods in the diet. (1)

Some studies have shown that common edible nightshade plants have many important nutritional benefits. (2)

There are, of course, some types of nightshade plants that are definitely bad for you. For example, deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna), mandrakes, and henbane are examples of poisonous nightshades.

Some people choose to completely avoid nightshades. They claim that harmful chemicals found in these fruits and vegetables could contribute to inflammatory bowel disease, autoimmune conditions and inflammation.

Of course, even if you choose to eliminate all nightshades, there are still plenty of healthy vegetables that aren’t in the nightshade family. Sweet potatoes, mushrooms, cucumbers, and onions are not nightshades. Also, spices like turmeric or cumin aren’t on the nightshade list of foods.

List of Nightshade Vegetables and Fruits

Let’s look in more detail at the list of Solanaceae vegetables that are commonly known as nightshades.

Eggplant

Eggplants (also called aubergine) are botanically nightshade fruits but are used as a vegetable in the culinary world.

Advertisement

A cup of cooked eggplant cubes only contains 8.6 g of carbs and nearly 2.5 grams of fiber which is around 10% of your daily needs. Eggplant is also a healthy food to eat on a diet because there are only 19 calories in every 100 grams. You also get plenty of vitamins and minerals from the eggplant. (5)

Research into the health benefits of eating cooked eggplant show that it is good for your heart health, improves digestion, is a diabetes-friendly food and helps to lose weight.

Tomatoes

Although technically a fruit, tomatoes are part of the nightshade family and have a number of health-boosting properties.

One medium-sized tomato contains over 20% of your daily vitamin A and C needs, as well as being a good source of vitamin K. Red tomatoes are also a good source of lycopene which is a potent antioxidant with anticancer properties. (6, 7)

In fact, the glycoalkaloid tomatine in tomatoes has been shown to have a cholesterol-lowering effect. (32)

Eating tomatoes has been linked to lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer. Tomatoes are among the healthiest foods that you can juice, make sauces with, and eat fresh in salads. (37)

Potatoes

Potato is a carb-rich nightshade root vegetable that has a surprising number of health benefits.

One baked potato with the skin on contains nearly half of your vitamin C requirements and one-quarter of your daily fiber needs. Potatoes are also a good source of potassium, copper, magnesium, and iron. (8)

You can also consume potato juice in smoothies as a nutrient-rich accompanist to other fruits and vegetables because it can help to improve your digestive health and treat peptic ulcers (38, 39, 40).

Bell peppers

Bell peppers also belong on the list of nightshade vegetables and are well-known for their high vitamin C content.

Half a red bell pepper (sweet pepper) contains more than enough vitamin C to meet your daily requirements. The same serving of pepper also has 75% of your vitamin A needs and helps toward your dietary fiber requirements. (9)

Because bell peppers are packed with antioxidants such as vitamins A and C, they are good for protecting your vision and improving bone health.

Advertisement

Okra

Okra is a member of the nightshade plant family and is botanically a fruit; however, it is eaten as a vegetable.

The nutritional benefits of okra include being a good source of vitamin A, C, and K. Okra also has magnesium and potassium that are good for your cardiovascular health. (10)

Okra is a good nightshade food to eat to help lower cholesterol, regulate blood sugar levels, and being a healthy source of energy. Drinking okra water has also been linked to helping manage type 2 diabetes.

Read more about okra in my article about the scientifically proven health benefits of okra.

Sorrel

Sorrel (Rumex acetosa) is a green leafy nightshade vegetable that is used as a natural remedy for treating inflammation and infections of the respiratory tract. (41) Sorrel leaves are also used as an ingredient in green smoothies, soups, and sauces.

One cup of chopped sorrel leaves contains enough vitamin A and C that you need every day. Sorrel is also a rich source of fiber, magnesium, iron, and manganese. (11)

Goji berries

Goji berries are a superfood that is on the list of nightshade fruits and contain a number of powerful antioxidants.

Researchers say that goji berries belong to the Solanaceae family. They contain vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and other health-boosting compounds. (12)

Consuming goji berries has been linked to protecting eyesight, lowering cholesterol, managing blood glucose spikes, and helping to keep your heart healthy. (12)

Gooseberries

Another type of berry that is in the nightshade family of fruits is gooseberries.

Like most berries, gooseberries contain a lot of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. In fact, a cup of gooseberries has over 25% of your daily fiber needs. The same serving size of gooseberries also has nearly 70% of your vitamin C daily requirements.

Research has shown that eating these tart berries has been linked to good health. Gooseberries contain compounds that help to improve digestive health, lower inflammation, and promote good liver health. (13, 14, 15)

Physalis

Physalis is a yellow berry-like fruit that is on the list of Solanaceae fruits and is similar to tomatoes. Physalis fruits are also called Cape gooseberries, ground cherries, goldenberry fruits or Inca berries.

The nutritional benefits of these berries are somewhat modest when compared to other nightshade fruits. However, they still contain good amounts of vitamin C and A, as well as fiber. (16)

Advertisement

Research has also shown that physalis fruits are a good source of antioxidants that can help to improve health. (17)

Tomatillos

Tomatillos are nightshade fruits that are also called husk tomatoes and are similar to physalis fruits but larger.

Tomatillos are a popular fruit in Mexico and Central America where they are eaten raw or cooked. The nutritional value of tomatillos is similar to goldenberries and have a modest amount of vitamins and minerals. (18)

Pepino melons

Pepino melons are a variety of nightshade berry fruit that comes from South America. These healthy nightshades are a good source of beta-carotene, vitamin C, and potassium. (19)

List of Nightshade Spices

There are also some spices that are derived from nightshade foods that some people put on their list of nightshades to avoid.

Cayenne pepper

Cayenne pepper is a spicy powder that is derived from chili peppers (related to the bell pepper and a nightshade vegetable).

Although cayenne pepper is a hot spice, it has many health benefits that include lowering blood pressure, improving digestive health and helping to lose weight.

Some studies have shown that the nightshade compound capsaicin helps to increase feelings of fullness and can help to manage weight gain. (33)

Read more about this spice in my article about the scientifically proven health benefits of cayenne pepper.

Paprika

Paprika is another Solanaceae spice that you may want to eliminate from a nightshade-free diet. Paprika is a mild to hot spice that is made from bell pepper.

Nightshade Foods – Health Concerns

Even though many nightshades are vegetables and fruits that are nutrient dense, some people are concerned that they cause inflammation.

For example, an Internet search on the dangers of nightshade vegetables will result in claims that they cause ailments such as arthritis, inflammatory pain, a leaky gut, and migraines.

Many of the health concerns about nightshades are due to the presence of the organic compounds alkaloids. Researchers say that alkaloids and glycoalkaloids can have a toxic effect. While it is true that some nightshade plants are extremely poisonous and are never eaten, many nightshade foods have been enjoyed by people for centuries. (20)

There is also concern that glycoalkaloids can buildup in the body if a person eats nightshades every day. (3)

Some studies show that the sun causes solanine (an alkaloid) to form in potatoes and turn them green. Therefore, it is important to discard any potatoes that have a greenish color or have started to sprout. (21)

Advertisement

However, there has only ever rarely been reported cases of poisoning from eating potatoes. It has been shown that consuming moderate doses of solanine doesn’t pose any acute health risk to humans. (21)

Nightshades and Arthritis

What about the connection between arthritis and nightshade vegetable consumption? Doctors from WebMD say that there are no direct studies showing a link between eating tomatoes, eggplant, pepper, or potatoes and arthritis. (22)

However, some studies have suggested that lectin content (that is found in tomatoes and other nightshades) may be involved in the development of rheumatoid arthritis. (29, 30)

But not all studies have shown a link between nightshade vegetables and inflammation. In fact, a study from 2013 found that extracts from nightshade plants may actually help to alleviate joint pain and stiffness. (31)

There is also anecdotal evidence that some people experience increase in their pain and inflammation when consuming nightshade foods. Therefore, the Arthritis Foundation says that if you think that nightshade vegetables trigger your pain, you can try and eliminate them and see if you have any improvement. (34)

The joint pain may also be attributed to high oxalate content in some nightshade vegetables such as potatoes, eggplants, okra and tomato sauce. When this substance becomes too concentrated in the body, it can crystallize and increase the risk of kidney stones and joint inflammation in some people.

If you are concerned about the oxalate content, then boiling can reduce oxalate levels by up to 87%. (42)

Let’s look at some studies showing the effects that eating fruits and vegetables from the nightshade family could cause.

Nightshade Vegetables and Inflammation

One of the controversial claims is that nightshade vegetables are bad for conditions like arthritis or autoimmune diseases.

There is some scientific evidence to suggest that avoiding nightshades could help improve symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). One study on mice found that glycoalkaloids in potatoes can aggravate IBD. (25)

Other studies have found that nightshade compounds such as lectin and capsaicin can lead to a leaky gut. (26, 27)

Regularly consuming nightshade foods that have high levels of alkaloids may also be connected with inflammatory digestive issues. One study found that frying potatoes increases levels of glycoalkaloids. Researchers noted that countries where people eat lots of fried potatoes also have a prevalence of IBD. (28)

There is anecdotal evidence that going on a no nightshades diet can help to alleviate many of the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease.

Allergies to Nightshade Foods

Nightshade vegetables could cause allergic reactions in a similar way that other plants can.

There are some rare cases where people have had a severe allergic reaction to tomatoes. Some nightshade allergy symptoms include itching, dermatitis, a runny nose, and abdominal pain. (23)

Another medical journal reported that compounds in the nightshade vegetable eggplant can cause allergies. The list of allergies from this nightshade was reported as an itchy throat, swelling, and hoarseness. (24)

If you notice symptoms of allergies after eating nightshades, then you should eliminate those foods from your diet.

Nightshade Sensitivity / Intolerance

Nightshade vegetables such as tomatoes, eggplants, and potatoes can aggravate food sensitivities or intolerances.

For example, one study showed that 52% of people who have psoriasis experienced improvement in their conditions by going on a nightshade-free diet. (35)

Inflammatory bowel disease can also be symptomatic of food intolerances or sensitivities. Tomatoes are also in a list of foods that can aggravate inflammatory digestive conditions. (36)

Replacement Vegetables on a Nightshade Diet

If you decide that nightshade free diet may help improve your symptoms of arthritis or other inflammatory conditions, there are plenty of non-nightshade foods to choose from.

For example, sweet potatoes aren’t nightshades and can make a healthier replacement for white potatoes. You can boost your health even more by eating purple sweet potatoes.

Instead of eggplants, you could use squash, zucchini and mushrooms – neither of which are on the list of nightshades.

Other delicious vegetables that aren’t nightshades include cucumbers, garlic, carrots, onions, and parsnips.

Instead of eating nightshade berries such as gooseberries, you can eat blueberries, grapes, citrus fruits, and cantaloupe melon.

When it comes to spicing up your food, it’s good to remember that cumin, cilantro, black pepper, and turmeric are not nightshade spices.

Related articles:

Pin on PinterestShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someone


Advertisement


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *