What Are Nightshade Vegetables?
Tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, and eggplant (as well as tobacco) all belong to the same botanical family, commonly known as the nightshades. The Latin name for this family of plants is Solanaceae, because all of them produce an alkaloid compound called solanine. Solanine is part of these plants’ natural defense system, acting as a nerve poison on insects that try to eat the plants.
Sweet potatoes are not in the nightshade family.
Is Solanine Toxic to Humans?
It is going to take a lot more solanine to cause problems for a human being than for a bug. And for most people, the amount of solanine you’d ingest by eating even large quantities of tomatoes and peppers isn’t enough to cause any problems.
Solanine is concentrated in the leaves and stems, and that’s one of the reasons we don’t eat those parts of the plants.
You may have heard that potatoes with sprouting eyes are poisonous. That’s because potatoes that have started to sprout or have developed a greenish tint to their skins are often higher in solanine. It’s best not to eat them.
Do Nightshades Cause Joint Pain or Inflammation?
Because nightshades are only a problem for some people, it’s overkill to suggest that everyone should avoid them.
People with arthritis and other inflammatory conditions are advised to avoid all nightshade plants because they can cause inflammation.
This applies to people who have a sensitivity to solanine. For these individuals, eating nightshade plants causes an inflammatory reaction—including joint pain.
If a person reacts to nightshade plants with an “inflammatory” response, they should be avoided.
Nightshade plants are high in antioxidants, which actually help reduce inflammation. And chili peppers also contain capsaicin, a strongly anti-inflammatory compound.
How to Tell if You’re Sensitive to Nightshades
If you have joint pain or other inflammatory symptoms, and tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, and/or eggplant are a regular part of your diet—try eliminating all nightshades from your diet for at least two to four weeks and see if you notice any difference in your symptoms.
If you are doing a food challenge test by eliminating these foods, be sure to eliminate the bi-products of the foods, as well. For example, Ketchup is a tomato product and should be avoided during the food removal period of time.
If you see an improvement, you might be among those who are sensitive to solanine. For you, avoiding nightshades might help reduce joint pain or other symptoms of inflammation.
If you don’t notice a difference, chances are that nightshades are not a problem for you and you can feel free to enjoy these otherwise nutritious foods.
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