What Are Nightshade Vegetables?
Nightshade vegetables are members of the Solanaceae group and include both edible and nonedible vegetables.
The edible nightshade vegetables include:
- Gogi berries
- Ground cherries
- Cape gooseberries
All peppers including hot pepper, chili pepper, sweet pepper, and paprika
Nightshades vegetables have been a staple food of many societies for hundreds of years.
Several condiments including hot sauce, ketchup, marinara sauce, and salsa contain nightshade as ingredients.
Nightshades are rich in nutrients and are encouraged by many health professionals to be included in the diet.
Tomatoes: Being a good source of vitamin A and C and containing antioxidant as lycopene, tomatoes reduce inflammation marker and reduce the risk of several chronic diseases.(1, 2)
Peppers: Peppers are rich in vitamin C and can help enhance iron absorption and also provide the body with many health benefits.(3)
Chilli Peppers: Capsaicin present in pepper is responsible for its hot flavor. Capsaicin is known for the many health benefits including weight loss and alleviating heartburn.(4, 5)
Eggplants: Eggplants are a good source of fiber that helps in regulating bowel movement and also lower the risk of heart disease.(6)
Potatoes: Potatoes skin containsa good amount of potassium, vitamin B6, and manganese.(7)
Are Nightshades Harmful To People With Autoimmune Diseases?
Despite being rich in various nutrients, nightshades are considered harmful by many people.
Leaves and stems of nightshades contain alkaloids, nitrogen-containing substances. Alkaloids are bitter and function as a natural insect repellent.
Some edible part of nightshades also contains alkaloids and is avoided by people with autoimmune diseases as they believe to contribute to health problems.
There is no research to show that nightshade vegetables contribute to autoimmune diseases.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease(IBD) and Nightshades
Inflammatory bowel disease is an autoimmune condition characterized by inflammation of the digestive tract.
In those suffering from IBD, the protective lining of the intestine does not function properly, which causes bacteria and harmful substances to enter the bloodstream.(8, 9) It sometimes increases the permeability of the intestine, calleda leaky gut.
In a study done on mice with IBD, it was found that potatoes affect intestine permeability and increase intestinal inflammation.(10, 11)
Another study found pectin present in tomatoes and capsaicin in pepper increase intestinal permeability.(12, 13)
These studies suggest that people with IBD would benefit from eliminating or reducing nightshades. More research on humans is needed on the same.
Sensitivities and Allergies
People with autoimmune conditions are often said to have sensitivities to nightshades.
One group of people suffering from arthritis claimedrelief from pain by eliminating nightshades from their diet.
An old theory states, nightshades contain a form of vitamin D that causes calcium deposits leading to joint pain and other arthritis symptoms.(14)
A study found vitamin D like substance was found in plants of the nightshade family. And animals feeding on these plants developed calcium deposits in soft tissues.(15, 16, 17)
Though rare, some people develop allergies to nightshade vegetables. The symptoms of allergy include skin rashes, hives, itching, and difficulty in breathing.(18, 19)
It would be wise to stop eating a particular food if any symptoms of allergy are observed after eating it.
Substitutes To Common Nightshade Vegetables
If you plan to eliminate nightshades from your diet, you would be at a loss of many nutrients.
There are plenty of other foods that you can choose to get the same nutrients and health benefits.
- Sweet potatoes: You can consume sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes and keep up with vitamin A intake.
- Pesto: Green pesto is a delicious alternative to tomato sauce in pizza and pasta. Red pesto should be avoided if trying to eliminate nightshades as it contains tomato.
- Citrus fruits: Nightshades are a good vitamin C source, but it can be switched with citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruit, and tangerines.
- Leafy greens: Leafy greens like spinach are a great source of vitamins, minerals, and dietary fibers.
Nightshades are a good source of nutrients and vitamins and people are encouraged to eat them.
Those sensitive to nightshades should avoid them and can instead go with many other options to make up for the nutrient intake.