Should You Be Eating Nightshades?
The term "nightshades" might sound like it refers to a group of deadly poisons, yet these foods are commonly found on grocery store shelves. You probably even have several nightshades in your refrigerator right now.
Nightshades are plants found in the Solanaceae family, and they include common edible foods. Here's a list of common edible nightshades:
- Peppers and paprika
- Goji berries
Tobacco is also a nightshade, though we hope you won't be eating it.
In addition to these common edible nightshades, there are also a number of poisonous nightshades, which can be found in the wild. It is important to get a field guide for wild plants so you can recognize and avoid these plants if you are foraging.
Why You Should Use Caution with Nightshades
Many people believe that nightshades can contribute to a number of poor health conditions, including inflammation in the body that can lead to arthritis, joint pain, fatigue, gastrointestinal symptoms, and even birth defects.
The reason that nightshades can be potentially problematic for a lot of people is that they contain alkaloids, which can be toxic in varying degrees to those who eat them. (However, some alkaloids have been shown to have protective properties.) The alkaloid found in nightshades, solanine, has been found to inhibit the production of enzymes in muscle tissues, which may contribute to inflammation – the cause blamed on all of those health conditions listed above. In addition, some people may notice GI issues – such as gas, bloating and abdominal cramping – after eating nightshades.
How to Enjoy Nightshades
If you just can't imagine life without potatoes and peppers, you likely can still eat nightshades with no issues. One way to do so is the choose foods that are ripe. Solanine is highest in vegetables when they are not ripe, and those levels drop as the food ripens.
You can also limit your consumption to small quantities so as to limit the side effects you may experience. There is no hard and fast rule about how much is too much. You have to let your body be your guide and pay special attention to any side effects you experience when eating nightshades.
As with almost all types of foods, your individual reaction to nightshades may be different from the next. It's important to be aware of the potential risks you face by eating them – inflammation, GI issues, chronic health conditions – and to carefully assess your reaction. You may find that you tolerate nightshades with no problem. You may find that you can eat a few of the nightshades but not all of them. You may find that your body can't tolerate any of them. It's always best to listen to your body and do what it needs.