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Nightshades 101: What Are They And Why Is Everyone Talking About Them?

Being invested in your health means there’s a high probability that you’ve heard of nightshades at one point. You might have heard mixed opinions of what they are and how they interact within your body. Are you someone who should avoid them?

If you’re still in the dark about this food group, we would love to enlighten you on what you need to know about nightshades and how they can affect you.

Different varietals of peppers

What Are Nightshades?

When you hear the word nightshades, you probably picture some sinister sort of substance with deadly qualities. Nightshades most likely got their name a long, long time ago when they were rumored to be used for drugs and hallucinogens. Some nightshades, like belladonna, are in fact poisonous.

The variety of plants within the nightshade family is vast, but we only eat a few of them. Nightshades that we classify as food are a certain group of vegetables and fruits. Commonly consumed nightshades are:

  • Eggplants
  • Potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Tomatillos
  • Peppers

There are also common spices that we use that fall under this category as well. This includes:

  • Paprika
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Crushed red pepper
  • Chili powder

With the ingredients listed above, you can imagine that other products derived from them are also considered part of the nightshade family, such as:

  • Ketchup
  • Marinara sauce
  • Hot sauce
  • Salsa

Potatoes and tomatoes

Are Nightshades Bad For You?

This is dependent on you as an individual. For most people, nightshades are a good pick to include in your diet because they come packed with vital nutrients. Below is a breakdown of what your body can absorb from these foods.

Eggplants - great source of dietary fiber. Fiber helps regulate bowel movements and can lower your risk of heart disease. You’re also consuming a good dose of folate, Vitamin C, phosphorus, magnesium and potassium.

Potatoes - including the skin, you consume a high amount of potassium, manganese, and B6.

Tomatoes - full of Vitamin C and K, folate, and choline, as well as magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and calcium. They also contain lycopene, an antioxidant. This nutrient helps reduce inflammation and lower the risk of many chronic diseases.

Peppers - these are high in Vitamin A and C which does wonders to support your immune system but also helps you absorb iron.

Chili Peppers - contain capsaicin which can help relieve the symptoms of heartburn and indigestion, as well as help with weight loss by reducing energy intake.

While nightshades might provide us with many beneficial nutrients, it is also important to note that many people believe nightshades are harmful to the body. This is due to the presence of alkaloids found within this family of plants.

Alkaloids are mostly found in the stems and leaves of nightshades and contain nitrogen. This acts as a natural insect repellant and has a bitter taste to it. However, alkaloids are sometimes present in the edible part of the plant, which is what leads people to believe that these foods should be avoided altogether.

IBD is known and identified by inflammation in the digestive tract and can be labeled as ulcerative colitis or Crohn's Disease. This causes intestinal permeability because the protective barrier of the intestine doesn’t function properly. Because of this, bacteria and other unwanted things end up in your bloodstream.

Your immune system responds to this by attacking the bacteria which leads to sustained inflammation in your gut. This, in turn, leads to diarrhea, stomach pain, and poor nutrient absorption.

While research is still ongoing, studies suggest that alkaloids found in nightshades can exacerbate the inflammation of the intestinal lining in people with IBD. Another two studies suggested that the fiber found in tomatoes and chili peppers called pectin can increase intestinal permeability.

In people with other autoimmune diseases such as Celiac disease, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis, there is a possible connection between nightshades and both intestinal permeability and worsening of the disease symptoms.

There are many people who claim to experience improvement in their symptoms after eliminating nightshades from their diets. There have been rare cases reported of people who reacted to certain nightshade vegetables. They experience anything from hives, rashes, itchy throat, swollen throat, and difficulty breathing - all tell-tale signs of a food allergy.

Sweet potatoes and kale

Dietary Replacements for Nightshades

Having dietary restrictions can be a real bummer because you know you're missing out on some tasty flavors. Even more importantly, you're missing out on some important nutrients too.

Never fear! There are a few options to choose from to replace these foods in your everyday dishes.

  • Replace your potatoes with sweet potatoes. They're yummy and full of vitamins and minerals for keeping your body functioning at a high level.
  • Reap your Vitamin C from citrus fruits instead. Grapefruit, oranges, and tangerines will give you that immune boost you need to stay healthy year 'round.
  • Green pesto is a tasty alternative to marinara sauce or other tomato toppings you love.
  • Leafy greens will always have your back. These are the best go-to foods when you need that extra dose of vitamins and fiber to stay feeling your best.
  • OWL Mylkshakes are a refreshing and nourishing way to supplement your diet. The best part? All of our products are free of common allergens and infused with healing herbs.

Our Take Away

If you don’t have any digestive or autoimmune issues, it might not be beneficial to cut out nightshades because you could be cutting out important nutrients. However, if you believe that nightshades might be causing your discomfort or worsening your symptoms, then eliminating them from your diet might be your personal solution.

Whatever your dietary needs, the most important thing you can do is listen to your body. Treat it with love, and it will return the favor.

Julie Weller

Julie is a self-made writer on a forever journey of fitness and health. As a high school music teacher, she has seen and experienced the challenges of maintaining good health while simultaneously balancing a career and healthy relationships.

Julie has always lived a healthy and active lifestyle. She loves the outdoors, hiking, and camping. Over the years she has continued to learn smarter and better ways to take care of her body while continuing to do the things that make her smile. Naturally, all of her teacher friends wanted to know how she did it - what was her secret?

Julie found herself explaining over and over everything she'd learned in her research, and sharing her experiences through trial and error. Her friends would take her advice, try some new things, and then come back to ask how to take it to the next level.

"You should charge for this kind of information!" Became a constant phrase, and so began her career of writing to share her knowledge with the world through health and wellness companies looking to spread healing and healthy habits within their communities. Now Julie gets to combine two of the things she enjoys most - writing and wellness - and use them to affect change in a real way.

When not making music with her kiddos, or writing wellness tips for a higher quality of life, you can find her reading, hiking, drumming, and fitnessing