What are nightshades and should you be avoiding them?
Often in the news you hear blurbs about “good” and “bad” foods. What was popular one year, may fall out of favor the next. One such group considered to be “bad” are called Nightshades.
Nightshades are a diverse group of plants, more than 2,000 species, that belong to a botanical family called Solanaceae. The list of nightshades is considerably long, but many of these plants such as Oleander, Hemlock and Belladonna are not edible. Although others like tobacco can be smoked or chewed.
There are still many nightshades that are edible including potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, bell peppers and paprika to name a few. For most people, ingesting nightshades are a part of daily life and it never bothers them in any way.
For some people with compromised immune systems from Osteoarthritis, Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS); nightshades can wreak havoc on their already sensitive body.
Foods like potatoes, Thai peppers and tomatoes can cause inflammation which in return aggravates Arthritic conditions. In some trials, patients who tried eliminating some or all nightshades from their diet experienced relief from their joint pain and reduced swelling.
Some people with gastrointestinal problems, such as IBS, experienced acid reflux and heartburn from eating the more “heated” nightshades such as cayenne pepper or paprika.
Just like people who have intolerances to gluten or lactose, some individuals can have sensitivities to certain nightshades. On some occasions, they are even allergic. Individuals who suspect this to be the case should talk to their doctor about allergy testing to determine what foods are causing the problem. They should also talk to a nutritionist about replacing those foods with other foods to ensure they are getting the proper nutrition their body needs. Many nightshades are rich in vitamins and minerals the body needs so it is important to find alternatives to ensure proper health and well-being.
Not sure if you’re eating Nightshades? Here is a list of the most common ones.
- Ashwaganda (Withania somnifera)
- Bell Pepper
- Cayenne (derived from Capsicum frutescens)
- Chili powder (some ingredients from nightshades)
- Curry (some ingredients from nightshades)
- Edible flowers: Petunia, Chalice Vine, Day Jasmine, Angel Trumpets, Devil’s Trumpets, Hyocyamus)
- Eggplant (Solanum melongena)
- Garden Huckleberry (Solanum scabrum)
- Goji berries/ Wolfberries (Lycium barbarium & Lycium Chinense), Lycium (Boxthorn) is a genus of the nightshade family (Solanaceae).
- Goldenberry/ Cape Gooseberries/ Ground Cherries (Physalis peruviana) – all species of Physalis
- Homeopathic Belladonna
- Ketchup (contains tomatoes)
- Naranjillas (Solanum quitoense)
- Paprika (derived from Capsicum annum)
- Pepino Melon (Solanum muricatum)
- Peppers (all species of Capsicum, including Capsicum annum) Examples include: Anaheim, Ancho, Cascabel, Chipotle, Fresno, Guajillo, Habanero, Italian Pepper, Jalapeno, Pasada, Pasilla, Poblano, Serrano.
- Pimentos (derived from Capsicum annum)
- Potatoes (Solanum tuberosum)
- Tabasco (contains tomatoes)
- Tomarillos (Cyphomandra betacea) (a plum-like fruit from Peru)
- Tomatillos (Physalis philadelphica)
- Tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum)
- Vodka (if from potatoes, many are from wheat)
Some medications contain nightshades as well including:
- Atropine (common in sleeping pills)
- Hyoscine (another name for scopolamine)
- Scopolamine (common in motion sickness medications)
- Topical medications for pain and inflammation containing capsicum.
It can be confusing so here is a list of items that aren’t Nightshades but are sometimes confused with them.
These are NOT Nightshades:
- Black Pepper (Piper nigrum)
- Green Peppercorns (Piper nigrum)
- Long Pepper (Piper nigrum)
- Sichuan Pepper
- Sweet Potato (Ipomoea batatas)
- White Pepper (Piper nigrum)
Should you eliminate nightshades from your diet? It depends on whether or not you are experiencing allergic or sensitivity issues. Obviously, we recommend not using tobacco or nicotine products but if you are not experiencing issues then by all means eat potatoes, bell peppers and other edible nightshades. Remember moderation is the key to most healthy diets.