Nightshades: Have they gotten a bad rap? | Health and Wellness
Last updated 2/23/2022 at 12:14pm
I have been noticing that nightshades have been in the news lately. Like many, I have believed that nightshades can negatively impact inflammation and arthritis. There has actually been no evidence that this is true, and there has been some evidence that it can actually reduce inflammation.
First, what exactly are nightshades? Nightshade vegetables are members of the Solanaceae family of flowering plants. Most nightshade plants aren’t edible, such as tobacco. Yet, some of the most common vegetables we eat are nightshades. This would include tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, bell peppers, and chili peppers.
One of the reasons nightshades have gotten a bad reputation is that they contain a chemical compound called alkaloids. In extremely high doses, there are some alkaloids that can make inflammation worse. That is not the case for the edible nightshades that we find in our grocery store.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, the belief that eating nightshade vegetables worsens arthritis is a myth. There is some evidence that people with arthritis may benefit from the high nutrition content in nightshades.
For example, researchers in one 2011 study found that inflammation and DNA damage was reduced in healthy men who ate yellow or purple potatoes for six weeks. To date, there’s little scientific research to draw a conclusion either way.
One thing we do know for certain is that nightshades pack a lot of healthy nutrients. Potatoes are a good source of potassium. Eggplant, bell peppers, and tomatoes are rich sources of vitamins and antioxidants. Eating a wide variety of nightshades can help reduce chronic conditions, and the America Institute for Cancer Research lists tomatoes as one of the top cancer fighting foods.
Below is a list of the most common nightshades and their nutrients:
Tomatoes: They contain all four of the carotenoid antioxidants, which are thought to help prevent some types of cancer, help prevent heart disease, and boost immunity. These include lycopene; beta-carotene; alpha-carotene; and lutein.
Peppers: Bell peppers and chili peppers are low in fat and calories, and are a good source of vitamin C, fiber, vitamin K and B vitamins.
Potatoes: All potatoes are nutritionally dense, though white potatoes get a bad reputation because they are a starchy carb. Potatoes are fat-free and full of fiber. They are quite healthy if not fried and not piled high with high fat condiments, such as butter and sour cream. Potatoes also contain sodium and potassium. This helps to keep our electrolytes in balance. They are also a good source of vitamin C, Vitamin B6, niacin, manganese, and iron.
Eggplant: Like tomatoes, eggplant is a fruit. It has no fat or cholesterol. Though not high in any one mineral or vitamin, they do contain small amounts of the most essential vitamins and minerals. Most of us love a good eggplant parmesan casserole. This can be fat and calorie laden. Instead, try roasting eggplant with a bit of olive oil and herbs.
Have nightshades gotten a bad rap? There’s no scientific evidence to date that shows nightshade vegetables cause inflammation. That doesn’t mean anecdotal evidence is wrong.
If you notice a difference with your inflammation when you eat nightshade, I recommend contacting a dietitian nutritionist who can talk with you about your diet.
They would be able to walk you through an elimination diet that would better target what is causing your inflammation.
But if you do not notice a difference, enjoy the many health benefits of nightshades.