Nightshade vegetables are foods from the capsicum and solanum families, and some are commonly consumed in regular diets such as peppers, eggplant, potatoes, and tomatoes. For some people, eating nightshade vegetables is part of their daily routine whereas others make an effort of reducing nightshades because of health problems.
While the edible ones are dense in nutrients and low in calories, the other nightshade vegetables contain substances that can be poisonous to people.
Herbs & Spices
A large amount of the plants in this family are made into herbs and spices used commonly in many households such as paprika, crushed red pepper, cayenne pepper, and chili powder. They also find their way into condiments we probably all have in our fridge: ketchup, salsa and hot sauce. Botanically, even though they are referred to as vegetables, they fall under the fruit category.
Why Eat Nightshade Vegetables?
Apart from the poisonous ones, of course, there are many health benefits to including nightshade vegetables in your diet. Peppers are excellent sources of Vitamin C which aids in iron absorption.
Tomatoes contain Vitamin C as well as Vitamin A, plus antioxidants which can reduce inflammation, and Lycopene can lower the risk of certain types of cancers.
Potatoes contain potassium and Vitamin B6 as long as you leave the skins on.
Fibre is found in eggplants and is very useful in keeping your bowel movements regular and lowering the risk of heart disease.
The capsaicin powder from chili peppers can not only help with symptoms of heartburn but can aid in weight loss as it reduces calorie intake.
If someone is suffering from an autoimmune disease or experiences problems with inflammatory bowel issues, it's best for them to avoid vegetables in the nightshade family. This is because of the alkaloids that can be found in these plants.
Autoimmune diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis, Celiac Disease, and Rheumatoid Arthritis are some of the conditions where irritation of the intestinal tract from consuming nightshade vegetables could increase the likelihood of symptoms.
For those with Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, the immune system will attack substances it deems to be harmful, such as alkaloids, which leads to inflammation in the digestive system. The person may then feel pain or experience diarrhea and malabsorption of nutrients.
Some people may just have a sensitivity to nightshades and eliminating them from their diet can drastically improve pain and other symptoms they experience due to arthritis or calcium deposits. If you feel you may be having an adverse reaction to nightshades, try eliminating them from your diet for a month and keep track of the improvement of your symptoms. After this time, try adding them back into your life one at a time and see what happens.
Of course, any time you experience symptoms such as itching, a rash or hives, difficulty breathing, a tingling sensation or dizziness, you should stop eating the food and get help for this medical emergency as you may be having an anaphylactic reaction.
Substitutions For Nightshade Vegetables
Whether you're avoiding nightshades long-term, or simply doing a trial to see if you have a sensitivity to them, you can find the nutrients they usually yield in other foods.
Sweet potatoes, for one, are a delicious alternative to regular white potatoes and also contain more Vitamin A than their counterpart.
Citrus fruits will enable you to still consume appropriate levels of vitamin C.
Dark green and leafy vegetables like kale and spinach are excellent sources of fibre, vitamins, and other nutrients.
Green pesto is a great alternative to pizza and tomato sauce so you can avoid digestive distress than they may cause.
Incorporating Nightshades Into Your Diet
If you're fortunate enough to not have autoimmune problems or inflammatory bowel issues, then there are many ways you can include nightshade veggies into your diet and reap the benefits of the nutrients they provide.
A baked potato with some greek yogurt and chives makes for a delicious dinner accompaniment or lunch, and because the skin is left on you will get maximum nutrients. Keep in mind that this is a much healthier option than French fries!
Tomatoes are the main ingredient for some of our favourite comfort foods, such as marinara sauce, chilli, and soups.
As is the tomato, eggplant is considered a fruit. Because it has no fat or cholesterol and contains a large variety of vitamins and minerals, it's a great addition to a healthy diet. It's often a staple for vegans and vegetarians as its texture is quite meaty and can be substituted in traditional Italian dishes. We highly suggest you try eggplant parmesan!
Bell peppers are very easy to add to your weekly menu, and are great for breakfast lunch or dinner! They can easily be made into a western omelette, chopped up and put over a salad, or even stuffed with your choice of filling for a mouthwatering dinner.
Nightshade Vegetables Are Highly Beneficial If You Do Not Have A Certain Food Intolerance
In conclusion, nightshade vegetables can provide huge benefits to one's diet, so long as they don't have a food sensitivity towards them. They contain a ton of nutritional value through vitamins and minerals which aid in digestion and lower the risk of some cancer and heart disease while being low in calories.
Eating these nutrient-rich foods can also have other potential health benefits, such as weight loss.
Should one have a food allergy and need to avoid eating nightshades due to negative health effects, there are many alternatives out there that are not part of the Solanaceae family.
If you're looking to introduce more nightshade veggies into your diet, we suggest trying our butternut squash beet sauce! The perfect sauce for pasta, flatbread, bowls, and more.