Pizza. Barbeque sauce. Chili. Ketchup. Even when it’s all homemade, and made healthily, these dishes may come with a cost. The cost? Nightshades.
Tomato is in each of these dishes and sauces, and so much more of what we unconsciously eat every day. While tomato is the most common and most popular edible nightshade vegetable, you likely eat at least one of the other veggies on this list.
Edible Solanaceae (Nightshade) Vegetables
- Potatoes (not sweet potatoes or yams)
- All peppers (not peppercorn), including hot peppers, chili peppers, sweet peppers and paprika
- Gogi berries
- Cape gooseberries (not normal gooseberries)
- Ground cherries
Okay – so maybe potatoes are the most popular. Or maybe you’re into eggplant – personally, I love peppers. Whatever your flavor, there’s a nightshade to avoid. But why avoid nightshades?
50 Shades of Problems
In plants, alkaloids act as a natural insect repellent. It’s actually a steroidal substance, which can be harmful to your veins, joints, and bloodflow. One alkaloid found in nightshades, called Solanine, has been studied for its ability to block cholintesterase, an enzyme which helps your nervous system work properly.
When Solanine blocks cholintesterase you’ll feel joint pain and stiffness. With this important enzyme blocked, there are also neurotransmitter problems: when cholintesterase is blocked, it leads to a buildup of a natural bodily chemical called acetylcholine. Cornell University writes:
“The presence of cholinesterase inhibiting chemicals prevents the breakdown of acetylcholine. Acetylcholine can then build up, causing a “jam” in the nervous system. Thus, when a person receives too great an exposure to cholinesterase inhibiting compounds, the body is unable to break down the acetylcholine.”
Calcitrol is a hormone that tells your body it needs more (or less) calcium. Dietary Calcium supports hormones, but too much calcitrol will cause your body to accept too much calcium. When there is too much calcium in in your blood, you’ll get calcium deposits in soft tissues like tendons and ligaments.
Doctors have always claimed that we need more calcium to support our bones, but what will this do to our muscles, tendons, and ligaments? Calcium deposits result in weaker musculo-skeletal systems, and can lead to rips, tears, and breaks in ligaments and bones.
Nightshades are particularly high in lectins, a substance found in all plants. Lectins are called “sticky” molecules because they attach to your intestinal walls, which can lead to leaky gut syndrome.
Leaky Gut happens when undigested carbs or lectins hang around in your gut and make little gaps in the cells of your small intestine. These gaps allow undigested food particles to escape into your bloodstream, which inevitably causes way worse problems.
To Eat or Not to Eat, That is The Question
There’s no coverall answer to this question. Unfortunately though, a few bodily issues are made considerably worse because of nightshades. Some folks are more sensitive to the lectin and alkaloid (natural insect repellents) content of nightshades.
You should seriously consider limiting or eliminating nightshades if you have any of these issues:
- Autoimmune diseases
- On-going inflammation
Take this Food Sensitivities Test for an easy answer to your nightshade (and other food) sensitivities.
So, You’ve Decided To Eat Nightshades
You’ve done the test and decided “Meh – I can handle a nightshade veggie every now-and-then.” That’s what I say too! But how do you eat them for the best results.
- Make sure you choose ripe nightshades: Solanine levels are highest in unripe veggies. Red peppers over green ones. Same goes for tomatoes.
- Cook your nightshades: cooking reduces the alkaloid content up to 50%. During the cooking process, lectins are also degraded, helping you avoid LGS.
- Moderation and variety: now, most of us know that “moderation is key” and with nightshades this is equally true. When you eat something every day you are more likely to develop a sensitivity to it.
So throw out that ketchup, put away the (tomato-based) pasta sauce, switch up your nightshades, and make sure they’re ripe before cooking. Do you have a nightshade sensitivity and know something that we don’t? Share it with us in the comments – and don’t forget to let us know what you’d love to read about next!