Nightshade vegetables belong to a family referred to as Solanaceae in Latin and may include peppers, potatoes, eggplants, and tomatoes. They are often considered nutritious; however, some have claimed that they cause inflammation and allergies that are harmful to people with autoimmune disease owing to harmful substances present in these vegetables. Though they are rich in nutrients and are commonly used in many parts of the world, some people may need to eliminate them from their diet.
Nightshade vegetables- what are they?
There are over 200 varieties of nightshade vegetable plants with only a few edible ones. They are spices and food vegetables that contain chemical compounds such as solanine and alkaloids, considered by some to be unhealthy. However, these vegetables form part of many communities’ staple food from centuries ago. Apart from the above list of nightshade vegetables, the spices derived from these vegetables, such as crushed pepper, cayenne pepper, paprika, and chill powder, are also used by nightshade lovers. Some condiments like ketchup, salsa, and hot sauce also contain some nightshade vegetables as ingredients.
Nightshade vegetables and autoimmune disease
Many people argue that although nightshade vegetables are high in nutrient content, they are not fit for consumption due its chemical compound called alkaloids. Alkaloids are a chemical compound found in the leaves and stems of some nightshades, and they help protect the plant from insect inversion as they act as an insect repellent. Since edible parts of nightshades also contain this chemical, individuals with autoimmune disorders tend to eliminates these foods from their diets. Nevertheless, there is no scientific evidence to confirm that nightshades can worsen the autoimmune disease.
Nightshade vegetables and inflammatory bowel disease
Disease such as ulcerative colitis is considered inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), resulting in the inflammation of the digestive tract. This autoimmune disease affects the intestine lining weakening this protective layer, thus allowing harmful substances and bacteria to leak into the bloodstream. This condition is sometimes called leaky gut. The body’s immune system will fight the harmful substances that leaked into the blood resulting in more inflammation in the gut and in the body, which causes GI symptoms such as abdominal pain, malabsorption, and diarrhea. Though there is no conclusive evidence, preliminary animal studies suggest that alkaloids present in nightshade vegetables can exacerbate the leaky gut situation leading to aggravated intestinal inflammation. Some test-tube studies demonstrated that a certain chemical compound in tomatoes and bell peppers called lectins might also worsen intestinal permeability. The preliminary research involving animals and test-tubes show that individual with IBD may do well reducing or eliminating nightshade vegetables from their diet.
Allergies and Sensitivity
Apart from people with autoimmune diseases, some individuals have also claimed to have sensitivities to nightshade vegetables. Under this category are people with arthritis, claiming since they eliminated nightshades from their diets, they have experience pain relief. The theory around this claim is that eating these vegetables caused calcium deposits that would result in joint pains in people with arthritis. Some studies found that animals feeding on nightshade vegetables experienced calcium deposits in their soft tissues, resulting in health complications. However, there is no published study to indicate that nightshade vegetables are a source of vitamin D or worsen arthritis symptoms, or cause calcium deposits in humans. Nightshade sensitivity is very rare, with some people exhibiting allergies to one or two nightshades. The symptoms often include hives, swellings, skin rashes, or difficulty breathing. Whenever you experience an allergy after eating certain nightshade, you should remove such vegetables from your diet and consider undertaking further tests.
Nightshade vegetables nutritional value
Many health guidelines and professionals advise people to consume nightshade vegetables because of their high nutrient content. These vegetables have few calories and are rich in fibre and several essential nutrients. For example:
Tomatoes contain vitamins C, A and antioxidant lycopene to reduce inflammation, thus reducing many chronic diseases.
The peppers are also an incredible source of vitamin C, known for their health benefits such as iron absorptions. Another species of pepper called chili pepper is rich in capsaicin which has been found to alleviate heartburn and may also aid in weight loss programs by reducing calorie intake.
Eggplants are full of dietary fibre, helping to improve bowel movement to reduce constipation. Fibre is also essential for lowering the risk of heart diseases and provides food for the good bacteria that aid digestion and nutrient absorption.
Though potatoes are high in carbohydrate and should be used in moderation by those looking for a low-carb diet, they are rich in minerals such as potassium, manganese, and vitamin B6.
Available Substitutes for Nightshade Vegetables
If you are healthy and not allergic to these vegetables, consider adding them to your diet since they are nutritious and can benefit your body. However, if you are having IBD or other autoimmune diseases and fear that nightshade vegetables will cause intestinal inflammation, you can consider replacing these vegetables in your diet. Your substitutes may include the following foods:
Sweet potatoes– switching from the nightshade white potatoes to sweet potatoes will still provide you with vitamin A.
Use pesto as a sauce– Using green pesto that doesn’t have a nightshade ingredient is a perfect replacement for red pesto having tomatoes and is still sweet with pasta and pizza.
Increase intake of citrus fruits– citrus fruits such as tangerines, oranges, and grapefruits will cover the common vitamin C with many nightshade vegetables.
Leafy green – increasing your intake of leafy greens such as kale and spinach will substitute the nightshade vegetables that supplied essential vitamins, dietary fiber, and minerals. If you still want to eat nightshades, you can peal them to lower their alkaloid contents or limit their consumptions.
The Bottom Line
Nightshade vegetables are healthy and provide numerous health benefits to those who consume them. However, some groups of people, especially those with an autoimmune syndrome, claim that nightshade vegetables cause leaky gut and intestinal inflammation. Such individuals should choose alternatives to these vegetables. There is no published evidence to back the claim that nightshade vegetables exacerbate arthritis symptoms and calcium deposits.