What Are Nightshades?
Nightshade is the common name used to describe over 2,800 species of plants. Nightshade vegetables are in the Solanaceae family of plants. Among them are tomato, potato, eggplant, and peppers of all kinds, except black pepper. Tomatillos, tamarios, pepinos, pimentos, paprika, cayenne, and Tabasco sauce are also classified as nightshade foods.
Dangers of Nightshade Vegetables
People with arthritis are sometimes advised to avoid all nightshade plants because they are said to cause inflammation. But this advice really only applies to people who have a sensitivity to solanine. For these folks, eating nightshade plants causes an inflammatory reaction—including joint pain.
Some studies have also reported that alkaloids, particularly those found in potatoes, can cause joint pain and inflammation, which is one of the reasons why doctors may recommend people with joint issues, like arthritis, eliminate foods on the nightshade vegetables list from their diet.
Plants produce alkaloids primarily designed to help protect them from insects. But in a pharmacological sense the interest has been the drug-like alkaloids best known in mandrake, tobacco and belladonna (deadly nightshade.)
While many fruits and vegetables contain beneficial nutrients (like anthocyanins, antioxidants, and phytonutrients), which can ward off serious diseases like cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s, the foods found on your nightshade vegetables list have been especially intriguing to researchers over the years.
Sensitive to Alkaloids? Do This
If you are indeed sensitive to alkaloids, then cooking the foods on the nightshade vegetables list, rather than eating them raw, can reduce their alkaloid content by as much as 40%–50%. As well, storing potatoes in a dark, cool location can reduce the amount of alkaloid growth (alkaloids can grow in light). You also want to make sure you thoroughly wash your nightshade vegetables and remove the areas that might contain higher amounts of alkaloids, such as green spots on potatoes and sprouted areas.