So, What Is a Nightshade Vegetable? And Should I Be Eating Them?

Recently I’ve been working with our patients in the therapy department.  Often, they come into therapy right after seeing the doctor. In the last few weeks, I’ve been asked, “The Doctor told me I can’t have any nightshade vegetables; is a green pepper [or some other vegetable] a nightshade vegetable?” I say I’m not sure and will check with the Doctor. Or, we will print out a list.  This has prompted me to learn about nightshade vegetables and I thought I’d share my research with you.

What exactly is a nightshade vegetable? Nightshade vegetables are part of the Solanaceae plant family, which has well over 2,000 different species!

The variety extends well beyond vegetables to include innocuous flowers, such as morning glories, and even toxic herbs, such as belladonna. There are even nightshade trees.  Still, the vegetables are a prominent part of the family, so much so, that Solanaceae is sometimes called the “potato family” or “tomato family.” The main edible members of the family that you should know are:

  • Potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Eggplant
  • Peppers

So why are these vegetables fine for some and bad for others?

If you are a person that struggles with food sensitivities, allergies, autoimmune disease, inflammatory bowel disease or leaky gut syndrome, there is a chance that a nightshade could be contributing to your health condition.  If you have a sensitivity, you may experience diarrhea, gas, bloating, nausea, painful joints, headaches, and depression from consuming nightshades.

This blog was very helpful as I was doing my research: https://paleoleap.com/nightshades/

Nightshades contain two primary toxins: Saponins and Lectins.
Both of these chemicals play a major role in increasing intestinal permeability, laying the groundwork for a variety of modern conditions.

Saponins are natural chemicals in some plants that can impair health by creating holes in the intestinal lining. A perforated intestine is vulnerable to any microbes and toxins that may enter the bloodstream. Foods high in saponins are potato skins and potato chips with the skins. Ripe tomatoes have low levels of toxic saponins. However green tomatoes and “hot house” tomatoes, or those that are harvested before they are ripe, are exceedingly high in these toxins. Peppers are high in saponins, such as bell peppers, cayenne pepper, chipotle, chili pepper, paprika, jalapeño pepper, pimento, serrano pepper, ancho, habanero, and tabasco.

Lectins are natural proteins in plants that are cell code breakers. Our cell walls are covered with chemical receptors to protect and make sure entry of only the right compounds. Lectins can crack the codes and trick the cell into doing things it normally would not do. Lectins can bypass our defenses, “getting behind the lines” to travel all over the body. Lectins can penetrate the protective mucus of the small intestine, promote cell division at the wrong time, and even cause cell death. Lectins can perforate the intestinal wall, or trick the immune system to thinking there’s an intruder, causing an allergic reaction.

Lectins and Saponins act like a Trojan Horse intruder into the intestines, exposing the body to microbes and toxins that would normally be destroyed by a healthy immune system.

Here is a good list of nightshade vegetables.

  • Ashwagandha
  • Bell peppers (a.k.a. sweet peppers)
  • Bush tomato
  • Cape gooseberry (also known as ground cherries—not to be confused with regular cherries)
  • Cocona
  • Eggplant
  • Garden huckleberry (not to be confused with regular huckleberries)
  • Goji berries (a.k.a. wolfberry)
  • Hot peppers (such as chili peppers, jalapenos, habaneros, chili-based spices, red pepper, cayenne)
  • Kutjera
  • Naranjillas
  • Paprika
  • Pepinos
  • Pimentos
  • Potatoes (but not sweet potatoes)
  • Tamarillos
  • Tomatillos
  • Tomatoes

While this is a very complete list of edible nightshades, note that many of those listed include dozens of varieties.  There are many, many varieties of hot peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, and even something like 200 varieties of potatoes, for example.  And the number of products including nightshades is enormous.  In fact, if a label lists the vague ingredient “spices”, that almost always includes paprika.  Many spice blends, like curry and steak spice, usually contain nightshades (for more information see Spices on the Autoimmune Protocol).   You might find ingredients such as sambal, shichimi, or tabasco listed and not immediately realize that those are sauces made with hot peppers.  In fact, there are thousands of varieties of hot sauce, all of which contain nightshades. https://www.thepaleomom.com/what-are-nightshades

The next time a patient asks me if a green pepper is a nightshade vegetable I will have the answer and a lot more information.

Nancy Boardman
April 12, 2017

Functional Endocrinology of Ohio
Akron: 2800 S. Arlington Road, Akron, Ohio 44312 (330) 644-5488
Cleveland: 6200 Rockside Woods Blvd., Ste. 100, Independence, Ohio 44131 (216) 236-0060
Dr. Keith S. Ungar, Dr. Andrew Kender, Chiropractic Physicians
To schedule an appointment, click here.
Source: Dr. Loren Cordain, professor and author of “The Paleo Diet”.  Find Dr. Cordain’s complete articles here: #1 Potatoes#2 Tomatoes#3 Peppers.

 

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