Shedding Light on Nightshade Vegetables

The term “nightshade” may conjure dark images of a bat, or dracula sweeping his cape around his figure before disappearing into the night, but nightshade vegetables are simply those that are grown in the shade of the night. They are unique in that they carry a group of substances called alkaloids, which can be toxic and ultimately compromise our health. But there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Nightshades include some 2,800 species of plants. Among these are commonly known vegetables: eggplant, tomato, potato, and all peppers (except for black pepper). These vegetables produce alkaloids in order to protect themselves from insects, but sometimes these alkaloids can pose serious danger to humans, as they can have strong physiological effects. Some nightshade vegetables are even deadly. 

Nightshades’ leaves all contain a level of nicotine, which is traditionally found as an additive in tobacco. In potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, chilis and capsicums, nicotine is guised as tomatine, alpha-solanine, and solanadine, respectively. 

One of the most prominent effects of these alkaloids is that, in excess, they can lead to calcium deposits in tendons, ligaments, cartilage, cardiovascular tissues, kidneys, and skin. Nightshades can cause inflammation, which leads to arthritis,and other ailments from the inflammation of joints. The Arthritis Nightshades Research Foundation has been looking into the issue since 1980. The organization concluded, “If nightshades can be eaten or used sparingly, arthritis can be slowed in developing.” Another study that surveyed more than 1,400 volunteers over 25 years, showed that the omission of nightshades from the diet resulted in a significant improvement of arthritis and general health. 

However, the results are not conclusive enough to suggest nightshades be avoided altogether. Many cultural diets hinge on nightshades and they exhibit no particular detriment because of it. Ronenn Roubenoff, MD, nutritionist at the Tufts University School of Medicine, revealed, “Potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplant, for example, frequently are blamed for causing arthritic flares. Studies have shown this occurs in only 1-2% of patients.” This suggests that nightshade vegetables may only be affecting certain people who are particularly sensitive to the alkaloids. And, if you don’t overconsume them, the body is able to efficiently shephard the toxins out of its various elimination canals without overwhelming the system. 

If you suffer from arthritis or other joint-related illnesses, try cutting nightshade vegetables from your diet to see what happens. It could very well be that subtle clincher you were searching for. As for the rest of us, eat modestly! 

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