Many food myths persist for decades. One longstanding one is that nightshades are unhealthy. It may all stem from “deadly nightshade” being in so many stories. But that’s the plant called belladonna, not a nightshade you eat.
Nightshades that you eat include eggplants, tomatoes, bell peppers, potatoes and more. Questionable websites will claim that they are “mysterious” and that you should be “wary” of eating them. Once that was true, Thomas Jefferson caused public panic when he ate a tomato in front of a crowd as the people thought they were poisonous. Nowadays, we know much more about these vegetables.
While people might not be scared to see someone eat a tomato today, the rumor remains that nightshades can cause inflammation. No science backs up that belief. Nightshades contain the alkaloid solanine, a chemical some believe aggravates arthritis or inflammation. But the Arthritis Foundation says that that is incorrect. They add that if a person thinks a food triggers symptoms, they should avoid it. But, it’s not the solanine that’s the problem.
Alkaloids, like solanine, can be toxic in high concentrations. Leaves of potatoes ad green spots of potatoes shouldn’t be eaten as they are harmful. But, the level of alkaloids in the vegetables is perfectly safe. An alkaloid called anatabine is a potent anti-inflammatory and is found in eggplants, peppers, potatoes and tomatoes. A study has also suggested that purple potatoes, rich in antioxidants, may reduce inflammation.
Of course, it must be noted that you shouldn’t ignore your personal experiences. If you experience worsening symptoms after eating nightshades, you shouldn’t eat them. You may have an intolerance or allergy to them. While it’s rare, some people are allergic or intolerant to them. But, if you haven’t noticed a significant correlation between eating them and a flair-up in symptoms, it’s most likely not worth removing them from your diet. Nightshades have many different nutrients and antioxidants that make them beneficial.
“The nightshade foods are very nutritious, available at the grocery store and easy for people to use to prepare a healthy meal,” said Athena Nofziger, a dietitian for the Samaritan Cancer Program. Noting that no study has found a link between nightshades and inflammation, she said, “If you feel like your symptoms become worse when you eat nightshades, talk to your doctor about whether you should cut them from your diet.”
The word “nightshade” conjures an image of poison. But, there is no proof that these vegetables are linked to inflammation. It’s all speculation and word of mouth. So, don’t be afraid to enjoy these colorful vegetables as part of your healthy, varied diet.