You might have heard the term “nightshades” being thrown around in nutrition and health circles over the last couple of years. Some people swear these vegetables off and blame them for causing chronic inflammation within the body. Others pop a tomato in their mouth and wrap up the argument, resolving that research is inconclusive. But what are these hot topic vegetables? And should you remove them from your diet?
Here is a brief description on nightshades that can help you make your decision.
What are Nightshades?
Nightshade vegetables all source from the Solanaceae plant family. Some of the species in this family are toxic, but you can’t find any of the toxic plants readily available at a grocery store. Other species are standard staples in our diets. Commonly consumed nightshade vegetables include white potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, bell peppers, cayenne pepper, and paprika. Usually you can remember this group by picking out the darker colored, non-green vegetables at the grocery store.
Are They Harmful?
So, what is with all the nightshade hate? Glycoalkaloids. This group of chemicals found in nightshades can trigger inflammation in your body, causing your immune system to overreact and slow down your digestion. Your body first wants to fight off inflammation-producing intruders before coming back around to digesting your dinner. If you experience inflammation regularly, it can turn into chronic inflammation, chronic pain, and even an autoimmune disease.
We know that inflammation is not good for your body. But, whether glycoalkaloids are to blame for the inflammation, we are not clear on. On the other side, research has shown that glycoalkaloids can also provide antioxidants, fight off free radicals, and combat cancer.
If you are sensitive to glycoalkaloids, you will notice an increase in inflammation and its symptoms such as muscle aches or joint pain. If you are not, you may reap the chemical’s benefits. If you are curious whether or not you are intolerant to glycoalkaloids or certain nightshades, try removing all nightshades from your diet for a month. Then, slowly introduce one vegetable into your system at a time, spacing each addition out in three-day increments. If you notice more inflammation in your body or an uptick in pain, maybe it is best to temporarily remove the specific nightshade vegetable from your diet.
However, talk to your health care professional before making any drastic decisions. If you are thinking of avoiding the nightshade family, try replacing your commonly used vegetables with sweet potatoes, mushrooms, broccoli, kale, spinach, or cauliflower.
In the end, research is not conclusive enough for you to confidently remove nightshades from your system necessarily, but limiting your consumption could be beneficial to your health.