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Myth Busting Round 2:  Nightshade Vegetables- Eat or Avoid?

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You may have heard all the noise about avoiding certain vegetables because they are inflammatory. As an inflammation specialist and avid reader- this myth makes me mad. Nightshades are healthy for almost everyone. I would say 90% of people.

Let me explain what a nightshade vegetable is before busting this myth.  Nightshade vegetables include tomatoes, bell peppers, white potatoes, and eggplant.  If you google nightshades you get a flurry of articles about how they attribute inflammation to nightshades and actually advise clients to omit these vegetables from their diet entirely. Forever.


Benefits of Nightshades

There is no true causal relationship between nightshade vegetables and inflammation!  In fact, the healthiest type of food in the world is what is eaten in Mediterranean countries such as Greece, Southern Italy, and Spain.  Research shows that following a Mediterranean diet can lead to a decrease in cardiac issues, reduced rates of cancer, neurodegenerative disease, diabetes, and early mortality.  The countries focus many of their dishes around tomatoes, bell peppers, white potatoes, and eggplant.

Babaganoush, pan con tomate, or patatas bravas anyone?!

Tomatoes in particular, have tremendous health benefits and should be regularly incorporated into your diet. Tomatine is a subcompound found in tomatoes that have been shown to have anticarcinogenic and cardioprotective properties.  Also, did you know that eating one bell pepper can provide up to 169% of your required daily intake of vitamin C? In fact, this unassuming vegetable is loaded with vitamins and minerals such as vitamin B6, vitamin K1, potassium, folate, vitamin E, and vitamin A.  Interestingly, a 2013 HealthDay article demonstrates that increasing your bell pepper intake actually reduces your chance for Parkinson’s Disease. Don’t rush to omit potatoes either!  Potatoes actually REDUCE inflammation because of high rates of antioxidants. There are also many surprising health benefits of eggplant including blood sugar control, potential cancer prevention, and it even helps with weight loss!  

Hopefully, these facts will dispel any lingering doubts you may have about nightshade vegetables.           

Rumors about Nightshades

People suffering from arthritis have equated symptom severity with nightshade vegetables due to the possible increase in inflammation.  Nightshades have an alkaloid compound called solanine that can be toxic when consumed in very high quantities which can subsequently trigger some types of autoimmune disease.  In my experience, this linkage has very little basis and available research appears to be more anecdotal rather than evidence based. The Arthritis Foundation has a very practical approach to these claims. There is NO reason to stop eating nightshades if you have arthritis, there is NO evidence proving symptom exacerbation BUT if you personally feel worse after eating nightshades then simply cut them out of your diet.  

In summary, keep nightshades in your diet.  There are so many vitamins and nutrients that you can get by eating these amazing disease fighting vegetables!  These vegetables are also very versatile and there are countless ways to cook them! Generally speaking, myth busting is a great way to separate fact from fiction in the health and wellness world.  Look out for my two week guided intermittent fasting series that will starting in July with these types blogs and much more. I will provide lots of meal ideas using nightshade vegetables!