Nightshade vegetables have had their time in the media lately. Their five minutes of fame came from different celebrities mentioning how they use them, or exclude them, from their diets. So now everyone wants to know: what are nightshades? Let’s talk about some of the most popular ones and how they can affect your health and weight loss plan. And we’ll even throw in a recipe at the end! Yum!
What are Nightshades?
These fruits and vegetables belong to the family Solanaceae, and include tomatoes, eggplant, blueberries, bell peppers, and potatoes(but not sweet potatoes). There’s also some popular spices on the list like cayenne pepper and chili pepper. How they get their name is debated among linguists and nutritionists, but they are said to be more active at night. Hmmmm…makes you wonder what’s going on in your garden! One thing that nightshades have in common is that they have loads of fiber, which make them a great addition to any weight loss diet. So let’s learn a little more about why these veggies and fruits are so controversial.
Are they bad for you?
Depending on your digestive system, you may have a sensitivity to some of the elements found in nightshades. For example, if you suffer from arthritis or joint pain, you may want to consider eliminating nightshades from your diet. The reason your joints feel inflamed is because the Vitamin D3 found in nightshades actually prevents proper calcium metabolism, causing the body to deposit calcium in the soft tissue, where you feel the inflammation, instead of in the bones where it is supposed to go.
And what is an alkaloid?
Nightshades also contain a group of chemical compounds called “alkaloids”, which help the veggies and fruits to fend off bugs and critters. They’re almost like a natural bug spray! In super small doses, these alkaloids aren’t toxic to humans, but some people may find that they are super sensitive to them, or if you already have a compromised digestive system, you may have some difficulty with nightshades.
Should you stop eating nightshades?
Well if you’re having severe symptoms of headaches, inflammation, nausea, and serious arthritis, it may be worthwhile to eliminate the nightshades from your diet for 3 months and see how you feel. But for people with a healthy digestive system, nightshades can actually be good for you. Think about those hot peppers; they contain capsaicin which is an anti-inflammatory. Or how about bell peppers, which have the second most concentrated source of Vitamin C. The vitamin C helps with your immune system, hair and skin health, and many other health benefits! And tomatoes are great too – they’ve got loads of biotin and lycopene, which helps to prevent various cancers and cardiovascular disease. So if you don’t have to give up nightshades, don’t! Keep these great veggies in your diet. And to do that, we’re giving you a great salsa recipe that has some hot peppers and tomatoes, and of course lots of flavor!
RECIPE: Spicy Tomato Salsa
2-3 medium organic tomatoes
1/2 red onion
1 jalapeno pepper, seeds removed
Juice of one lime
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste
Toss all veggies into a food processor and pulse for 1-2 minutes until your salsa reaches a desired consistency. Add lime juice and salt and pepper, and give one more pulse. Pour in bowl and serve. Enjoy!