What Are Nightshades?

Nightshade vegetables
Image: Natural News

Have you heard of nightshade plants? I quickly read it once somewhere and remember thinking: “nightshade what?” and then quickly fell through the rabbit hole that is the internet. Nightshade plants, or vegetables for the purpose of this blog, are a big part of our diet (at least in this household). Even if you’re not a vegan or vegetarian, most of society will eat nightshade vegetables on a regular basis.

What Are They?

french fries with ketchup

Nightshade vegetables are potatoes (the white ones and not sweet potatoes), tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and a variety of other plants and vines. We love potatoes here, and when you think about it who doesn’t? FRENCH FRIES!! In most restaurants there’s always a side of fries to go along with whatever dish you’ve ordered. Even if fries wasn’t an option you can still get fries. Do you like those fries with ketchup? Yeah, so does the little one. He’ll put ketchup on his ketchup and will even eat it straight if you’ll let him (or when you’re not looking).

Do you like your pasta with a tomato-based pasta sauce? Do you like bell peppers? If you don’t, don’t think you’ve escaped. If you use paprika or chili powder, you’re using peppers. And then there’s the eggplant. I talked about eggplant in my last post. Although these vegetables are loaded with all kinds of good-for-you vitamins and minerals (tomatoes are LOADED with good-for-you stuff), they’re also linked to a lot of ailments.

Why So Bad?

Belladonna nightshade
Belladonna Image: Pharmacognosy Wikia

Nightshade plants are named so because they typically flower at night. Think of the morning glory flower that doesn’t flower in the day. Yes, it’s a nightshade plant. Nightshades are also associated with poison. Have you heard of the Scottish play written by Shakespeare? Side note: the Hubs advised me that it’s bad luck to say the name in the theatrical world. He uses Belladonna as a poison. Belladonna is a deadly nightshade and has had numerous uses throughout history.

What makes nightshade plants iffy and sometimes poisonous is the glycoalkaloids they produce. It’s basically a natural defense system against bugs and other critters. So, I guess you can say it’s a naturally occurring pesticide. Unfortunately, this natural pesticide has some side effects for humans as well. Some side effects are:

  • Leaky gut syndrome
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Low blood pressure
  • Joint inflammation (may aggravate arthritis)
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • May aggravate skin conditions like eczema (it’s the nicotine in the plants)
nicotine in nightshades
Amount of nicotine in nightshades. Image: Psoriasis Self Management

Yeah, you read right. I did type nicotine. There’s a small amount of nicotine in eggplant, tomatoes, and potatoes. Anyone craving fries and ketchup?

Potato Eyes

Growing up I always heard you’re supposed to remove the eyes (or sprouts) on potatoes. I didn’t understand why; I just thought they were ugly and that’s why you’re supposed to remove them.

potato sprout, eyes on potato
Image: Organic Facts

You’re also supposed to remove any green spots from potatoes, or just simply toss the potatoes in the trash. You’ve heard it too? But have you ever wondered why? It’s because those are the spots/areas where the glycoalkaloid is concentrated and it could be bad for you if you eat it. So there you go. There was a reason why your Momma told you about those potato eyes and green spots, and not just because her Momma told her to do it.

The End

Y’all can take all of this with a grain of salt and say “she’s crazy.” However, in the naturopath/holistic world this is a very serious thing. Some people are sensitive to nightshade plants. If your arthritis acts up or if you experience nausea, headaches, or any other side effect after eating one of the nightshade vegetables, it might be worth looking at eliminating it from your diet for about 6 weeks. If you still experience side effects after reintroducing it, you know something is up. As always, don’t take my word for it. I’m not a nutritionist, doctor, or certified in anything. If you have a suspicion that you might be sensitive to nightshades, consult a naturopath or holistic nutritionist.

Sources:

The World’s Healthiest Foods

Nutrition Diva

My New Roots: Do the Millet Mash

My New Roots: Getting Fresh in Turkey with Aubergines n’ Greens

Paleo Leap

Wikipedia: Atropa belladonna

Mental Floss

Botanical.com

Mother Nature Network: Tomatoes and Potatoes

Mother Nature Network: Deadly Nightshades

Diagnosis: Diet

Wikipedia: Solanaceae

Superhuman Coach

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