Nightshades and your health

The time is ripe for tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and potatoes – nightshade foods that make summer dishes bright… but should you be concerned about nightshade’s so-called dark side? Many popular elimination diets claim nightshades are a source of inflammation and should be avoided, but what does science say? However, nightshades are all that bad. Here are six different way nightshades can actually be good for your health:

Nightshades and your health graphic

  1. Nightshade fruits and vegetables are rich sources of health-promoting nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and anti-inflammatory alkaloid compounds.
  2. Peppers are a rich source of vitamin C, an antioxidant that reduces free-radical inflammation.
  3. Capsaicin, the compound that gives peppers their spiciness, has powerful anti-inflammatory
    and pain relieving properties.
  4. Red tomatoes are known for lycopene, an antioxidant linked to lower risk of many cancers.
  5. Purple potatoes and eggplants get their hue from almighty anthocyanin, a nutrient that has starred in prevention studies relating to cancer, cardiovascular disease and brain health.
  6. Nightshade vegetables contain dietary fiber, a nutrient that supports gut and digestive health, heart health, weight management, cancer prevention and more!

Should you eat nightshades?

Nightshades continue to be a topic of debate among health providers. There is no conclusive research that draws the link between nightshade consumption and increased inflammation. In fact, there is strong evidence that shows the anti-inflammatory properties of these plant foods.

Nightshade vegetables are healthy and harmless for most people. However, some people report reactions to consuming these foods, including joint pain, digestive discomfort and reddening of the skin. There is anecdotal evidence that nightshade sensitivity exists; however, there is limited scientific evidence to support popular diet claims that nightshades should be universally avoided. If you are concerned about how your body reacts to eating these foods, consider a dietitian-led elimination diet to pinpoint which nightshade food is triggering your symptoms (very rarely do ALL nightshades need to be avoided).

Many Americans are already challenged with eating enough vegetables. For the majority of those without sensitivity, the benefits of eating colorful nightshade vegetables outweigh the potential risks. Eating a rainbow of colorful plant foods, including colorful nightshades, is the best way to ensure your body is getting the spectrum of nutrients it needs for optimal health.

Vegetable intake recommendations

Calorie Level                                     1,600           1,800           2,000           2,200           2,600

Vegetables (cups/day)                            2                2.5               2.5              3               3.5

Dark-green vegetables (cups/week)      1.5              1.5               1.5               2               2.5

Red & orange vegetables (cups/week)    4                5.5               5.5              6               7

Legumes (cups/week)                         1                1.5               1.5                2               2.5

Starchy vegetables (cups/week)           4                 5                 5                 6                7

Other vegetables (cups/week)             3.5               4                 4                 5               5.5

For delicious recipes, nutrition tips, and to find cooking and nutrition classes, go to the Kendall Reagan Nutrition Center website. More great info also available at the College of Health and Human Sciences Pinterest board.

Kendall Reagan Nutrition Center