One of the most frequent questions we get at Ultimate Paleo Guide is about nightshades. For most of the population, eating nightshades is completely fine. For people with autoimmune conditions or leaky gut, though, consuming these vegetables can cause incredibly painful symptoms.
Nightshades fall into the plant family Solanaceae. While the Solanaceae family contains thousands of species of plants, most of them are considered inedible and even poisonous. Edible nightshades, while fewer in number, are quite common in our diets today. These include tomatoes, white potatoes, eggplant, peppers (both hot and bell), and spices that are made from peppers (like paprika and cayenne). Most spice blends that you buy in the grocery store contain at least one type of nightshade. The same goes for hot sauce. Goji berries, ground cherries, and the herb ashwagandha are also part of the nightshade family.
What’s the Research Say?
Research is somewhat limited, but it is generally agreed upon that a chemical component in nightshade plants called alkaloids is what makes the vegetables problematic for some people. In poisonous nightshades, the high alkaloid content is what gives the plant its toxic properties. In the edible vegetables, though, the alkaloid content is much, much lower. For the majority of the population, alkaloids have no effect on the body. They may even be beneficial in fighting inflammation.
Those suffering with gut issues or autoimmune conditions are usually the ones who feel the negative effects of nightshades. Symptoms might include digestive pain, joint pain, rashes or reddening of the skin, muscle tremors, or any other type of inflammatory reaction. If you notice any of these arise for you after eating nightshades, you may want to consider eliminating them from your diet for a month to see if your symptoms improve. Check out the Beginner’s Guide to Autoimmune Protocol to learn more.
So, should we cut nightshades out of our diets completely?
Well, it depends. If you are suffering with an autoimmune condition or related gut issues, removing nightshades from your diet may be necessary. Please refer to our guides (I’ve linked them again here and here) to learn more, and always consult with your doctor. If you don’t fall into one of the aforementioned categories, nightshades should be perfectly safe to consume. As long as you feel great eating them, they can be an important piece to a well-balanced Paleo diet.
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