Nightshade plants are very common foods that you definitely have eaten before, even in prepared Paleo meals. There are some people who promote foods under the nightshade family whilst others may warn you against them. But what are nightshade foods? Are these healthy or dangerous? Can nightshade vegetables or fruits be considered a Paleo food?
Potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant all appear in meals that will be part of your Paleo lifestyle. But what do these vegetables and fruit have in common? These all appear in the groups known as Solanaceae or nightshade. Under these, there are over 2,000 species a number of which are consumed daily around the world. These plants can bring great benefits to the body, though certain dangers associated with eating these foods as well.
There are nightshades which are Paleo approved. This is great news not only for Paleo practitioners but also for people who want to enjoy a healthier lifestyle. In order to better understand these fruits and vegetables, we’ve listed the benefits and potential threats of these to your health.
But first, let us also take a closer look at the nightshade family.
The nightshade family or Solanaceae group can be determined by their flowers. This plant family is very diverse. Some are perennial whilst others annual. There use also varies, from being used as herbs, or as medicinal plants, to being grown for ornamental purposes. But most tend to be grown by farmers to then sell on to us.
There are plants, fruits and vegetables in this group that we can eat and prove beneficial to us. But there are also some that are poisonous. You need to be aware of what these are!
There are foods in this group that appear on Paleo diet food lists. Some of these are as follows:
• Cayenne Pepper
• Bell Peppers
• Red Peppers
• Potatoes (These are actually not allowed on this diet, instead you can enjoy sweet potatoes which are. Although they are classified as a potato they aren’t a nightshade plant).
• Goji Berries
• Cape Gooseberries
• Garden Huckleberries
Just like others, these foods when eaten as part of a Paleo diet can make the body healthier and stronger. Nightshade plants contain certain anti-inflammatory components that may prove beneficial to us all. Some are even used as therapy treatments for certain women’s health problems. But what is important when eating such food is to make sure that they have been prepared properly. Some of these plants are also rich in nutrients and essential vitamins and minerals that our bodies need.
Potatoes, for example, are a great source of Vitamin B6 as well as potassium, manganese, fiber, and even Vitamin C. Tomatoes are a well-known source of lycopene, an important nutrient that can prevent cancer and heart disease. Tomatoes are also full of anti-oxidants, which are also present in other nightshade foods and which could prove beneficial in helping to lose weight.
Though some nightshades are considered important in the Paleo diet, there are still some dangers when consuming them in large amounts or if they are not prepared properly. Nightshade vegetables and fruits are known to worsen inflammation, causing arthritis, joint stiffness and muscle pain that can then lead to chronic pain problems. Though not all people are affected, people who have nightshade sensitivity may find it hard to move after consuming foods from this group.
Nightshade vegetables and fruit do have one thing in common: Glycoalkaloids. Glycoalkaloid is the plant’s answer to the threat of being eaten, considered as a natural “pesticide”. Glycoalkaloid is present in all nightshade foods, but the concentration levels in them can vary from one plant to the next and so does the name. But all are known to be toxic to any animal including humans when they’ve entered the digestive tract.
Potatoes (which don’t appear on any Paleo food list), is a very popular nightshade. It is also known to contain high levels of solanine especially when it begins to sprout. Eggplants are also known to contain solamargine and solanine in their flesh and seeds, both of these are toxic for any animal. Tomatoes, especially green ones, contain tomatine, another toxin. So excluding some of these when eating Paleo meals isn’t such a bad thing. There are other ways of ensuring you get enough healthy foods into your diet, just take a close look at your Paleo food pyramid.
Aside from the natural pesticides, there are farms that still use chemicals or pesticides to ensure the freshness of their produce. Though organic farming is far safer for people and the earth, it is still too expensive for ordinary farmers. People who practice the Paleo diet are advised to get organic fruits and vegetables, but not all can afford to buy organic produce to create their paleo meals with.
Because nightshades are part of the Paleo food list, you’ll get to eat them eventually. And if your veggies are mostly nightshades, you probably want to know what to do. Eating them in moderation is a great way to ensure that you will not be exposed to high doses of toxins that nightshade plants can produce along with traces of commercial pesticides used on them. So you need to make sure you clean each one of them properly before using them in any Paleo recipes. Even processed foods that you buy from your local grocery store should be cleaned before you include them into your Paleolithic diet.
If you believe you are nightshade sensitive, consult your physician and nutritionist. They will give you expert advice on what list of foods you can substitute for foods that are in this particular group. Always keep in mind that the Paleo diet means taking care of your body and not endangering it. Though nightshade plants are healthy, considering the risks they can cause to your body should be something that you should never ignore.