What Are Nightshades?

Nightshades are oftentimes mislabeled or misidentified, and plenty of the foods that most humans eat regularly are classified as nightshades. Still, there are other types of nightshades that, while not directly poisonous to your system, may still cause you some sort of detrimental affect. Therefore, it’s a good idea to recognize nightshades when you see them and to know how to best use them in your food.

Nightshades are generally classified as plants that are in the genus Solanaceae. There are roughly 3,000 unique plants in the category of Solanaceae, so it can be difficult to keep track of all of the different types of nightshades that exist in the world. Read on for a brief overview as to what nightshades are, whether they are good or bad for your health, and how to best include and avoid them in your diet.

Nightshades Overview

Nightshades are a particular group of plants that are used in both medicines and foods. In actuality, there are a greater number of nightshade drugs than there are foods that are based on this type of plant. Among the most common foods that are nightshades are peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, and other root vegetables and spices as well. In medical use and other types of use, tobacco is one of the most common nightshades. Nightshade plants are also used for a wide range of other medical purposes as well.

Risks of Nightshades

The problem with nightshades for many people is that they contain a certain type of chemical called alkaloids. Alkaloids are chemicals that cause a number of different and typically minor problems throughout the body when ingested in any decent quantity. Among the negative affects that alkaloids can have on your body are the fact that they can impede your digestive function. They can also cause damage to your nerve and muscle relationships. The response to alkaloids differs from person to person, and it’s not always easy to tell who will be affected by nightshades (and to what degree they will be reactive).

The people who should avoid eating nightshades are the people who have clinically and theoretically shown to have a greater degree of negative response to nightshade plants. Nightshade averse people will want to cook down any of the nightshade plants before eating them. However, cooking down nightshades will only eliminate up to about half of the total alkaloids in them. For this reason, you may wish to avoid those plants altogether if you fall into this category.

Generally, it’s a good idea to avoid green tomatoes and potatoes that have sprouted. These types of nightshades in particular have higher levels of alkaloids than other types of nightshades, making them more likely to cause a number of different health concerns.

While eating nightshades will not permanently damage your body, they can cause you to feel unwell and may lead to more serious conditions in some people. Ask your doctor or a nutritionist for more information about how to safely and healthily incorporate nightshades into your diet.


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