More articles by

Naini Setalvad
Naini Setalvad


Into the night(shade)

Most people have not heard about the term 'nightshade foods', though researchers have been intensely studying nightshades and its effect on health. Traditionally, we have been asked to eat nightshade foods in moderation as at times or avoid them. Nicotine is an alkaloid found in the nightshade family of plants, predominately in tobacco and in lower amounts in tomatoes, potatoes, brinjal and green capsicum. Many are unaffected but for some nightshades food are detrimental, especially for people with joint pains and acid reflux, as the high amount of alkaloids affect the joints and muscle movement.

Studies have found that by eliminating these foods it might ease a host of mental, emotional and physical problems for people with arthritis, eczema, psoriasis, gastrointestinal diseases, esophageal problems like heart burn, asthma, acid reflux, lupus and who want to quit smoking need to avoid as many nightshade foods.

One type of alkaloid in nightshade foods is called solanine, which has the ability to block an important enzyme in nerve cells, which results in joint stiffness and joint pain. Another harmful substance in nightshades is called calcitriol, a hormone that signals the body to increase the absorption of calcium from the diet resulting in calcium deposits in soft tissues that cause calcification leading to severe pain, especially in shoulder joints. It can also contribute to loss of calcium from the bone. Nightshades, therefore, are removed for all kinds of arthritis, joint problems and gout. Nightshades are high in lectin, a substance produced in all plants as natural pesticide. Unfortunately it causes gastrointestinal problems, food intolerance and inflammatory problems like arthritis.

Interestingly, nightshade foods mildly increase energy levels, reduce nervous sensitivity, which automatically produces a combination of calmness and stimulation. This leads to short-term relief at the time of stress and pressures. That’s why we love our pizza and chips. Tomato soup and ketchup are the most consumed food products and one simply gets addicted to tobacco.

It is, therefore, important to consume nightshades in small amounts, even if they are not detrimental to your health as prevention is better than cure. But do not omit them completely if they have no effect on you as they contain health benefits.

Examples of foods that belong to nightshades:

Potato: Contains 15 nanogrammes of nicotine, but is 48 in green or sprouting. Potatoes, for example, that have green spots or that have sprouted have maximum amount of alkaloids so that’s what needs to be avoided. Cooking methods, too, influence the impact of nightshade foods. Do not store them for more than two weeks and should be kept in a dark, cool cupboard.

Tomato: Contains only 7.1 nanogrammes of nicotine and this reduces as a tomato ripens. The worst one is to consume the green tomato.

Peppers and Paprika: These have 8 nanogrammes of nicotine.

Eggplant/ aubergine/ brinjal: Though aubergine is considered a nightshade due to its nicotine content, it’s mostly concentrated in the seed and one would have to have 9kg of the vegetable to get 100 nanogrammes of nicotine, which would be in one cigarette. So, eat aubergines during its season and buy the one with less seeds. Aubergine is mostly eaten in winter, as in the monsoons they have lot of seeds.

Aspartame, MSG, Pesticides

Tobacco: The highest concentration of alkaloids is in tobacco. It is known to cause heart and lung problems.

All people are not sensitive to nightshades in the same degree. Steaming, boiling and baking reduce the alkaloid content of nightshades. Though, do understand they are only reduced by 40 to 50 per cent.

Experiment for 3 months Delete them from your daily diet for 3 months. See if the pain subsides. Reintroduce them one at a time after 3 months, that is, one a week. Pay attention if any pain, joint stiffness, respiratory issues, lack of energy, migraines or headaches begin again. For example, if in the first week you introduce potatoes and don’t add anything else, and the pain subsides, you can conclude that potatoes caused the pain.

Things to do:

  1. You should try and choose red, juicy tomatoes over green tomatoes, red pepper over green pepper and new potatoes over the old sprouted ones.
  2. Eat in moderation, because they can cause the body to develop sensitivity.
  3. Also, include a variety of other foods in your meals as this will cut down on excess consumption of nightshades.
  4. Wash all potatoes well, so you can spot the green areas and discard them.
  5. If potatoes are waxed, then do not purchase.

Avoiding nightshades depends on body to body. Unfortunately, a lot of these foods have entered excessively into our daily lives. Moderation in all things is the key to a good health.

Simply put, one man’s food other man's poison.

This browser settings will not support to add bookmarks programmatically. Please press Ctrl+D or change settings to bookmark this page.
The Week

Topics : #nutrition | #opinion

Related Reading

    Show more