Why You Need to Know About Nightshade Foods

Photographer: Maria del RioEditorial and internal use approved. OK for Native and co-branded use.

If you’ve clicked on this because you haven’t the slightest idea what a nightshade food is, you’re not alone. My primary motivation for writing this story was admittedly, a selfish one, after recently reading that beautiful people Gisele Bündchen and Tom Brady, avoid nightshade foods — along with following a strict dairy-, sugar- and caffeine-free diet.

But what actually is a nightshade, and why are people avoiding them?

Not to be confused with a nightcap, the term nightshade is used to describe a group of fruit and vegetables that sit within the Solanaceae (flowering plants) family. Nightshade foods such as white potatoes, eggplant, tomatoes, capsicums, even your favourite superfood, goji berries, have been linked to increased inflammation in some people due to the presence of glycoalkaloids and lectins in these foods.

Before you start freaking out, let’s first make clear that although Gisele, Gwyneth and Naomi are all advocates of living a nightshade-free lifestyle, there’s no formal scientific evidence to prove that nightshades cause harm or inflammation. However, whilst they may not be the root cause of inflammation, the naturally produced alkaloids and lectins in these foods can aggravate inflammation and digestive issues in people with sensitivities.

If you’re still concerned about nightshades, but you wish to continue enjoying your spaghetti bolognese in peace, there are some precautions you can take to reduce your alkaloid and lectin intake. Be sure to peel all potatoes prior to cooking, avoid green or unripe tomatoes and potatoes, and cook nightshades, rather than eating them raw.

Weighing up the pros and cons, it seems when it comes to food sensitivities, it might be worth ignoring the hype surrounding nightshades. Realistically, you are more likely to experience a dairy-, gluten– or soy-related sensitivity then you are a nightshade one.

So, ultimately should you be worried about nightshades? At the end of the day, it all comes down to personal preference. It’s important to remember there’s no scientific evidence to prove that you need fear eggplant, but like anything, it’s worth being conscious of how your body reacts to what you eat. If you notice any possible sensitivities, talk to your GP before avoiding nightshades all-together.

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