Solanaceae are a common food group found in many diets, including the Paleo diet. They can have health benefits, but for people with sensitivity to this family of plant foods, they come with an unpleasant set of side effects that can range from digestive problems to inflammatory problems. If you want to know what are the health problems that this type of vegetables cause to certain types of people, keep reading that you will also know which vegetables include nightshades.
What are nightshades
Solanaceae are a family of vegetables scientifically referred to as solanaceae. They include common vegetables like bell peppers, white potatoes, eggplants, tomatoes, tomatillos, goji berries, okra, and even ashwagandha, the herb that is so popular for its stress-relieving properties. Several common herbs and spices, such as chili, paprika, cayenne, and red pepper flakes, also fall in the nightshade family. The black and white pepper are from the pepper (a fruit), which are not nightshade.
Solanaceae and inflammation
The nightshade family contains numerous beneficial nutrients, including vitamin C, antioxidants, B vitamins, and minerals. So why are they considered problematic?
These vegetables are gaining a reputation for being troublesome for certain health trends, such as inflammation, arthritis, or diabetes. This comes down to the presence of another nutrient found in these vegetables, known as alkaloids, which contain nitrogen. In nature, the presence of alkaloids in Solanaceae serves as a natural insect repellent to prevent the plant from being destroyed. When these anti-nutrients are consumed, they are supposed to also cause problems with a person's digestive system, leading to inflammatory problems, intestinal disorders, and digestive disorders.
Perforated intestine, a problem in which the barrier function of the small intestine fails to work effectively, can also be caused or worsened by the presence of nightshades, making chronic conditions worse. In some cases, eating these foods can also worsen existing symptoms of conditions like arthritis, thanks to alterations in the body's gut bacteria. They can also play a role in intestinal problems that are associated with celiac disease.
Beyond digestive and inflammatory problems, people can develop allergies to these vegetables that can involve itching, swelling, hives, and even shortness of breath. Bottom Line: Solanaceae can cause problems with inflammation, digestive problems, autoimmunity, and a leaky gut.
Health problems that tell you to stop eating nightshades
While not all symptoms of problems with these vegetables will be obvious, some are more common than others.
Swelling in the joints
Autoimmunity or chronic conditions
Shortness of breath (rare, but serious)
Swelling of the mouth (rare, but serious)
It can be difficult to specifically diagnose some aspects of health problems with nightshades, which are found best to eliminate the entire group covering this family of vegetables from the diet for at least 30 days, to determine if symptoms improve. And adding them again, one at a time, can help identify if one of them is a problem, or if the entire category causes symptoms to return.
Although discovering a sensitivity or allergy to these vegetables may not be as straightforward as with other allergens, they do include some common overlapping symptoms that usually disappear when they are stopped.
Avoiding them forever depends on the level of severity of the symptoms that were experienced while taking them, as well as current health conditions. If you have chronic arthritis or other autoimmune disorders, chances are you'll feel better avoiding them in the long run or at least strictly limiting them in your diet.
Some find that only some vegetables in the group are problematic, such as tomatoes or potatoes, while others find that they can eat some nightshades raw, but not cooked, and vice versa. As with any other diet, it is best to determine what works for you and follow a personalized approach rather than a one-size-fits-all plan that may be too strict or not strict enough for your health and dietary needs.
Following the AIP diet
The AIP diet, short for Autoimmune Protocol, is a variation of the Paleo diet that eliminates nightshades as well as other potential inflammatory triggers, such as nuts, grains, seeds, most sweeteners, and eggs.
The AIP diet may initially feel restrictive as it further matches what even the Paleo diet allows, but it has been a successful meal plan for many with chronic, autoimmune, or other health problems for which the Paleo diet or other meal plans have no improvement shown.
For most, AIP is a long-term diet plan and works best when inflammation and other symptoms subside for months. It is not a quick dietary solution to these health problems.
There is a wide variety of foods available in an AIP plan if you learn to work within the plan's guidelines. The AIP movement has developed an extensive following and has numerous nutritionists and health coaches creating specific AIP recipes so that those who follow the plan don't feel deprived or trapped in a restrictive and boring meal plan.
So what can you eat on an AIP diet? Lots of non-nightshade vegetables, high-quality meat and seafood, and healthy fats. The AIP plan is a variation of the Paleo diet that skips these vegetables and other inflammatory foods and focuses on foods that reduce inflammation, such as green leafy and cruciferous vegetables, meats, fats, and fruits.
How to substitute nightshade to alleviate health problems
If you want to consider eliminating these veggies, you might be overwhelmed to realize that you could be cutting out several long-term favorites. Luckily, there are some substitutes for these vegetables that, with a little effort, will easily become favorites.
Sweet potatoes for white potato
Switch to sweet potatoes, turnips, or parsnips in most dishes, even the pureed versions. Cauliflower puree can also surprisingly substitute for potatoes in most dishes.
Strawberries for tomatoes
In certain dishes, strawberries or strawberry sauce can interchange the tart, slightly sweet profile of tomatoes. Pumpkin and zapayo anco sauce can replace tomato sauce for pasta-based dishes. Beets combined with radishes and watermelon can also be joined together to replace a tomato sauce perfectly.
Cucumber and celery for peppers
Although not the same flavor profile, celery and cucumbers can substitute for the crunchy delicacy that peppers provide in some dishes. Radishes, when used in cooked dishes, can substitute for that spicy flavor that red and green peppers are known for. Zucchini, yellow squash, and carrots can also play the bell pepper part.
Black and white pepper for chili and cayenne pepper
Black and white pepper comes from a different plant that is not nightshade. Use these, along with turmeric, cumin, cloves, and ginger, to add a spice boost to dishes you want nightshade-free. Onion and garlic powder are also beneficial, too. And never underestimate the value of the right amount of salt to boost the flavor of a dish. If you need to replace nightshade sauces, you can try fish sauce, coconut amino acids, oyster sauce, or Worcestershire sauce.
Portobello mushrooms for the eggplant
Portobello mushrooms can substitute for eggplants in vegetarian and Paleo lasagna, as well as other baked dishes.
In short, it is entirely possible to eat a delicious and tasty diet without nightshades if you have specific health problems. Learning about substitutes you can make will increase variety and satisfaction with your diet.