A Word About Nightshades

Friday, May 10th, 2013

IMG_1435Mmm — a fresh garden harvest. Enjoy with caution, veggie-lovers!

I know, I was just telling you about how adding more fresh, organic vegetables to your diet will cure many ills, but as you clean up your act you may begin to notice subtle differences in how individual foods make you feel. A system laden with the sludge of dairy, sugars, white carbohydrates and processed foods will not be sensitive enough to notice these subtleties. A cleaner system is not addled and numb. The effects of foods are immediately apparent, not delayed as in the sluggish system of someone eating the processed diet. It behooves each of us to be observant diners — to be present in the moment and understand the effects of our nourishment.

A few years ago I was a novice gardener, so I gravitated toward hardier plants — the ones which seem to thrive on neglect and seldom get eaten by garden marauders. As I began to clean up my own diet, I noticed a certain uncomfortable feeling on my tongue when eating eggplants which were only lightly cooked. Then I began thinking about how the eggplants in the garden, unlike the green beans, weren’t nibbled by critters — not even a little bit. So I did some research.

Eggplants are part of the nightshade family, the members of which are poisonous in varying degrees! The nightshades contain alkaloids which taste bad to animals, thus ensuring the plants’ survival. Obviously, these veggies do not contain enough “poison” to kill you, even if eaten in large quantities, but they do have enough to make you sick, if you have a sensitivity, or to exacerbate certain existing conditions. Cooking the vegetables thoroughly serves to break down many of the offending alkaloids.

The effects of nightshade alkaloids vary from person to person. Generally they’ve been found to cause disturbances in nerve-muscle function, joint function and digestion. If you suffer from arthritis, try limiting your nightshade intake and see if you notice a difference. Besides eggplants, the nightshade family includes tomatoes, potatoes (not sweet potatoes, which aren’t even related to potatoes), peppers, tobacco, morning glory and belladonna, among others. The amounts of alkaloids in the nightshades vary from species to species, the worst likely being belladonna which is deadly, and one of the least being the tomato. An interesting side note: Thomas Jefferson deemed the tomato, unknown at the time, the “poisonous love apple” since he noticed it was eschewed by native Americans.

Of course adding more vegetables to our diets is important for overall health. Today’s post is about fine-tuning. Your doctors at Atlanta Functional Medicine are familiar with the effects of food allergies and sensitivities and can work with you personally to discover what’s best for you, and then you can make an informed choice. Vegetables from the nightshade family may or may not be tolerable for your system. If you are able to tolerate them, they’re still better than a slab of baby back ribs!

by Cheryl Salinas

Posted in: Healthy Eating