What are nightshades?
When I hear the word nightshade, my first thought is generally that it’s poisonous (since deadly nightshade, also known as atropa belladonna, is often mentioned as a poison in the mystery books I used to read as a child).
But, nightshades (also known as Solanaceae) encompasses a whole family of flowering plants that includes many very popular fruits and vegetables that you probably eat daily.
(There’s a whole section below on why you might want to avoid nightshades for health reasons as well so keep on reading!)
And if you want the whole list of nightshades foods emailed to you, just on the green button below.
The Most Common Nightshades
Some of the most popular nightshades are potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers, and chili peppers. But because various spices and spice mixes are made from chili peppers, nightshades can be found in a whole host of processed foods!
Here’s a more complete list of nightshades that you might be eating (some of them may be rare in the US):
- Bush Tomatoes (native to Australia)
- Cape Gooseberries (or ground cherries, different from regular cherries)
- Cayenne pepper
- Chili Pepper Flakes
- Chili powder
- Chinese Five-Spice Powder
- Curry Powder
- Curry spice powder
- Garam Masala spice – because it contains peppers
- Garden Huckleberries (different from regular huckleberries)
- Goji berries
- Hot Sauce
- Ketchup (and BBQ Sauce) – because they contain tomatoes
- Most spice blends – because they contain peppers
- Paprika spice
- Peppers (including bell peppers, sweet peppers, chili peppers, jalapenos)
- Potatoes (different to sweet potatoes or yams)
- Red Pepper
- Red Pepper Flakes
- Steak Seasoning
Source of this list is from my own experience as well as Sarah’s list here.
Why You Might Want To Avoid Nightshades
If you’ve read my article on the Autoimmune Paleo Protocol (AIP) (click here for article) or any of Sarah Ballantyne’s articles, then you’ll already be familiar with the idea that nightshades contain saponins (in particular, glycoalkaloids), which may contribute to leaky gut, and hence why nightshades are avoided on AIP (a modified version of the Paleo diet geared toward those with autoimmune conditions).
In particular, saponins (which have both a water-soluble and a fat-soluble component) seem to be able to interact with cholesterol molecules in your cell membranes creating holes in the membrane. Those holes could then potentially allow substances to enter your body that shouldn’t be entering.
While the research on glycoalkaloids causing and/or exacerbating leaky gut is still inconclusive, it is clear that glycoalkaloids in high amounts (e.g., if you eat green and sprouted potatoes) can be highly toxic to both humans and animals. Some researchers have also suggested that there may be unknown chronic effects of prolonged ingestion of glycoalkaloids.
Beware! Nightshades Can Be Found in Many Spices
As you can see from the list above, nightshades can be tricky to avoid as tomatoes, paprika, and chili powder can be found in many popular spices and sauces! And many of us love potatoes.
What makes it even harder is that many people forget (or don’t know) what nightshades are. For example, most people forget that ketchup, steak seasoning, and curry powder all contain nightshades.
It definitely makes eating at a restaurant or a friend’s house really challenging!
For More Info On The Paleo Autoimmune Protocol
Again, if you have an autoimmune condition, then I highly recommend you read this article here.