The Nightshade Family - Well-Known and Not-so-Famous Representatives

A nightshade family comprises well-known varieties like peppers, potatoes, eggplant, and of course, tomato. However, there are also other varieties that most people have not heard of. The more obscure varieties include ground cherries,  cape gooseberries, tomatillos, and the wonderberry.

What Are Nightshades?

What makes all nightshades different from other plants, fruits and vegetables are that they possess some amounts of alkaloids.

Alkaloids are substances that may be found in plants. Alkaloids contain nitrogen and affect the body medicinally. Examples of such alkaloids include quinine and morphine.

Difference Between Nightshade Vegetables and Fruits

Tomatoes are thought of as vegetables, thanks to their savory taste. But the truth is that tomatoes are fruits. The fruit is an edible plant part that comes from the flower, and that has seeds. Eggplants and peppers can also be classified as nightshade fruits as a result.

Vegetables are other edible plant parts besides the fruit. These parts can include leaves, stems, and roots. The potato is an example of a nightshade vegetable that is not a fruit.

Nightshades and Health

Since nightshade fruits and vegetables are so widely consumed, it is natural to ask whether or not they are good for health. Some alkaloids can affect human health positively, while others have a detrimental effect. For example, tobacco is an example of a nightshade plant with chemicals that can lead to various diseases.

Solanine is an alkaloid found in the nightshade family. This chemical works as an insecticide to protect the nightshade plant while it is growing.

You may start feeling ill if you consume too much solanine. Potatoes that have turned green have a higher alkaloid content, and their taste is more bitter. That is why you should not eat potatoes that have turned green or are sprouting. Eating green potatoes can give you diarrhea or nausea. You can also get a headache or a fever.

The amount of alkaloids in nightshade vegetables, including potatoes, is often within safe limits. But you could start feeling the effects if you consume 2 to 5 milligrams of solanine for every kilogram of your body weight.

If you weigh about 150 pounds or 68 kilograms, then the minimum amount of solanine that will make you feel ill is 136 milligrams.

Just to give you an idea, the eggplant contains just 11 milligrams of solanine.

Potatoes, on the other hand, can have variable solanine content. Solanine per potato varies between 25 and 275 micrograms. How much alkaloid is there in a potato depends on where it was grown and the potato type that you are eating.

Bottom Line

If you think you are sensitive to the nightshade family, you should list down all nightshades that you consume and eliminate them for a few weeks from your diet. You must see how you feel when you start eating nightshades again. If you feel bad, then you are sensitive to nightshades and should avoid them. You should discuss this with your doctor.

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