Are Nightshades Inflammatory?
Nightshade vegetables, such as eggplants, tomatoes, red bell peppers and potatoes, are disease-fighting powerhouses that boast maximum nutrition for minimal calories.
Why the bad reputation?
People with arthritis are sometimes advised to avoid nightshade plants because they are said to cause inflammation. However, this advice only applies to people who have a sensitivity to solanine – a toxic alkaloid which can occur naturally in any part of the plant, including the leaves, fruit, and tubers. It is toxic in small quantities and is one of the plant’s natural defenses. For example, if potatoes are exposed to sunlight, they turn green with solanine. The amount of solanine you would ingest by eating even a large quantity of potatoes is not enough to cause problems.
Myths and truths
There’s no scientific evidence to suggest that nightshades trigger arthritis flares. In fact, some experts believe these vegetables contain a potent nutrient mix that helps inhibit arthritis pain. Tomatoes, for instance, contain lycopene, quercetin, and beta carotene, all well-researched anti-inflammatory phytonutrients. Nightshade plants are also high in antioxidants, which help reduce inflammation, and chili peppers contain capsaicin, an anti-inflammatory compound.
The bottom line
Many people report significant symptom relief when they avoid nightshade vegetables. Talk to a registered dietitian if you notice that your arthritis pain flares after eating them. Do a test and try eliminating all nightshade vegetables from your diet for a few weeks to see if it makes a difference. If you don’t notice a difference, chances are that nightshades are not a problem for you and you can discuss other possible diet changes with your dietitian.
Written by Evita Basilio BSc Nutrition
Reviewed by Andrea Miller MHSc, RD