Paleo guide to nightshade plants and vegetables

As you probably know, paleo diets are now incredibly popular, and are beneficial for a whole variety of different reasons. Unlike other diets, the paleo diet isn’t solely about losing body fat as quickly as possible (although if you stick to the plan you will see some very impressive weight losses). Instead, the paleo diet is about addressing numerous health issues and allergies and intolerances related to the foods and drinks that we consume on a regular basis. Now, if you are a member of the paleo community, or if you’re simply an avid paleo follower, the chances are that you will have heard people talking about ‘Nightshades’ though you perhaps don’t necessarily know what these people meant. Nightshades are a hot topic of discussion in the paleo world, and if your nightshade knowledge isn’t up to scratch, then fear not, because here we’ll be providing you with a paleo diet guide to nightshade plants and vegetables.


What are nightshades?

Well, other than being very, very tasty (most of the time) nightshades are actually plants which are all members of the same family, and who share a number of specific characteristics, including the overall shape of the flower, and where the seed is located within the flower. If you’re wondering what tomatoes, potatoes, egg plants, Goji berries, and many more, all have in common with one another, it’s the fact that they are all part of the nightshade family, so they are all related. So, as bizarre as it may seem, Goji berries are in fact related to common garden potatoes, though you probably wouldn’t consume them in the same way as one another. Paleo diets are naturally rich in fresh vegetables, so nutrient intakes are much higher on these diet plans, though it is still important that paleo diet practitioners know the main differences between the veggies that they’re eating, as some are better than others. The nightshade family is sometimes known as the Solanaceae family, and it contains a number of plants, some of which are poisonous, and some of which are thankfully not poisonous. Common nightshade vegetables include:

  • Potatoes
  • Bell peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Goji berries
  • Egg plants
  • Pimentos
  • Gooseberries
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Spices made from peppers
  • Tomatillos
  • Huckleberries
  • And more…

Potential health risks

As you can see from the list of food sources above, edible nightshade vegetables are generally very healthy and beneficial, which is why many paleo diets incorporate a number of nightshade vegetables into their meal plans. With that being said however, some people do suffer with nightshade sensitivities, especially people that are already suffering with autoimmune diseases and disorders. The reason for this is that there are certain nightshade vegetables which contain compounds that have been found to contribute towards inflammation and swelling, which could then cause pain and discomfort. Two potential compounds to be wary of, are: Solanine and Glycoalkaloids. These compounds have been found to cause muscle stiffness and soreness, muscle spasms, aches, pains, inflammation, swelling, tenderness, and headaches. Different people will have different tolerances to these compounds, so there may be some people who barely notice any painful side effects at all, yet there may be others who suffer a great deal when they consume a nightshade vegetable containing these compounds. For particularly sensitive individuals, studies have found that it can take as much as three months for pain associated with inflammation caused by nightshade consumption, to be reduced. As it can take so long to begin to notice improvements, many people who are trying to cut back on nightshade consumption, will eventually simply give up as they think that it isn’t working for them.

Who is at the highest risk

As mentioned, people with autoimmune diseases and conditions are far more likely to suffer with a nightshade sensitivity problem, although other people are also at risk. For example, if a person already has underlying digestive problems, stomach problems, or intestinal problems, they may find themselves displaying all of the symptoms associated with increased rates of nightshade sensitivity.

Nightshades and vitamin D

Some studies have also revealed that nightshades can contribute towards bone and joint pain and discomfort, including arthritis. This is thought to be down to the way that the body processes vitamin D located within nightshades. You see, nightshades contain an extremely potent and powerful form of vitamin D, known as vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 contained in nightshades has been found to prevent the proper absorption and metabolization of calcium, which results in calcium actually being deposited into the soft tissues of the body, rather than in the bones, where it should be. As you might expect, less calcium in the bones, and more in the soft tissues, can cause painful swelling and inflammation in and around the joints, which is another reason why some people may opt to avoid consuming nightshades.

So, should nightshades be avoided?

In reality, this all depends on you and how your body works. There are some people out there that are following a paleo lifestyle, who regularly consume numerous nightshade vegetables and haven’t experienced any detrimental side effects in the slightest. Yet on the other side of the spectrum, there are people out there who have consumed nightshades and have suffered a great deal because of autoimmunity issues and enhanced nightshade sensitivity levels. If you do decide to cut out nightshades from your diet, cut them out for at least three months, and if you begin consuming them once more, slowly ease yourself back into things and incorporate one nightshade at a time as this may help you to identify a sensitivity to one particular food stuff.

Potential benefits of cutting out nightshades from your diet

If you do believe you have a nightshade sensitivity, when you cut them out of your diet, you will begin noticing a great deal of improvements and benefits. These include:

  • Headaches disappearing
  • More energy levels
  • Less pain and discomfort
  • Less stomach pain and discomfort
  • Improved flexibility and mobility
  • Improved mental health and well-being
  • Skin rashes getting better
  • Less rates of heart burn and indigestion
  • Better concentration and focus levels

Final thoughts

Basically, when it comes to paleo and nightshades, the take-home message here is that you should listen to your body and do what works best from you. If you suspect you could suffer from a nightshade sensitivity, try cutting them out for a few weeks and see if you begin to feel better. You may wish to try cutting them out and re-adding them one at a time, but again, listen to your body, see how you feel, and see how it responds to any dietary changes that you make.

If you are interested in the paleo diet take a look, you can find many healthy paleo recipes, healthy eating tips, workout plans, exercise tips and much more! Discover the health benefits of following a paleo lifestyle and learn how to live happier, eat healthier, and train smarter.

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