Stories from Food and Nutrition

I’m an RD, and These Are the Myths About Nightshades I Want You to Stop Believing

Francesca Krempa

Francesca KrempaFebruary 25, 2020

Food can be… confusing. Should you be avoiding gluten at all costs? Gobbling up avocados as fast as humanly possible? Well+Good's nutrition experts are setting the story straight when it comes to food, cutting through the hype and hand-wringing and getting you the most comprehensive information on what you should (and maybe shouldn't) put in that body of yours. See All

PSA: Some of the healthiest foods on the planet happen to be nightshades. Here’s why that’s really NBD.

From the one-meal-a-day (OMAD) diet to “dry fasting” there are a lot of questionable food trends that can pop up in the healthy eating world out of nowhere. But it turns out, one (literally) shady one isn’t as sketchy as the rap is gets: nightshades.

Nightshades is the name of the groups of fruits and veggies that belong to the solanum family of plants. While some foods in this family are inedible, many are perfectly safe for consumption, like eggplants, tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, and goji berries. But despite their safety, some people (ahem Tom Brady) have sworn them off completely for their potential effects on inflammation.

So, are nightshades inflammatory, or have we been freaked out for no reason? In our latest episode of You Versus Food, Tracy Lockwood Beckerman, RD, debunks some of the murkiest myths around the group of fruits and veggies. And it turns out, most of the rumors about the plants aren’t quite true.

For starters, much of the fuss comes from a misunderstanding of the compound solanine, which is found in some species of the nightshade family. “Some people believe that solanine, found in foods like white potato, eggplant, peppers, apples and blueberries, aggravates arthritis pain, inflammation and causes digestive complications,” says Beckerman. However, these theories aren’t rooted in robust scientific research, she says. “Plus, most solanine gets broken down by our strong GI systems, so it is not likely it enters our bloodstream in notable quantities anyway,” she continues.

There are also concerns around lectins, the family of proteins found in vegetables, legumes, and grains that are rumored to lead to digestive distress and leaky guts. But, like solanine, Beckerman says these plant-proteins are also largely misunderstood due to a lack of research. “The amount of lectins in the normal food supply is truly not something to cry about,” she says.

Are nightshades the right shades for you? They might be. Beckerman goes onto list the benefits nightshades can bring to a healthy diet, which include being a rich source of essential vitamins and minerals, as well as being high in fiber (hello, heart health!) For the complete verdict, watch the full video above.

Here’s what registered dietitians have to say about going plant-based (besides it just being trendy). And here’s why the jury is definitely out on gluten digestion supplements

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