When your parents have always emphasized the importance of eating your veggies, it's tough to imagine vegetables to be anything other than nutritious. However, vegetable allergies and sensitivities are a thing that might be affecting you without you realizing the root cause. In particular, there's a growing number of people who are sensitive to nightshade vegetables. What are nightshade vegetables? Essentially, nightshades refer to a family of vegetables known as Solanaceae, or the "potato" or "tomato" family.

What Are Nightshade Vegetables?

Kartik Sharma

Nightshade vegetables include vegetables such as potatoes (all excluding sweet potato), peppers (think bell, cayenne, chili), eggplants, tomatoes, huckleberries, and paprika. All of these vegetables contain certain chemical compounds called Alkaloids (such as solanine, capsaicin, and nicotine), which is why they're considered toxic. To be clear, the veggies that you get at the store are totally safe to eat, but it's possible to have a sensitivity or intolerance to them.

What Are Alkaloids?

Sabhyata Badhwar

Alkaloids or Glycoalkaloids are bitter compounds present in a plant functioning as naturally occurring pesticides. In other words, alkaloids are produced to kill insects to prevent them from eating up the plant. This made people believe that nightshades are after all, toxic. In inedible varieties of nightshades, concentrated amounts of alkaloids are found while in the edible varieties, the amount is lesser. 

The question remains, can you still eat them? Well, you definitely can eat nightshade vegetables without accidentally poisoning yourself, only if you belong to the non-nightshade sensitive populace. 

Are You Sensitive to Nightshades?

Tarunima kumar

Alkaloids are meant to kill insects; if they enter your stomach and start attacking the stomach lining, you'll experience gut irritation. The aftermath of this irritation results in something called a "leaky gut," in which the intestine becomes impermeable, meaning proteins that are supposed to stay inside the digestive tract leak out. The body starts attacking them, leading to an autoimmune response. 

On top of that, nightshades may contain harmful lectins that can cause gut irritation and set off a similar reaction as alkaloids do. It would be a good idea to cut down on nightshades if you experience joint pain or inflammation frequently because you might just be allergic to the solanine found in these vegetables.  

Should You Stop Eating Them Completely?

vegetable, tomato, cucumber, pasture
Kristine Mahan

Testimonials for autoimmune disease and joint pain are actually quite inadequate, and most of them are based on personal experiences and reports. In fact, if your gut reacts normally (i.e. no irritation) to nightshades, there's is probably no reason for you to eliminate them from your diet. They are nutritious and otherwise healthy for your body.

Nightshades are considered toxic at times due to the natural pesticide (the alkaloids) present in them. Most edible nightshades are, however, low in alkaloids.

The benefits of nightshades, are immense, loading you with  many essential vitamins and nutrients. Vegetables of all kinds are necessary to maintain a balanced diet, and shouldn't be cut out of your diet on a whim. When in doubt, chat with you doctor if you're concerned you might have a sensitivity to nightshade vegetables.