When people ask me what I don’t eat, they are generally au fait with gluten, dairy and refined sugar. When I mention nightshades, I am more often than not asked what they are and why. Nightshades and nightshade sensitivity isn’t often discussed as a collective – there’s not a lot of hard, scientific evidence that nightshade foods can cause bad reactions (in my case inflammation) in humans. That there isn’t scientific evidence on the matter might be enough to put you off a life without nightshades, or at the least, a trial period. Perhaps if I told you that after quitting nightshades, I noticed a marked improvement in my skin and have spoken to many others with skin conditions that have experienced the same after quitting, you might be convinced. Celebrity Chef, John Torode’s eczema completely cleared up when he quit them. It is actually the article featuring John Torode and nightshades that made me stop eating them… I had already quit gluten, dairy and sugar, what was one more food group?! I noticed a real improvement in my skin but received solid confirmation that I was sensitive to nightshades was when I accidentally ate some chili at a restaurant - my skin flared for 2 days and it took over a week to return to how it was before. People with arthritis, joint pain and other joint problems, as well as people with gut issues such as IBS also experience an improvement when nightshades are removed from the diet.
A list of the most commonly eaten nightshades;
Cape gooseberry (physalis)
Garden huckleberry (not regular huckleberries)
Goji berries (wolfberry)
Hot peppers inc. pimentos, cayenne pepper
Kutjera (Australian desert raisin)
Pepinos (sweet cucumber)
Potatoes (not sweet potatoes)
I have to admit that giving up nightshades was much harder than giving up gluten or dairy. I used to eat them all the time and at first, struggled to adapt recipes to suit this new way of eating. You’ll even notice that some on the list are actually superfoods but if you have sensitivity, or think you might, you’ll soon join me in realising that eating nightshades just isn’t worth the pain, inflammation and setback, however super they are.
If you notice increased inflammation, be in your joints, gut or on your skin after eating any one of these foods, perhaps it’s worth not eating them for a month. Just see if there’s any improvement… what’s the worst that could happen?!
Be sure to check the labels of any packaged foods for things like potato starch, or any derivative of the list above.
NB: Tobacco is also in the nightshade family.
It is thought to be the alkaloid, or glycoalkaloid and lectin content of the nightshade family which causes harm to those who are sensitive. Read this post by The Paleo Mom for a detailed explanation.
I'd love to know about your experience with nightshades - do you notice a difference when you eat or avoid them?