What do tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and eggplant have in common with tobacco? They are all part of the Nightshade family. Many salads call for their use, including the Middle Eastern eggplant dish Baba Ghanoush, however, despite their various healthy attributes, these vegetables need to be consumed carefully since they can have a negative impact.
As a general rule this group is not unhealthy for everyone. Nevertheless, it is important to be aware of their possible effect. As with most foods, when consumed in moderate amounts these vegetables are healthy, but produce glycoalkaloids that can be toxic in large amounts.
The leaves, stems and flowers of these vegetables should be avoided, and it is equally important to eat them only when they are fully ripe. The spots of green on their skin indicate a higher concentration of alkaloids, except in the case of the tomatillo. This is a nightshade which has no relation to the tomato, and that remains green even when.
Who would have thought such an innocent looking plant could have such a powerful impact?
A medicine and a poison
One of the other members of this family is the plant belladonna. This has long been known to be highly toxic, in fact lethal as a result of the high levels of various alkaloids it contains. Despite its poisonous effect, in small doses it can be used as a pain killer and can relieve certain gastrointestinal conditions.
Large amounts of these vegetables can cause problems for certain people. One such effect can be digestive distress, meaning that those with sensitive digestive tracts would do well to avoid large quantities of nightshades.
There are also those who believe that there is a connection between nightshades and arthritis, where the nightshades draw calcium from the bones and place them in the soft tissues of the body. Research in this area is not conclusive, however many people suffering from arthritis find partial relief when they withdraw nightshades from their diets.
It is important to realise that just because a plant can have a negative impact does not mean that it is completely unhealthy. Eating unripe tomatoes can cause problems, but tomatoes can also be used in sunscreen to protect your health.
More ingredients to be wary of:
Chemicals Colouring Our Food – A Rainbow to Avoid
Is Margarine Your Best Choice?
The Toxic Touch of Beauty Products – 7 Chemicals to Avoid