Tom Brady, quarterback for the New England Patriots, is a mastermind when it comes to embracing the latest science around peak performance. What comes out of his TB12 Sports Therapy Center is often thoughtful and cutting edge. In a recent commercial, he is heard disrespecting a group of vegetables known as nightshades. He and other diet experts have branded these vegetables as causing inflammation and have recommended that we avoid consuming them. However, there is very little research to back up this claim. These villainized veggies might actually help certain conditions such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Here is what you should know.
Tomatoes, peppers, potatoes and eggplants (as well as tobacco) all belong to the same botanical family known as nightshades. The Latin name for this family of plants is solanaceae because all of them produce an alkaloid compound called solanine. Because these veggies were long considered toxic, tomatoes were not even eaten in the United States until the early 1800s.
The research actually supports the opposite. This group of vegetables can heal us. For example, according to the Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry tomatoes have been shown to make people healthier and decrease the risk of cancer, osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease. The National Institutes of Health, Mayo Clinic and American Diabetes Association all recommend eggplant-based diet as a choice for management of type 2 diabetes. And, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the red pepper is one of the powerhouse fruits and vegetables most strongly associated with a reduced risk of chronic disease.
According to Eleanor Baker, M.S., registered dietician of Jacksonville, Florida, nightshade vegetables can be part of a safe and healthy diet unless underlying digestive issues are present.
“If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms similar to that of lactose or gluten intolerance, keeping track of your nightshade intake as well as other variables can help to identify any underlying causes,” Baker says. “The majority of people with healthy digestion tracts can safely consume this nutrient produced from the nightshade family.”
Sometimes the more a food myth is repeated, the more believable it becomes. Science-based studies and how you feel after you eat certain foods should always be your guide.
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Tracy Davenport, Ph.D., is a freelance health writer and the C.E.O. of Tracy’s Smoothie Place. She serves as the expert on a weekly radio show about health and wellness and is the author of Making Life Better for a Baby with Acid Reflux and multiple articles about the cost of caregiving. Learn more about Tracy and what healthy living services and products she can offer on her website. She can also be found on Twitter and Instagram @drinksmoothies.