The Truth About Nightshadesby Tracy Davenport, Ph.D. Health Writer
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 one of his commercials, 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 decrease the risk of cancer, osteoporosis, and cardiovascular disease. The National Institutes of Health, Mayo Clinic, and American Diabetes Association all recommend an 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 vegetables most strongly associated with a reduced risk of chronic disease.
According to Eleanor Baker, M.S., R.D., registered dietitian in 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 digestive 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.