Are nightshades overwhelming you? Here’s your complete guide to nightshades featuring why they matter, a full list, and substitution recipes!
Nightshade vegetables seem like healthy, nutrient-dense additions to any diet. Tomato is known as a cancer fighter, bell peppers are commended for their nutrient density, and eggplant is a common low carb swap. However, not everyone can tolerate nightshade vegetables and many deal with inflammation and aggravation of chronic illness as a result of eating nightshades.
With all of the healing that I’ve been able to do in the past several years, one thing has always eluded me… nightshades. Nightshades have been one of the single hardest things to reintroduce into my diet. Not only are they delicious, but they’re crazy sneaky! It’s not always obvious if there’s potato starch in a gluten-free bread or paprika in a breakfast sausage. You have to be incredibly aware of what you’re eating, and how your body is acting.
My nightshade intolerance was so inconvenient that I just wanted to ignore it. However, constantly adding fuel to the inflammation fire is not a great practice for those with inflammatory illnesses. As much as I didn’t want to, I became hyper-aware of nightshades, my symptoms, and learned all about what they and why they matter.
My awareness of nightshades has been transformative for healing my Hashimoto’s and getting my gut health and inflammation under control, and that’s why I’m sharing it with you!
List of Inflammatory Nightshade Vegetables & Fruits
Nightshades belong to the Solanaceae family and include thousands of edible and inedible plants.
Here are the common edible nightshades…
- Tomatoes: All varieties
- Potatoes: White and red potatoes, but not sweet potatoes
- Peppers: Bell peppers, chili peppers, and any red spices
- Goji berries
Are Nightshades Inflammatory for everyone? Why would you want to avoid them?
Not necessarily. Nightshades do have a lot of nutrient density on their own and can be a healthy part of a balanced diet for many. By no means would I ever suggest that the human race as a whole needs to go nightshade free!
However, nightshades are known to be inflammatory for many and can flare up joint issues, digestive symptoms, and other inflammatory diseases. Those with the following conditions are certain groups of people that may have nightshade issues…
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Any joint issues
- Digestive issues or “IBS”
- Autoimmune disease (hashimoto’s, graves, etc.)
Have one of these conditions but don’t feel like you have nightshade issues? I was in the same boat. I didn’t particularly feel a difference when I ate tomatoes, so why would I avoid them?
Not having an obvious reaction to an inflammatory food is common, and doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not inflammatory for you. What can happen is that our body can be so inflamed that we just don’t notice the nuances anymore. That’s why elimination diets like the autoimmune protocol are the gold standard for nailing down food intolerance as they allow your body the chance to anti-inflame so you can actually determine whether or not you have a reaction when you reintroduce the food.
What do nightshade intolerance symptoms look like?
Everyone is different and your symptoms will vary. But typically, you can look out for these symptoms…
- Joint pain
- Skin flares
- Digestive distress
- Flares to any preexisting conditions
Where do nightshades hide?
I’ve grown very accustomed to finding where the heck all of those sneaky nightshades are hiding after having entirely too many
Potato starch hides in…
- Gluten-free bread, pizza crust, crackers, and baked goods
- Some soups or other products with a thickener
Nightshade spices hide in…
- Most Mexican food (sad face)
- Sausage and hot dogs (these almost always have paprika)
- Breakfast sausage
- Anything spicy… I just automatically assume there’s some nightshade in there
- Veggie broth
- Seasonings (Italian blends and others will often have tomato)
How do you substitute nightshades in recipes?
So does being nightshade free mean that you have to live without the flavors forever? Absolutely not! There are so many ways to fake it. Here are some of my favorite substitutes for nightshade heavy dishes…
Coming from an Italian family, my dad always used to joke that spaghetti sauce ran through his veins. Uh… ditto. I love marinara sauce, but it really doesn’t love me back. I went a few months being nightshade free until I discovered nomato sauce! Yup… tomato sauce made tomato free.
Tomato based dishes
Let’s talk about tomato-heavy dishes like Italian and Mexican fare… I got you covered!
How the heck do you make chili without nightshades?! Oh… I’ve got you covered there with this instant pot nomato chili!
This zucchini chicken enchilada casserole comes with a nightshade-free enchilada sauce, which is not something you see every day at your local Mexican restaurant!
This one pot lasagna skillet is grain free, dairy free, and nightshade free! Hallelujah!
Zucchini is a similar texture for eggplant and can be a good swap! These zucchini fries are similar-ish to eggplant parmesan!
Yep, sweet potatoes are SAFE for those of us with nightshade issues! They’re not a member of the family, but have a lot of the same qualities. Here are some of my favorite recipes…
Jicama is often referred to as a Mexican potato. I like to describe it as a mix between a potato and an apple. Starchy, but crunchy! They’re also high in prebiotic fiber which feeds our good gut bacteria.
Another amazing potato sub for making chips, fries, and more!
Cumin is a seed spice (so, not AIP) that’s nightshade free and has a great kick to it. One thing to note is that it’s green! I’ve made chili with cumin before and watched it turn green and was super confused… it’s the cumin!
Black pepper is also a seed spice (not AIP) but it’s not a nightshade and is always a great swap to add spice.
I’m constantly using turmeric to swap for red spices. It adds color, a bit of spice, and tons of flavor! This bang bang shrimp recipe is one of my favorites and features a nightshade-free bang bang sauce.
Can nightshades intolerance be healed?
It’s 100% possible. It all depends on how your body heals, and your own bio-individuality. For someone like me, I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to reintroduce nightshades. I just have such a gnarly reaction to red spices, peppers, and potatoes. However, tomato is the one nightshade that I can be slightly flexible in moderation.
Many people do reintroduce nightshades, but it really just depends. It may not be in the cards for everyone, but there certainly is hope! Following an elimination protocol that allows for healing and slow reintroduction like the autoimmune protocol is an amazing way to tackle this.
Regardless, I hope this list helped you see how much opportunity there is to substitute nightshades, and how to live with the intolerance!