Nightshade Food List : Should You Avoid Them?
Are nightshades overwhelming you? Here’s your complete guide to nightshades featuring a full list, why you may want to avoid them, 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.
List of Inflammatory Nightshade Vegetables & Fruits
Nightshades belong to the Solanaceae family and include thousands of edible and inedible plants.
These are the common nightshades…
- Tomatoes (all varieties, and tomato products like marinara, ketchup, etc.)
- Potatoes (white and red potatoes. However, sweet potatoes are not nightshades.)
- All peppers (bell peppers, jalapeno, chili peppers, and hot peppers)
- Red spices (curry powder, chili powder, cayenne powder, red pepper)
- Goji berries
- Ground cherries (different from regular cherries)
Common foods that are mistaken for nightshades, but are not…
- Zucchini is not a nightshade
- Sweet potato is not a nightshade
- Mushrooms are not nightshades
- Onions are not nightshades
- Black pepper is not a nightshade
Are nightshades inflammatory? Should you avoid them?
Not necessarily. Nightshade vegetables 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.)
Many compounds within nightshade vegetables have been shown to cause inflammation in some cases. For example, potato glycoalkaloids have been shown to impact intestinal permeability and “IBS” issues (source 1), thus, causing digestive distress as well as other related issues. Solanine (which is a glycoalkaloid) and is found in eggplant and potatoes can actually have toxic effects if eaten in excessive amounts (source 2).
Also, saponins which are found in nightshades have been shown to impair digestion and limit nutrient uptake (source 3).
Finally, capsaicin which an alkaloid found in peppers is often known to have anti-inflammatory properties, but it has also been shown to have the opposite effect (source 4).
Thus, not every food will have the same effect on every person, but there is reason to consider nightshade intolerance if certain symptoms and concerns are already an issue.
What are the common symptoms of nightshade intolerance?
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
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.
Many nightshade ingredients hide in otherwise healthful foods. Here’s how to spot them…
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
- Sausage and hot dogs (these almost always have paprika)
- Breakfast sausages
- Anything spicy… I just automatically assume there’s some nightshade in there
Tomatoes hide in…
- Vegetable broth
- Seasonings (Italian blends and others will often have tomato)
How do you substitute nightshades in recipes?
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…
How to make substitutions for tomatoes…
- Substitutes for the marinara sauce. Make yourself homemade Nomato sauce!
- Substitute for chili. I’ve got you covered there with this instant pot nomato chili!
- Substitute for enchiladas. 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!
- Nightshade free lasagna Lasagna. This one pot lasagna skillet is grain-free, dairy-free, and nightshade-free! Hallelujah!
How to make substitutions for eggplant…
- Zucchini. Zucchini is a similar texture for eggplant and can be a good swap! These zucchini fries are similar-ish to eggplant parmesan! Try these Zucchini fries.
How to make substitutions for potatoes…
- Sweet Potatoes
How to make substitutions for red spices…
- 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
- Black pepper is also a seed spice (not AIP) but it’s not 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 turmeric chicken curry recipe is one of my favorites and features a nightshade-free curry.
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!
This article was originally published in August 2018 and was updated in December of 2019.