Enjoy Not-So-Deadly Nightshades

Some argue that nightshades like peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplant are bad for your health, but science suggests otherwise.

When Gisele Bundchen and Tom Brady's private chef, Allen Campbell, revealed that the couple eats no gluten, dairy, sugar, caffeine, or nightshades, many of us were left scratching our heads. Sure, a gluten-, dairy-, and sugar- free diet makes sense for a couple with two of the most toned bodies on the planet, but what exactly do they have against vegetables like tomatoes and eggplants?

Nightshades include some of the most beloved veggies, technically classified as Solanaceae. Most nightshades, like tobacco, aren't edible; some are even downright deadly. For instance, beware the beautiful belladonna plant, as just a few of these nightshade's berries are enough to kill you. But peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, and chillies are also members of this vegetable family and contain an abundance of nutrients.

Peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplant are among the best end-of-summer bounty from the farmer's market. Here are some important health tips and myths to keep in mind when enjoying vegetables in the nightshade family.

Why Say No to Nightshades?

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So why do Bundchen, Brady, and followers of the macrobiotic diet choose to eat little to no nightshade vegetables? Allen Campbell says Brady goes without nightshades because they aren't anti-inflammatory. However, many nutritionists don't exactly agree. Tomatoes and peppers are full of vitamin C and lycopene, which are known to reduce inflammation and promote healing in the body. The problem lies in the alkaloids found in nightshades.

Some people have no problem digesting alkaloids, while others aren't able to break them down at all. Similar to drinking milk when you're lactose intolerant, eating nightshades when your body can't digest alkaloids can cause bloating, cramping, and more severe digestive issues.

Nightshades are often said to cause inflammation, but there's no scientific evidence that clearly supports that claim. Inflammation can cause aching joints and even arthritis, but not everyone who cuts out nightshades experiences relief from these symptoms. In fact, studies have found that the vitamins and minerals in many nightshades can actually improve the symptoms of arthritis. The Arthritis Foundation even goes so far as calling it a myth that nightshades aggravate inflammation and pain in the joints; they actually suggest eating vegetables like purple potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplants to improve symptoms.

The Bottom Line On Nightshades

Nightshades that are actually edible, like peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplants, are full of nutrients, making them good for your health. Go ahead and enjoy them, but make sure can actually digest them.

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How Do You Check If Nightshades Are Giving You Digestive Issues?

Try going for thirty days without eating any nightshades and see if you notice any positive changes. You may experience improvements in bowel movements, energy, or mood, less bloating, or relief from joint pain. If you feel better after cutting them out, it's likely you have a sensitivity to alkaloids and should give up nightshades completely.

If you don't notice any changes to your health, there are a variety of delicious ways to add nightshades back into your diet. Try making your own ratatouille or caponata. These traditional recipes incorporate some of the tastiest nightshades like eggplant, tomatoes, and peppers.