what are nightshade vegetables and why are they bad?
Contrary to popular belief, cucumber is not considered a nightshade vegetable.

Contrary to popular belief, cucumber is not a nightshade vegetable. Nightshade vegetables include a vegetable group belonging to the Solanaceae family and encompass a whole family of flowering plants.

  • Cucumber belongs to the squash or gourd family called Cucurbitaceae (also called cucurbits).
  • The wild variants of this family are known for their unpleasant bitter taste.
  • However, domestically cultivated plants of the Cucurbitaceae family, such as cucumber, melon, squash, pumpkins, and watermelon, produce non-bitter variants.

Water and high temperature are crucial for the domestic cultivation of cucumber and melons. Vegetables produced under high stress, such as drought or low temperature, can increase the bitterness of cucumber and melons.

What are nightshade vegetables?

Nightshade vegetables have disrepute due to their name being associated with inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis. Several nutritious vegetables and fruits are included in this category.

The exact reason behind the name “nightshade” is unknown. However, one theory suggests that because these plants were grown in the shade and bloomed at night, they may have been named accordingly.

14 nightshade fruits and vegetables

  1. Tomatoes (fruits)
  2. Peppers (capsicums, all varieties)
  3. Eggplant (aubergine, fruits)
  4. Potatoes (all varieties except for sweet potatoes)
  5. Tomatillos (fruits)
  6. Husk cherries
  7. Huckleberries
  8. Pimento (fruits)
  9. Paprika (spices)
  10. Cayenne pepper
  11. Chilis
  12. Chili powder (spices)
  13. Goji Berries (fruits)
  14. Tobacco

What are some of the vegetables that are commonly misunderstood as nightshades?

Here are 7 vegetables that people often misunderstood as nightshades but are not actually under that category:

  1. Black pepper
  2. Coffee
  3. Cucumbers
  4. Garlic
  5. Spinach
  6. Sweet potatoes
  7. Zucchini

Why are nightshades considered harmful?

Nightshades are considered harmful mainly due to alkaloids (such as solanine) and lectins (carbohydrate-binding proteins).

  • Several dietitians urge to eliminate nightshades from the diet because they exacerbate inflammation. However, there is no reliability behind such claims.
  • Most plants in this family are loaded with nutrients and have several vital elements necessary to boost immunity.

One of the recommended diets plans, the Mediterranean diet, includes most fruits and vegetables belonging to the nightshade family.

Nevertheless, if you experience worsening arthritis symptoms, you may exclude them from your diet and re-introduce them to identify if they are responsible for your symptoms.

If you are definite that these plants are causing the symptoms, you can exclude them from your diet to prevent aggravation.

What are ways to reduce the alkaloid content in the nightshades?

If you are disturbed about the alkaloid content in the nightshade vegetables, you can try out the following methods to reduce some:

  • Peel out the potato skin where maximum alkaloids are present
  • Baking the potatoes can alleviate the alkaloid content further than boiling or steaming
  • Store potatoes in a dark, cool place to prevent them from creating more alkaloids before you eat them

You can include nightshades in various popular dishes, including:

  • Salsa
  • Bruschetta
  • Tomato soup
  • Gazpacho
  • Pasta with tomato sauce
  • Baked potatoes
  • French fries
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Potato salad
  • Hash browns
  • Scalloped potatoes
  • Stuffed bell peppers
  • Baba ghanoush
  • Eggplant parmesan

QUESTION

According to the USDA, there is no difference between a “portion” and a “serving.” See Answer

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Medically Reviewed on 12/21/2021
References
Image Source: iStock Images

WebMD. What to Know About Nightshade Vegetables. https://www.webmd.com/diet/what-to-know-about-nightshade-vegetables#2-5

Chen X-Y. Bitter but tasty cucumber. National Science Review. June 2015; 2(2): 129-130. https://academic.oup.com/nsr/article/2/2/129/1409242

Arthritis Foundation. The Truth About Nightshades and Arthritis. http://blog.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/nightshades-arthritis/