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Nightshades: Hype Or Health?

Nina Ghamrawi, MS, RD, CDE
March 9, 2024
March 9, 2024

Nightshades are a category of plants, specifically ones that contain high amounts of certain natural compounds, called alkaloids. Alkaloids are secondary metabolites that plants produce as a defense mechanism against herbivores and insects.

Nightshades include tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and potatoes, and are typically considered part of a balanced and nutritious diet.  They provide essential nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

The decision to avoid nightshades is highly individual and depends on personal health conditions, sensitivities, and anecdotal experiences. Some people choose to avoid nightshades due to:

1. Sensitivity or Allergy

Some individuals may experience adverse reactions to nightshades due to sensitivity or allergies. Symptoms can include digestive issues, skin rashes, or other allergic responses. In such cases, avoiding nightshades may be recommended to prevent discomfort.

2. Autoimmune Conditions

Certain dietary approaches, such as the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) diet, recommend eliminating nightshades for individuals with autoimmune conditions. The rationale is based on the idea that compounds found in nightshades, such as lectins and solanine, may contribute to inflammation in some individuals with autoimmune disorders.

3. Alkaloids Content

Nightshades contain natural compounds called alkaloids, including solanine. Some individuals believe that these alkaloids may have negative effects on health, although scientific evidence supporting this is limited. Alkaloids are produced by plants as a natural defense mechanism.

4. Joint Pain or Arthritis

There are anecdotal reports suggesting that nightshades may contribute to joint pain or arthritis symptoms in some individuals. However, scientific research on this topic is inconclusive, and more studies are needed to establish a clear link.

5. Personal Sensitivity

Individuals may choose to avoid nightshades based on personal experiences of digestive discomfort or other symptoms after consuming these foods. However, such sensitivities can vary widely from person to person.


While some people may find relief from specific health issues by avoiding nightshades, there is currently limited scientific evidence supporting the widespread elimination of nightshades for general health. Instead, talk with a Dietitian about your overall nutritional needs, preferences, and symptoms to figure out the root cause.

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