The Nightshade Family of Foods and Why We Avoid Them

Nightshade is the name of a plant family.  This plant family contains contains common foods such as  tomatoes, all peppers (bell peppers and spicy peppers but not black pepper), eggplant, potatoes (not sweet potatoes), okra, goji berries, ground cherries, gooseberries and tobacco (smoking/chewing and second hand smoke).

While labels such as gluten-free, dairy-free, paleo, whole30, and Trim Healthy Mama, are becoming more and more common to most people, many people still have no idea what it means to be nightshade-free.

Nightshade Foods and Why We Avoid Them
Peppers are a part of the nightshade plant family.

How We Discovered Nightshade-Free Living

Over six years ago we began our real food journey, and soon after realized that Tony’s diet needed to change even further.

Tony has suffered muscle and connective tissue pain and fatigue for as long as he can remember.  He thought it was “normal.”  Through some internet research (thank you Google) we discovered that some people with muscle/connective tissue disorders like arthritis, chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia are helped by eating a nightshade-free diet.  If you want more information, HERE is a great article.

Thankfully within a week of changing his diet, Tony’s symptoms began to improve greatly!

Removing Nightshade Foods from Our Diet

Eliminating nightshade foods from our diet required learning where they “hide.”

Many good real foods are a part of this plant family, so even a real food diet poses some challenges, especially when considering spices and condiments.

  • Green olives are often stuffed with pimentos, pimentos are in the nightshade family.
  • Paprika and chili powder are made from peppers and are in many spice blends, like Mexican and Italian spice mixes and curry powder.  Paprika is often hidden in ranch seasoning.
  • Any prepackaged food with the word “spices” in the ingredient list probably contains nightshade foods.  Even a basic salad dressing, mayonnaise or mustard contains paprika.
  • Also, those living with someone who is sensitive to nightshades will need to be careful about cross contamination in the kitchen…using  separate cutting board for nightshade foods and possibly washing nightshade contaminated items separately.  We have decided to just be completely nightshade free at home because it is easier!

Eating in restaurants, as guests in other people’s homes and at potlucks becomes a problem for those sensitive to nightshade foods.  Many foods will appear safe but are contaminated with spices or cross contaminated in the kitchens of restaurants.

Second-hand smoke can also cause major problems for those sensitive to nightshades.  Even a few minutes of exposure to second-hand smoke can cause days of painful symptoms.  Unfortunately, avoiding exposure is not always possible.

Thankfully, we do not have to worry about a severe anaphylactic reaction due to accidental exposure.  Tony experiences a few days of muscle, bone and joint pain as well as fatigue.

Do you have any food allergies or sensitivities?  How do you deal with them?

Nightshade Foods and Why We Avoid Them