Anti-inflammatory diet: Keri Glassman explains what to eat
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Whether it’s a jacket potato smothered with butter or roasted tomatoes on a fry-up plate, these two plants are some of the most popular vegetable and fruit options. Roasted, baked, fried or just chopped, they land themselves for a variety of recipes and meals. However, these favourites belong under a category of nightshades that might flare-up painful symptoms for some people, according to an expert.
From colourful bell peppers to beige potatoes, nightshades are the plants from the Nightshade (Solanaceae) family.
Elena Holmes, an expert in Nutritional Therapy from Plant-based Health Professionals, said: “The fruits from nightshades – tomatoes, bell peppers, aubergines and spices, such as hot chillies and paprika – are among the most common ingredients in many cuisines.”
These ingredients are often referred to as vegetables because their culinary profile makes them seem like good savoury options but the expert shared they are actually fruits.
Despite some of them being fruits and others vegetables, they have one thing in common – they contain alkaloids with the prominent one being solanine.
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Plants produce alkaloids to protect themselves from insects, which means that these compounds can be dangerous in large doses.
In fact, there are many other plants in the nightshade family like tobacco that are poisonous to humans.
While fruits and vegetables sold in supermarkets don’t contain such high amounts and most of the population doesn’t have any issue with low amounts of alkaloids, there’s no “one-size-fits-all” approach with nightshades, according to the expert.
Holmes said: “Some people who suffer from inflammatory diseases (arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, etc.) notice that eating these vegetables worsens their inflammatory symptoms.”
Worryingly, nightshades can act as fuel for painful symptoms, like joint pain, redness, swelling, nausea or indigestion, in people targeted by inflammation.
Holmes continued: “Some react to all nightshades, some just to one or two types. It happens because these people are sensitive to alkaloids.”
While you might find that nightshades make your symptoms worse, the fruits and vegetables themselves don’t trigger inflammation.
“They may just cause a flare-up where inflammation already exists, therefore, nightshades do not pose any health risks because the alkaloid content in them is usually negligible.”
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Furthermore, preparation methods that use heat – think cooking, baking, and steaming – can help reduce the solanine content.
If you start noticing that your inflammatory health conditions worsen after nightshades, it might be time to ditch them.
Holmes said: “If a person notices a flare-up of their symptoms after having eaten a nightshade, and conversely notices an improvement when they cut that food out, they should avoid eating these vegetables or considerably cut down their consumption.”
However, healthy people can continue enjoying the likes of potatoes and tomatoes and even reap some benefits.
The expert said: “All nightshades are chock-full of vitamin C, gut-healthy dietary fibre, and innumerable antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients.”
Tomatoes are packed with lycopene, which is known for its anti-inflammatory powers linked to a lower risk of cancer, while bell peppers “burst” with yet another antioxidant, beta-carotene.
Furthermore, potatoes are rich in potassium and metabolism-supporting vitamin B6, while hot chillies and paprika contain numerous carotenoids and anti-inflammatory compounds.
But for those who notice problems after consuming these fruits and vegetables, you can always try cooking them to reduce solanine content or simply ditch them and opt for other produce.
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