Sometimes even vegetables get a bad rap
Sergey Fatin/Shutterstock Take the nightshade vegetables, or Solanaceae, a plant family that includes eggplant, peppers, potatoes, and tomatoes. (The term “nightshade” may have been coined because some of these plants prefer to grow in shady areas, and some flower at night.) An online search for “nightshade vegetables” yields results linking them to a host of health ailments, from arthritis to migraines. Naturopaths sometimes recommend that people with arthritis avoid nightshades. And Patricia J. Wales, a naturopathic doctor in Calgary, says naturopaths may suggest that people with osteoarthritis eliminate nightshades. These vegetables are also excluded from certain eating plans. Dr. Joshi’s Holistic Detox—endorsed by Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Moss—claims nightshades are related to poison ivy and potentially poisonous. “But poison ivy isn’t even in the same plant family,” explains Barry Micallef, a plant biochemistry expert at the University of Guelph. Try this delicious Herbed Eggplant Lasagna.
Why the bad reputation? Some people may think nightshade vegetables are harmful because they’re confusing them with “deadly nightshade” or Atropa belladonna, an inedible weed that’s also part of the Solanaceae family, explains Micallef. Historically, the deadly nightshade has been associated with witchcraft. When ingested in large amounts, it may cause convulsions or even death. But that has nothing to do with these vegetables. Read on to learn the myths about these vegetables that simply aren’t true. Plus, check out more myths about food you need to stop believing.
Nightshades contribute to osteoporosis
Alfa Photostudio/Shutterstock Doubtful. Certain macrobiotic diets recommend that people with health challenges avoid nightshade vegetables and that even healthy people should eat them infrequently, says Judy MacKenney, a counselor at the Kushi Institute, a macrobiotic educational institute in Becket, Massachusetts. “Nightshades are high in oxalic acid,” she claims, “which inhibits the absorption of calcium, and can weaken bones and lead to osteoporosis.” But Stephanie Atkinson, a member of the scientific advisory committee for Osteoporosis Canada, says that while oxalates are known to bind calcium in the intestine, reducing calcium absorption, this occurs only when calcium intakes are very low and oxalate intakes very high. Nightshades, however, are not high in oxalic acid, she says. “The alkali contributed by vegetables and fruits is beneficial for bones, as it protects them from using bone to neutralize blood acid.” These are the things that happen to your body when you don’t get enough fruits and vegetables.