What is the difference between a nightshade and a lamp shade? Well first of all, a lamp shade is exactly what it sounds like – a shade for a lamp; I’m sure we are all familiar with those, right? A nightshade on the other hand isn’t something that can be broken down into separate words and logically defined. If that were the case, it would be a shade for the night. Huh? Somehow that doesn’t make a lot of sense. So what is it then?
Nightshades are a classification of foods and spices that tend to grow in shady areas. Some of them even prefer to flower at night, or in the “shade” of the “night”, which is one of the theories about how they got their name, but the truth is still up for debate! I suppose it does make sense after all if you look at it that way, but if you research further, you’ll see the name becomes more and more confusing!
Notwithstanding their name, what is even more confusing is their effect on weight loss. Some people can include nightshades in their diet with no apparent issue whatsoever, yet others blow up like a balloon and gain 5 lbs just by looking at them! What’s up with that?
Here are some common nightshade foods that you probably even have in your regular grocery order. They are nutrient dense and have lots of positive attributes listed below:
Potatoes (does not include sweet potatoes and yams)
Blood sugar control, reduced heart disease, immunity
Tomatoes and Tomatillos (includes tomato based condiments and sauces like ketchup, salsa and marinara sauce)
Reduced risk of heart disease and cancer
Peppers (includes bell peppers, hot peppers and spices and sauces made from hot peppers like cayenne pepper, paprika, chili and pepper, but does not include black pepper)
Eye health, improved digestion, anemia prevention, reduced hunger, reduced pain
Bone health, improved digestion, weight loss
Nightshades are classified according to a specific ingredient they contain called solanine, which is said to be responsible for the adverse effects some might experience when consuming these vegetables and plant derivatives, but research is very inconclusive. Regardless of research, the effects sometimes speak for themselves, and the presence of nightshades in some people’s diets has been shown to cause inflammation and swelling, joint pain, stiffness, decreased mobility, digestive upset and overall extreme discomfort.
When it comes to reactions from nightshades in the diet, although they might go unnoticed for most people, they might actually be hindering your weight loss efforts. If we consider the symptoms they are suspected to cause, all of the symptoms mentioned can prevent or decrease weight loss for the following reasons:
Inflammation and swelling: when inflammation is present, the body naturally tries to fight the inflammation. When the body is under this type of stress, it isn’t as capable of multi-tasking (so to speak), and a lot of its efforts go towards reducing the inflammation. Inflammation and swelling of the body’s tissues will also affect how insulin works in the body, causing the body to produce more insulin to stabilize blood sugar. More insulin leads to insulin resistance, which ultimately leads to weight gain.
Joint pain, stiffness, decreased mobility and discomfort: pain and discomfort often lead to medication, but even if no medication is used, the pain can prevent some kinds of activity. Let’s take exercise for example. If you are in pain, you might not be uncomfortable enough to stay home from work, but odds are you won’t feel like doing a HIIT class or lifting weights. When it comes to medication, you might luck out and end up pain free, but the side effects of the drugs might have adverse effects on your weight and health in general.
Digestive upset: if you have any pre-existing conditions in your gut, the solanine in nightshades has been said to exacerbate these effects due to something called leaky gut syndrome. Leaky gut syndrome is increased permeability of the intestinal wall, which allows toxins to leak through the wall and into the bloodstream! Eek! This affects nutrient absorption, constipation, diarrhea, and can even cause headaches! While leaky gut doesn’t directly cause weight gain, it does upset the microbiome of the gut, which causes nutritional deficiencies and food sensitivities that can increase inflammation and consequently contribute to weight gain!
If you suspect nightshades might be slowing down your weight loss, consider cutting them out of your diet for a full 4 weeks. When 4 weeks is up, try adding them back in one at a time for 1-2 weeks each and watch for the effects. For further assistance, considering working with your doctor to address any symptoms present.
Whether or not you are going to try nightshade elimination, please try these fat burning, anti inflammatory, nightshade-free recipes. Not only will they help fight inflammation, they will kick start your metabolism and get you on the path to success!
Other photos are by FitproRecipes – Used with permission
Guest Author Bio
Kathryn Morrow, MSc is a weight loss expert who specializes in leading a balanced life through dieting and nutrition. For more information on nightshades or elimination dieting, or for more fat burning recipes, connect with Kathryn at KGM Nutrition.