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What are nightshades?

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watch for hidden nightshades

Nightshades are plants of the genus Solanum including popular culinary ingredients such as potatoes, tomatoes, bell and spicy peppers, and eggplants. Those with a nightshade allergy may react to the toxins nicotine (yes, that nicotine) and glycoalkaloids (saponins) which inhibit an enzyme called acetyl cholinesterase. This enzyme is necessary for nerve impulse conduction. Chili peppers also contain capsaicin, which provides "heat" when these peppers are eaten.

Nightshades should never be eaten raw as in their natural (raw) state they are up to 50% higher in harmful alkaloids. This is what causes green potatoes, for example. Always cook nightshades thoroughly.

Nightshades are not presently considered a major allergen. If it is marked on labels at all, it is voluntary and will generally appear in the form "contains potato starch".

Read the label for nightshades

Nightshades can be found in potatoes (in the form "potato starch", "potato flour", etc), tomatoes (in the form "tomato paste", "tomato puree", etc), eggplant, bell peppers, cayenne peppers, chipotle, chili peppers, jalapeno pepper, pimento, serrano peppers, ancho, habanero, salsa, ratatouille, ashwagandha, marinara sauce, ketchup, pizza sauce, pasta sauce, tobacco, tomatillos, and paprika. It also may be hidden in "spices", "natural flavors", curry powder, chili flakes, chili powder, barbecue sauce, and Tabasco (and related) hot sauces.

Nightshade free substitutions

Nightshades tend to be prevalent in Western recipes. If not potatoes, then tomatoes are in everything. Step outside the box to come up with suitable substitutions. Sweet potatoes, yams, turnips, carrots, and parsnips can be treated as potatoes in many recipes. Use riced cauliflower to make "mashed potatoes". Try zucchini or squash in recipes that call for eggplant as they have a similar texture. Instead of spicy peppers in cooking, look toward wasabi, horseradish, ginger, mustard seeds, or even peppercorns to add heat without nightshades.

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