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Health Benefits of Nightshades
Nightshades are a botanical family of plants called Solanaceae. These plants have certain characteristics in common, like the shape of the flower and how the seeds are arranged within the fruit. There are more than 2,000 species in the nightshade family, although the vast majority of which are inedible and many of which are highly poisonous (like deadly nightshade and jimsom weed).
Nightshade vegetables do deliver health benefits. For example, tomato intake has been associated with protection from cardiovascular diseases, cancer, inflammation, oxidative stress and more. Although some benefits are associated with specific phytonutrients, eating the whole fruit has a more protective effect because of the synergistic action among all components within the tomato matrix. That being said, many of the studies conducted evaluating tomato intake compare the effects of tomato consumption and lycopene levels since lycopene is the main (and most famous) carotenoid found in tomatoes. Other studies focus specifically on lycopene. Given that tomatoes provide roughly 85% of total lycopene in the human diet and there is a strong association between tomato intake and lycopene blood concentrations, including tomatoes in our diet also results in benefits associated with lycopene. On average the lycopene content in tomatoes is 8002.5 µg per 100 grams of fresh fruit, with values ranging from 5,020 to 11,110 µg per 100 grams.
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Examples of Nightshades
- Bell peppers (aka sweet peppers)
- Bush tomatoes
- Cape gooseberries (also known as ground cherries—not to be confused with regular cherries)
- Garden huckleberries (not to be confused with regular huckleberries)
- Goji berries (aka wolfberries)
- Hot peppers (such as chili peppers, jalapenos, habaneros, chili-based spices, red pepper, and cayenne pepper)
- Potatoes (but not sweet potatoes)
Nutrients in Nightshades
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Expand to see all scientific references for this article.
Chaudhary, P., A. Sharma, B. Singh, and A.K. Nagpal. 2018. “Bioactivities of phytochemicals present in tomato.” Journal of Food Science and Technology. 55(8):2833-2849. doi:10.1007/s13197-018-3221-z.
García-Alonso, J., R. Gonzalez-Barrio, G. Martín-Pozuelo, et al. 2017. “Study of the prebiotic-like effects of tomato juice consumption in rats with diet-induced non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)”. Food & Function. 8(10). doi:10.1039/C7FO00393E.
Koh, J.H., N. Kim, D. Hwang, and Y.H. Lim. 2013. “Effect of water-soluble fraction of cherry tomatoes on the adhesion of probiotics and Salmonella to intestinal epithelial cells.” Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. 93(15):3897-3900. doi:10.1002/jsfa.6255.
Xia, H., C.Liu, C. Li, et al. 2018. ”Dietary Tomato Powder Inhibits High-Fat Diet–Promoted Hepatocellular Carcinoma with Alteration of Gut Microbiota in Mice Lacking Carotenoid Cleavage Enzymes.” Cancer Prevention Research. 11(12):797-810. doi:10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-18-0188.