Dietitians Want You to Stop Fearing Nightshades

Go forth into summer by eating all the damn tomatoes you want

a white platter filled with grilled vegetables, including nightshades, on a wooden table
Yes, this plate of food is extremely good for you
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Back in 2016, everyone went into a tizzy over Tom Brady and Gisele Bündchen’s diet. An interview with the then-couple’s personal chef went viral because they didn’t eat bread (really?), sugar (why?) or nightshades (wtf is a nightshade?). Although a diet consisting of 80% vegetables and whole grains and 20% lean meats and fish is healthy — albeit joyless — why is an entire class of fruits and veggies, aka those nightshades, shunned by Brady? According to their chef, Allen Campbell, “[Tom] doesn’t eat nightshades, because they’re not anti-inflammatory. So no tomatoes, peppers…or eggplants. Tomatoes trickle in every now and then, but just maybe once a month.” 

I don’t know about you, but if I’m not eating a tomato every day during the months of August and September, I’m pissed. When the news of this diet came out, I, like many, thought it was ridiculous and couldn’t stop making fun of it. So to my absolute delight this morning, I came across an EatingWell article about the anti-inflammatory vegetables dietitians want you to eat. And lo and behold, tomatoes are the very first thing on that list. 

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Peppers, eggplants and white potatoes are also nightshade vegetables and belong to the plant family Solanaceae, which does encompass some inedible, toxic plants like mandrake and tobacco. All nightshades contain small amounts of alkaloid compounds, including solanine, which some people can have a sensitivity to. And if you break out in hives every time you eat a tomato or potato, then you’re probably allergic and probably shouldn’t be eating nightshades. However, unless you’re allergic or sensitive, you can absolutely include these delicious and nutritious veggies in your diet. In fact, according to a Real Simple article, “most Americans don’t even eat enough vegetables, let alone nightshades, to come close to this possibly harmful amount of solanine.”

So yeah, tomatoes are anti-inflammatory. They are packed with lycopene, which can improve LDL cholesterol and the body’s ability to protect against the sun’s harmful rays, and boost cognition and memory. As MindBodyGreen notes, in addition to “neutralizing inflammation-promoting compounds called free radicals, lycopene also blocks the overproduction of inflammatory proteins called cytokines.”

Joan Salge Blake, Ed.D., RDN, the dietitian interviewed for the EatingWell article, says that broccoli, edamame, mushrooms, garlic and carrots should all be part of an anti-inflammatory diet. So maybe forget about the unattainable diets of celebrities, do the best you can to eat as healthy as possible, and enjoy your life with a little bacon and cake every now and then.


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