Nightshade fruits and vegetables are a broad group of plants from the solanum and capsicum families. Nightshade plants contain poisons, one called solanine. While ingesting nightshade plants can be fatal, fruits and vegetables in this same classification of plant — many of which you’ll find at your local grocery store — are actually safe to eat.
This is because the amount of this toxic compound is lowered to nontoxic levels once the fruits and vegetables ripen. Still, the leaves and berries of the deadly nightshade plant are toxic and shouldn’t be consumed.
Find out exactly which of the nightshades are the most nutritious.
Tomatoes are a staple of many diets for numerous reasons. In addition to how easy they are to grow, they’re also packed with nutrition. This fruit is high in vitamins A and C, and is also a good source of iron, potassium, vitamin B-6, manganese, and dietary fiber.
According to Penn State University’s Extension program, current research suggests that tomatoes contain carotenoids, powerful antioxidants that protect the body from certain types of cancers. Lycopene, the most common carotenoid found in tomatoes, may help reduce the risk for pancreatic, prostate, and digestive cancers.
Try this fresh-from-the-garden tomato soup to warm you up on a cold day.
Potatoes are one of the most abundantly grown foods used in the Western world. They’re also part of the perennial nightshade family that can be mildly poisonous when eaten before they’re ripe, while the skin is still green.
Potatoes are great sources of vitamin C, which helps aid immunity. They also contain enough potassium, vitamin B-6, and fiber to make a healthier staple than you may realize. Moreover, they contain carotenoids, flavonoids, and caffeic acid, all forms of phytonutrients known to promote health benefits, according to the USDA.
There are also many different types of varieties, which have different health benefits. Potatoes are rich in vitamins A, B, C, and E, along with iron and zinc. They provide an easy way to get necessary, critical amounts of nutrients for people living in developing worlds.
Potatoes aren’t as healthy when they’re prepared with high amounts of fats, salts, and oils, like french fries. Because nothing beats a homestyle staple, try this take on roast potatoes.
Bell peppers are one of the tastiest snacks in the nightshade family. You can slice them up and dip them in hummus, add them to a stir fry, or try making this bell pepper farro salad.
Hot peppers may be nightshades, but like the sun they can bring some heat. And if your tongue can endure the burn, these fiery devils contain good nutrients.
Common hot peppers — like jalapenos, serrano peppers, and red or green chilies — are good sources of vitamin C, vitamin A, and potassium.
Capsaicin, what helps give spicy peppers their kick, has been shown to decrease inflammation, which can help people with joint disorders walk with less pain.
If you want something sweet with your spice, try making these chili-chocolate dipped cherries.
Eggplant is a good source of manganese, a mineral important for both development and metabolism. Additionally, according to researchers, eggplant contains natural antioxidants that can help protect your skin from the oxidative stress of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation.
Because of their meaty texture when cooked, they’re popular among vegetarians — think eggplant parmesan — as well as with vegans.
Whip together this curried okra and eggplant to try something with a bit of Mediterranean flair.
The tomatillo is a nightshade that grows in a husk and is similar to a tomato. Common in Central and South America, it’s a staple of Mexican green sauces and can be boiled, fried, or steamed.
While not as nutritiously plentiful as your garden-variety red tomato, they contain antioxidants and can help you sneak some extra fiber into your diet without adding in too many extra calories.
Check out a healthy tomatillo salsa or better yet a roasted tomatillo chicken rice bowl packed with protein and fiber.
To find fresh goji berries, you’ll have to visit a Chinese plantation. But they’re also typically found at specialty food stores in dried form, sometimes labeled as wolfberries.
Goji berries contain protein and numerous healthy amino acids such as tyramine. They’re high in antioxidants, which help immune function and cell health. If you’re trying them for the first time, know that it’s possible to be allergic to them. You’ll want to stop eating them should you develop a rash or become ill.
To get more beneficial nightshades in your diet, try adding goji berries into this double berry cobbler.
Blueberries contain solanine alkaloid like nightshade plants, though they aren’t technically a nightshade plant. Blueberries are often touted as a superfood because many believe they contain cancer-preventing ingredients. They’re high in antioxidants, which are known to reduce inflammation. With that in mind, blueberries are thought to prevent inflammatory diseases such as metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and cardiovascular disease.
According to researchers at the Gerontological Society of America, evidence from recent studies show that blueberries contain flavonoids, specifically one called anthocyanin, that’s directly associated with cognitive benefits.
A cup of blueberries provides a quarter of your daily vitamin C needs, as well as supplying some dietary fiber. The fiber, when combined with probiotics in yogurt, can keep your gastrointestinal tract in good working order.
For a healthy morning burst of blueberry bliss, try this blueberry and spinach smoothie.