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The dark side of potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and co.

Can vegetables be poisonous?

The nightshade botanical family comprises 2,700 species. And what makes it so unique is its natural poison content.

You probably know the warnings about tobacco, deadly nightshade and thorn apple? These are nightshades.

And in addition to these highly toxic representatives, common vegetables also belong to this controversial family of plants.

The "edible" representatives include in particular:

  • potato
  • tomato
  • aubergine
  • Paprika, pepperoni and chilli

In our diet, these vegetable nightshades have become staple foods and have become an indispensable part of today's cuisine.

Hard to imagine how the Romans or the Middle Ages must have eaten? As is well known, the vegetable nightshades first came to Europe with Columbus.

Today tomatoes and peppers enrich many of our dishes with their color and taste.

The rather pale potato can also score with starch and minerals. Potatoes accompany us as jacket potatoes, mashed potatoes, French fries, wedges or dumplings.

Paprika, with its spicy variants, is no less widespread than chilli, cayenne pepper and is omnipresent in curry and spice mixes.

It all comes with a price ..

Because the vegetable nightshades also contain the natural poisons typical of all nightshades. Above all the highly toxic alkaloids.

Alkaloids trigger inflammatory reactions and even fatal poisoning.

The best known is certainly the nicotine of the tobacco plant, atropine of the deadly nightshade or the solanine of our vegetable nightshade with the highest values ​​in eggplant and potato.

How do I recognize poisoning?

Solanine is a neurotoxin that inhibits your cholinesterase. Normally, this enzyme ensures that the stimulus impulses between your nerve cells subside.

Without cholinesterase and with inhibition by solanine, sustained muscle tension and cramps occur. And when you sit for a long time or when you get up in the morning you experience this as muscle hardening and joint stiffness.

In addition, solanine destroys the cell walls in the intestine and, in the worst case, solanine poisoning leads to bloody stool with fatal outcome.

It still goes on:

Even small amounts of solanine damage the intestinal wall. And this daily poisoning opens the door to many other diseases, which we only rarely associate with intestinal damage or consumption of nightshade.

Solanine is also a collective term, because the various vegetable nightshades contain not only solanine but also numerous chemical variants. For example the chaconin in potatoes or tomatin in tomatoes.

Nicotine in vegetables

Another alkaloid of all nightshade plants is nicotine with its considerable addictive potential.

Maybe this addictive substance is also the reason why we eat nightshade everywhere nowadays? After all, we are used to the nicotine of tomatoes and potatoes as children.

In addition to its addictive potential, nicotine also interferes with the physical healing processes. After injuries or operations you should therefore consciously refrain from eating nightshade.

Capsaicin is the alkaloid found in chilli and hot paprika. It is used in anti-inflammatory heat plasters because as an irritant it causes a strong defense reaction with widening of the blood vessels. The heat development is the desired side effect.

Lungs in particular react very strongly to capsaicin, which has already led to deaths after the use of capsaicin pepper sprays. Asthmatics should therefore generally avoid chilli and hot peppers.

Why are Tomatoes the enemy of your joints?

Numerous plants, including tomato and nightshade, contain so-called lectins. These are the plant's natural defense substances and antibodies.

Lectins are attachment molecules that attach themselves to the intestinal wall like burdock and attack it. In insects, but also in your intestines.

Lectins attach themselves directly to your cartilage tissue and are the trigger for pain and inflammation there.

Lectins cause intestinal disorders such as "leaky gut". And they use it to fuel autoimmune diseases such as arthritis, diabetes, MS or Hashimoto.

Lectins are widespread in nature and can be found in fruits, vegetables, grains, but also in animal foods. Because our own antibodies in the blood and liver are also lectins.

Lectins aren't always harmful and context matters. The lectins in the lentil, peanut and pinto bean are even extremely beneficial for blood group A.

Know your risk

We all eat nightshades regularly, but not everyone is equally receptive to the lectins and alkaloids of potatoes and tomatoes.

On the one hand, with an intact intestine and a healthy microbiome, significantly fewer nightshade poisons enter your body. In addition, lectins are very blood group-specific.

The tomato lectins react with the A antigen of blood group A, the B antigen of blood group B, and lead to metabolic disorders and abnormal blood reactions.

The potato lectin, on the other hand, attacks the antigens of blood groups 0 and A, which here also leads to abnormal blood reactions and increased susceptibility to disease.

Paprika and chilli are to be avoided for blood groups A and AB.

Whether you are already affected by nightshade and its toxins can be easily read from your intestinal health. Because the stool of a sick intestine is consistently unformed and loose.

But nightshade poisoning also has numerous secondary consequences such as arthritis, acne, osteoporosis, joint stiffness, weather sensitivity, insomnia and inflammatory diseases, for example of the bladder.

The solution is simple:

Avoid eating potatoes, tomatoes, aubergines and peppers!

How can I replace nightshade plants?

In stores we can find a variety of very healthy vegetables that can replace poisonous nightshades on your plate.

The fatal mistake

Man is very resilient. Especially in his youth, when damaged tissues are immediately replaced by new cells. And so we survive the consumption of nightshade plants for a while without major injuries.

But constant dripping wears away the stone and with age we pay the price. Due to the loss of our intestinal health and a multitude of secondary diseases.

I therefore recommend the following basic rules when dealing with nightshade:

4 basic rules for nightshade

  1. Immature nightshades are to be avoided at all costs, because the toxins decrease with ripening. The red tomatoes, peppers and peppers are therefore always preferable to the green variant.
  2. When shopping, you should pay attention to modern varieties of potatoes, tomatoes or peppers, because old varieties are particularly rich in solanine.
  3. Look out for the hidden nightshades in spice mixes or colored foods that contain paprika powder and tomatoes. Also often found in the small print: Potato starch as a binding agent in sauces or in spreads. And don't forget: vodka is often a potato product too!
  4. Tomato countries like Italy are showing the way: pasta sauces and dishes are not prepared with whole tomatoes but with tomato paste without the skin or seeds.

What should you watch out for with potatoes?

  1. Potatoes should always be peeled well, as most of the poison is in the peel. Accordingly, wedges and jacket potatoes are taboo.
  2. Whenever possible, we should cook potatoes extensively and in plenty of water. The cooking water dissolves some of the poisonous alkaloids and should then be poured off. Cooking the potatoes in slices is ideal, as more solanine can dissolve through these large surfaces of the slices. The same applies to the lectins, which are even partially decomposed when cooked in the steamer.
  3. If potatoes have green spots, the potato should be disposed of completely, because the onset of germination means that the solanine content is already too high for human consumption.
  4. Germination is stimulated by light. That is why potatoes should always be stored in complete darkness. The open display in the shop is therefore problematic. Therefore, always choose a concealed potato bag from below.
  5. Potatoes are living plants and use solanine to defend themselves against their predators. Potatoes with traces of fungal attack, mold stains, damage and scratches, or scuff marks are therefore particularly rich in defense toxins and too dangerous for human consumption.
  6. When preparing potatoes, pregnant women in particular should pay close attention to the condition and degree of ripeness of each individual potato.

A bitter truth ..

The main problem with consuming nightshade family is daily handling.

On Monday the tomato pizza, Tuesday filled peppers, Wednesday the currywurst, Thursday pasta Bolognese, Friday fries, Saturday the farmer's salad, Sunday potato dumplings.

Nightshade plants are always and everywhere. And with it their poisons too.

New research shows:

Our body can only break down the nightshade poisons to a very small extent in the liver. Solanine has to be flushed out again through the blood, intestines and kidneys. And that takes time.

The half-lives of solanine and chaconine are around 11 and 19 hours, respectively.

So it takes around half a day to halve the amount of toxins in the body. And it takes many days for the toxins of a potato meal to be washed out completely. Time enough for the toxins to damage the tissues of the body.

For this reason, we should significantly reduce the consumption of nightshade, for example to once a week.

In the days in between, the body would then have a brief opportunity to recover. And the chronic effects of damage to the intestines and joints can be pushed back a little.

Of course, it would be best to permanently avoid nightshade. After all, there are plenty of alternatives and foods that don't poison us every day.

The tip of the eisberg

Nightshades are particularly rich in poisons. But you are nowhere near alone when it comes to toxins and anti-nutrients. After all, every plant and its offspring have to protect themselves against predators.

The following must therefore be checked for each food in individual cases:

  1. How does this plant protect itself?
  2. How does the poison affect humans?
  3. How can I defuse the poison by preparing it?

In the media, this critical examination of our food is unfortunately very inadequate. And this shows how much our media environment is already permeated by advertising and marketing.

It is therefore particularly difficult for laypeople to see through, and so I very often hear the question:

What can I still eat then?

For this very reason I have developed a simple food traffic light for my family and consulting customers. With the healthy foods in green and the harmful ones in red.

Continue reading:

Article by Dipl. Biol. Frank Lewecke, updated on.

Frank Lewecke is a qualified biologist, author and founder of Foodfibel. As an expert in type-appropriate nutrition, his focus is on the recovery of people through lifestyle and the selection of suitable foods.

Biology degree at the University of Bayreuth. 1989 Intermediate diploma in biology, physiology. 1993 Biology diploma in genetics, microbiology, chemical ecology, toxicology. 1994 Graduate college medical clinic of the Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nürnberg. 1995 Freelance, publications, training. 2016 Foundation of the food primer. 2018 Developer of the Foodfibel App.

On the radio live talk: Frank Lewecke on healthy eating.