This is a MYTH.
Arthritis is inflammation of the joints that causes pain, swelling and stiffness. In the United States, more than 50 million people live with one of the 100-plus forms of this disease. If you think arthritis only affects the elderly – it doesn’t! According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the reality is far different than what most of us assume.
For years, there have been many misconceptions about what helps and hinders relief efforts of this debilitating disease.
One of the most popular myths is linked to the members of the Solanaceae, or Nightshade plant family, which grows in shady areas or blooms at night.
The characteristics may be confused with another member of the Solanaceae family – “deadly nightshade,” also known as belladonna. Belladonna has been associated with witchcraft throughout history and can cause convulsions or death.
Despite ancient myths and fears, nightshade foods are not poisonous. They do not carry any similarities to belladonna or to poison ivy, despite the fallacious connection used in a popular detox program endorsed by celebrities.
Biochemistry expert Barry Micallef of the University of Guelph explains, “Poison ivy isn’t even in the same plant family.”
Nightshade Foods & Antioxidant Benefits
When your arthritis symptoms, increase and pain becomes unbearable it’s difficult to focus on your daily activities. The truth is, the abundance of antioxidants found in nightshade foods actually helps to reduce inflammation, thereby relieving pain and swelling of the joints.
- Eggplants –high in vitamin K, manganese, thiamine, and folic acid, all of which are critical to metabolism and heart health. Eggplant also contains the antioxidant nasunin –shown to protect brain cells from free radical damage, according to a study done at UCLA and UC Berkley in 2000.
- Tomatoes –high in vitamins A, B and C, beta-carotene, chromium, potassium, and lycopene, all of which fight aging, lower cholesterol and blood pressure – low cholesterol levels and normal blood pressure reduce your risk of heart disease and control blood sugar.
- Peppers –high in vitamins A and C; two vitamins that fight heart disease and cancer, and boost overall immunity.
- Potatoes –packed with more potassium than a banana, and loaded with vitamin C and five of the eight B vitamins. Potatoes the perfect energy source that benefits your heart, bones, muscles and joints.
- Goji Berries –packed with carotenoids, more than 30 essential and trace minerals and 18 amino acids. Scientists are currently researching if goji berries naturally raise your SOD levels – the anti-aging enzyme that is usually ineffective if consumed orally.
Naturally high in fiber, each nightshade vegetable offers antioxidant benefits that aid the body in fighting disease and inflammation naturally…eliminating problems once and for all.
A study published in Arthritis Today found that potatoes reduced inflammation in men and lutien-rich tomatoes lowered the risk of osteoarthritis by 70%.
Scientists recommend noting any food intolerance’s you may have that provoke your symptoms. If a particular food doesn’t agree with you, remove it from your diet. However, because so many factors contribute to arthritis flare-ups, even eliminating a specific food might not be the whole answer.
“Many people have food intolerance’s. If you start to feel achy every time you eat tomatoes, then maybe, for you, tomatoes are a contributing factor,” said Pamela Piotrowski, Arthritis Society of Ontario’s registered dietician. She adds that the overall antioxidant benefits of nightshades “far outweigh any risks” of possible flare-ups.
Contrary to popular blog belief, all nightshade foods do not contain a toxin called solanine. This chemical is part of a plant’s defensive system, designed to keep bugs from destroying the leaves.
Please be aware that solanine may develop in potatoes. If a green section appears on your potato, your best bet is to throw it out. The other nightshade foods (such as eggplant, peppers and tomatoes) do not produce solanine at all.
So…nightshades are good for you but what foods should you avoid?
- Processed and Fried Foods – “Cutting back on the consumption of fried and processed foods can reduce inflammation and actually help restore the body’s natural defenses,” according to the team of researchers at The Mount Sinai School of Medicine. They concluded that by removing these foods, inflammation dropped as much as 60% in some study participants.
- Refined Carbs and Sugars – Too much candy, processed baked goods, and sodas cause hormonal fluctuations, fatigue and damage to the immune system, and ultimately strip calcium from your bones and teeth to compensate for the overall nutrient imbalance.
- Tobacco and Alcohol – According to the National Institutes of Health, alcohol can lead to the painful effects of gout, and smoking increases your risk of rheumatoid arthritis. These substances are hard for your body to process and lead to distress.
- Salt and Fats – Reading the label is very important. “Quick and easy” foods may taste good but are packed with additives and preservatives such as sodium and Omega-6 fatty acids that can trigger arthritis flare-ups.
Managing your arthritis every day is important to your ability to function and slow further joint deterioration. By avoiding foods that increase and trigger inflammation you take back some control over your pain and symptoms.
3 Keys to Living that Reduce Arthritis Pain
- Maintain a healthy body weight to decrease the pressure on your joints.
- Exercise as much as you can to strengthen the muscles and ligaments around your joints, adding stability and minimizing pain. Talk to a physical therapist to determine which exercises are right for you, or start with a low-impact solution such as swimming, which benefits the whole body.
- Eating a diet rich in berries, organic honey, Omega-3 fatty fish, green tea, olive oil and brightly colored fruits and vegetables has been shown to help control the symptoms of arthritis – especially inflammation.
Stopping the inflammation, slowing the progression, and improving your quality of life, even a life lived with arthritis, is critical to your overall body wellness. Don’t let the pain and discomfort of arthritis keep you down…fight back with healthy lifestyle choices and nightshade foods.