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What Nightshades Are Keto Friendly?

Nightshades are a cool sounding name given to a group of fruits and veggies but what nightshades are keto friendly?   Nightshades contain glycoalkaloids, which is a fancy word for a naturally occurring bug repellent. Examples of nightshades include; tomatoes, potatoes, goji berries, eggplant, peppers, chilis and tomatillos. I know what you’re thinking, WTH? Should we really be eating that?! Don’t panic, most average fruit and veggies don’t contain enough alkaloids to do any significant harm to humans, phew! 

There are over 2700 species of plants, trees, herbs, fruits, and vegetables in the nightshade family.  So for the sake of keeping it short and sweet, we did a little deep dive for you.  We came up with a little cheat sheet about the good, the bad and the ugly of the most common nightshades. And whether or not you really should be avoiding them on a keto diet. 

Photo:Photo by Josephine Baran on Unsplash

These sweet and versatile babies are known for their flavor, as well as their health benefits. They’re full of lycopene, an antioxidant that gives them their gorgeous color.  Lycopene also helps decrease the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease, yay!  Furthermore, tomatoes are also known to be rich in potassium and fiber. These are essential for promoting healthy blood pressure, heart and digestive health,  muscle repair and strength. Raw tomatoes are considered keto friendly, due to their low carb nature. However, beware of tomato based products like tomato paste, sauce, salsa, tomato juice, and even canned tomatoes. These products often contain added sugars! Try some fresh tomatoes, with a little mozzarella, basil and balsamic vinegar for a tasty and healthy snack!  In fact, try making your own sauce or salsa to avoid the added sugars.

Photo:Photo by Jan Antonin Kolar on Unsplash

Potatoes (sweet potatoes and yams are not in the nightshade family!)
I’ve never met a potato I didn’t like.  So I was delighted to hear they’re packed with vitamin C (great for your immune system!) and vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 is useful to the body in metabolizing fats, carbs and protein, as well as sugar stored in the liver. Unfortunately, potatoes have a bad rep in the keto world for their carb heavy nature, as they are full of starch. So if you’re following a keto lifestyle, we don’t recommend getting your B6 fix from potatoes. However, great keto friendly alternatives include chicken breast, salmon, ground beef and spinach! 

scoville scale fierce flavors

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Peppers (of the sweet and spicy variety!)
Peppers are gold for getting your vitamin C! Especially if you’re reducing your intake of potatoes for a keto friendly diet, peppers can come to the rescue! Vitamin C is crucial for many different functions, immune system function, absorbing iron into the bloodstream and metabolizing protein. They’re also low carb and an encouraged veggie to incorporate into your diet for plenty of flavor and health benefits!

Photo:Photo by Nina Luong on Unsplash

As well as being one of my fave emojis 😉  🍆, eggplant is a marvelous veggie for helping blood sugar regulation. It’s skin contains anthocyanins, which are naturally occurring antioxidants that can help fight stress, heart disease and even cancer, woo hoo! We love roasting them with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of parm!

Now that we’ve run through the big players, I’m sure you’re still wondering if you should really be eating bug repellent? (Yeah it sounds gross, be it natural or artificial!) It’s true some folks argue that consuming too many nightshades can cause inflammation, digestive and autoimmune issues. However, there’s not enough evidence based research out there to back up this claim. It also helps to properly cut away the stems of your peppers, eggplant and tomatoes to minimize irritation!

 Of course, certain food sensitivities, chronic inflammation and autoimmune diseases may prevent you from consuming lots of nightshade based meals. As with too much of anything, it’s really a case of trial and error to monitor how certain foods make us feel. So when it comes to what nightshades are keto friendly remember, everything in moderation.   And always listen to your gut, as my mama used to say!  If you want to try a nightshade recipe then check out my blog post for some keto friendly grilled eggplant