When I was first working on healing my gut I spent a lot of time researching how foods, such as gluten, sugar and nightshades could cause acne. My research into nightshades taught me the real reason why this group of potentially troublesome fruits and veg can be so problematic for those suffering with sensitive guts and acne.
What are nightshades?
Nightshades are a family of plants technically known as Solanaceae. There are over two thousand plant species in the nightshade family! The vast majority of nightshades are inedible and many are actually highly poisonous. Although many of them are inedible, the few that are edible are extremely common foods.
Are nightshades causing your acne?
Nightshades are rich a toxic compound called alkaloids, also known as anti nutrients. In nature, alkaloids protect the plant by poisoning insects and dissolving its cell membranes (nice eh!?) Unfortunately, the alkaloids can have the same effect on humans too, increasing inflammation in the gut, over activating our immune system and can cause intestinal perforation – little holes in your gut wall. If your health is in tip top condition then count yourself lucky! You’ll probably find that you can eat nightshades all you like, with no health impeding consequences. However, anyone with a sensitive gut (poor gut health often goes hand in hand with acne) may have trouble tolerating nightshades and may benefit from removing or reducing this food group from your diet for a short period of time.
Let’s have a closer look at which foods come under the nightshade category..
Potatoes are the kings of the nightshade family and probably the item of food that I missed the most during my elimination diet (bye bye chips!). Whether they’re red, white, yellow or blue – they are all a big no-no. However, there is a silver lining to this dark, dark cloud. Sweet potatoes are not a member of the nightshade shade family (hoorah!) so it’s time for me to start perfecting those homemade sweet potato fries! Winter squash, turnips and parsnips are also nightshade free and offer the same flavour and texture characteristics of the good old white potato. You can also mash up well cooked cauliflower with a bit of ghee and enjoy it as a mash potato substitute!
Another widely consumed member of the nightshade family are tomatoes. Cutting this food group out of my diet filled me with dread, that was until I developed my Nightshade Free ‘No-Mato’ Ketchup!
All peppers belong to the nightshade family including bell peppers, sweet peppers, jalapenos…not too bad you’re thinking? I’ve not finished my list yet….chillies, cayenne peppers and paprika! Paprika and chilli are hidden in everything! On the plus side, celery and radishes can be used as a fresh, crunchy alternative to the traditional green pepper and cumin and turmeric are suitable substitutes for cayenne and paprika.
This one will be quite easy to avoid as it isn’t usually a hidden ingredient like the other nightshades. Mushrooms like Shiitake or Portobello can be used as a substitute to aubergines to create a similar “meaty” texture in dishes.
Goji berries also fall into the nightshade family as do other berries such as garden huckleberries, ground cherries and cape gooseberries. They’re easy nightshades to avoid, but make sure you read ingredient lists of all juices, smoothies, teas, nutritional supplements and raw chocolate bars to be sure they don’t contain goji berries.
Do you think nightshades are causing your acne? Have you seen improvements in your skin since cutting out nightshades? Let me know in the comments below!
Peace, Love & Clear Skin