20 Nightshade Vegetables And Their Health Benefits
We have all heard that vegetables are good for your health and that you should eat more. Health-related organizations recommend consuming 2 1/2 cups of vegetables or nine servings per day. This number can increase or decrease depending on age and gender. But it would surprise you to learn that not all vegetables receive praise.
Nightshade vegetables, which belong to the Solanaceae family, have mixed reviews. Common nightshade vegetables include potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants. These vegetables are high in alkaloids, a compound that is poisonous in high doses. However, they also contain essential nutrients that are beneficial for your health. With that, here are 20 nightshade vegetables and their health benefits.
Tomato is a staple in many cuisines, and botanical experts classify it as a fruit, not a vegetable. They claim it is a fruit because they have seeds and grows from the flower of the tomato plant. There are different types of tomatoes and they are consumed in different ways.
Tomatoes are low in calories and packed with antioxidants like lycopene. Lycopene is a carotenoid that helps fight free radicals, which benefits the body. It helps maintain blood pressure, provides pain relief, and is linked with skin cancer prevention.
- Fight free radicals
- Maintain blood pressure
- Skin cancer prevention
Tamarillo is a small, orange-red egg-shaped tropical fruit native to Latin and Central America. The skin is bitter, so it is peeled off, but the flesh is juicy and sweet. You can eat it raw as a snack or use it in chutney, sauce, juice, or bake it. The options are endless.
Tamarillo is rich in vitamins A, C, and E and minerals like magnesium and zinc. These vitamins and minerals boost the immune system and maintain skin health. It also contains fiber that helps with digestion and promotes a feeling of fullness, which is necessary for weight management.
- Boost Immune System
- Maitain skin health
- Helps with digestion
- Aid weight management
Although tomatillo means “baby tomatoes” in Spanish, it is not one. The tomatillo is small, round, and bright green and has an identity of its own, separate from tomatoes. When you bite into it, it is less juicy and dense and has an acidic, slightly less sweet flavor than ripe tomatoes.
Like most tomatoes, the tomatillo contains compounds like withanolides and flavonoids like lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene. Lutein and zeaxanthin are natural antioxidants that promote healthy vision. Meanwhile, withanolides are used to treat osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis in Ayurvedic medicine.
- Rich in antioxidants
- Promote healthy vision
- Treat osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis
Naranjilla, or little orange in Spanish, is another type of tomato in the nightshade family. It looks like a kiwi with thick brown hair when it is not ripe. But once it is ripe, the protective hairs can be rubbed off to reveal its bright orange, smooth, thick peel. Inside, the flesh is bright orange with juicy pulps. The tomato has a citrus flavor, often described as a mix of lime and rhubarb.
Naranjilla has iron, phosphorus, and ascorbic acid, all of which give it its diuretic and astringent properties. Diuretics reduce fluid buildup in the body, which helps maintain blood pressure. Meanwhile, astringents help in wound healing and digestion.
- Reduce fluid buildup in the body
- Maintain blood pressure
- Help in wound healing
- Helps digestion
A close relative of naranjilla is the cocona, often referred to as peach tomato. It can be orange or yellow in color and is almost the size of an avocado. The flavor can be compared to a tomato.
Coconas are loaded with vitamin Bs like niacin and thiamine. Our body needs vitamin B for many bodily functions such as supporting cell health, digestion, promoting cardiovascular health and proper nerve function. But most importantly we need it to convert food into energy to carry out everyday physical tasks with efficiency.
- Support cell health
- Aid digestion
- Promote cardiovascular health
- Promote proper nerve function
- Provide energy
6. Cherry Tomato
Cherry tomatoes are a small variety of tomatoes that come in different colors, like yellow, red, black, and green. They have a thin flesh that snaps easily when you bite into them. They have a bright and sweet flavor, making them the go-to tomatoes for healthy snacking.
Although most tomatoes contain antioxidants, according to research by Frontiers in Nutrition and the Journal of Food Science and Technology, cherry tomatoes have higher concentrations of antioxidants than most. As a result, they also have many health benefits.
- Rich in antioxidants
- Promote heart and skin health
- Offer anticancer properties
- Protect against chronic diseases
7. Ground Cherry
Ground cherries belong to the same family of tomatoes, but it is a separate species from the Physalis genus. The cherries are enclosed in a papery husk, which turns from green to brown as it matures. Inside, the cherries are golden, and the flavor is reminiscent of a mango with a hint of vanilla.
These cherries contain phytonutrients like anthocyanins, which have antimicrobial properties that help fight infections. Research also shows that diets rich in anthocyanins improve learning and memory in adults with cognitive problems. This, in turn, slows down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease in some adults.
- Help fight infections
- Improve learning and memory in adults
- Slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease
Kutjera, also known as an Australian desert raisin, is a type of bush tomato. These tomatoes grow in dry areas, especially ones that fire has ruined. They do not need pruning and are easy to grow. You can only consume them when they are ripe and red. The flavor of this tomato is described as a cross between a tamarillo and caramel.
Australians have used it as medicine since ancient times. These tomatoes have been used to treat wounds and infections because of their antiseptic properties. They contain essential vitamins and minerals and have been used to treat headaches, colds, and digestive problems.
- Treat wounds and infections
- Treat headaches and colds
- Remedy fordigestive problems
9. Ruby Potato
Ruby potatoes, as the name implies, have a red skin that is thin with light brown specklings. The flesh is white and firm that turns creamy once it is cooked. These types of potatoes are a great source of carbohydrates. Our body converts carbohydrates into glucose for energy and glycogen, which can be used as energy when needed.
They are also naturally gluten-free. Gluten is not bad, but for some people, it can cause autoimmune responses or other unpleasant symptoms. Such responses are a sign of celiac disease. When left untreated, celiac disease can cause cancer and diabetes.
- Naturally gluten-free
- Provides energy
- Prevent celiac disease
10. Adirondack Blue Potato
Adirondack blue potato is a purple potato variety with slightly purple skin and darker purple flesh. It is often confused with ube. The potato retains its vibrant color even after it is cooked and has a denser texture and earthier flavor than white potatoes.
These potatoes rank lower on the glycemic index (GI) than white potatoes, which means they are better at controlling sugar levels. They also contain polyphenolic acids like caffeic, chlorogenic, and ferulic. Caffeic acid has anticancer properties, while chlorogenic acid improves glucose tolerance and enables weight loss.
- Control sugar levels
- Has anticancer properties
- Improves glucose tolerance
- Enables weight loss
- Anti-aging on the skin
11. Norland Potato
Norland potato belongs to the red potato variety. It is a medium, oblong potato with smooth, paper-thin skin. It has a light yellow to white flesh that turns creamy like most potatoes when it is cooked. It does not rot quickly and can be stored for some time.
Norland potatoes are a good source of essential minerals like potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, and iron, all of which help carry out various bodily functions. These minerals strengthen our bones, turn food into energy, help regulate our heart, regulate sleep and stress, and many more.
- Help carry out various bodily functions
- Strengthen our bones
- Turn food into energy
- Help regulate our heart
- Regulate sleep and stress
12. Bell Peppers
Bell peppers are a type of chili peppers that have no spiciness or heat. They come in various colors, like red, yellow, green, white, purple, and striped. We can eat these peppers raw, but they have a bitter flavor. If you want to avoid the bitterness, it is better to consume it after you cook it.
They are high in vitamin C, with one medium-sized bell pepper providing over 100% of the daily recommended value. Vitamin C protects the cells from damage, which could cause diseases and illnesses in the long run. It also increases the absorption of iron, and we need iron to carry blood and oxygen throughout the body for survival.
- Protect the cells from damage
- Increase absorption of iron
13. Goji Berry
Goji berry, also known as wolfberry, is native to China. The Chinese have been using these tiny, bright red berries as medicine for thousands of years. But in recent years, health experts have introduced it to the rest of the world, claiming it provides numerous health benefits.
These berries contain antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, and minerals that support our overall health. A study by the Journal of Medicinal Food discovered that elderlies who drank goji berry juice every day had higher levels of immune cells and felt better in general. In another study, goji berry showed promise of improving eye health and reducing the risk of macular degeneration.
- Increase immune cells
- Rich in antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, and minerals
- Improve eye health
- Reduce risk of macular degeneration
Huckleberries are often mistaken for blueberries because of their color. They are small, round, and bluish-purple, but their flesh is red, and their seeds are much larger than blueberries. Their flavor is sweet and slightly tart, almost like blueberries and other similar types of berries.
Studies have found that huckleberries have a high concentration of resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant. As an antioxidant, it has positive effects on our cholesterol levels. It helps increase good cholesterol in our body while decreasing bad ones. Bad cholesterol like triglycerides can increase the risk of stroke and heart attack, while good ones transport cholesterol to the liver, the organ responsible for flushing out toxins and waste.
- Improve cholestrol levels
- Flush out toxins and waste
- Reduce risk of stroke and heart attack
- Rich in resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant
Ashwagandha is a revered herb in Ayurveda, a form of natural healing based on ancient Indian principles. In Sanskrit, ashwagandha translates to “smell of a horse,” and refers to its scent. Sometimes, it is known as “Indian ginseng.”
The herb is best known for its calming properties. It is used to relieve stress and is said to be as effective as lorazepam, a sedative and anxiety medication. Ashwagandha is also used as a pain reliever and for treating arthritis. It stops the pain signals from traveling to the central nervous system, thus reducing pain.
- Relieve stress and anxiety
- Relieve pain
- Treat arthritis
Habanero belongs to the chili pepper family and is one of the hottest on the Scoville scale. If you can get over the spiciness, it has a sweet flavor. They are green initially but turn bright red or orange after they mature.
Most of the health benefits of habanero can be attributed to the powerful antioxidant, capsaicin. Capsaicin can relieve pain by stopping pain signals from reaching the brain and releasing endorphins and dopamine, chemicals that turn pain into pleasure. This antioxidant can also help manage arthritis. It Inhibits the production of substance P, a compound that increases inflammation and causes pain and swelling.
- Relieve pain
- Help manage arthritis
- Releases endorphins and dopamine that calms the body
17. Banana Pepper
Banana pepper has a misleading name because neither does it look like or taste like one. These peppers are bright yellow chili peppers with a mild sweetness and tang. They have no heat and are five times less spicy than jalapenos.
Banana peppers are a good source of vitamin C with one cup serving of 103 mg, and according to the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA), adults need 75 to 90 mg per day. Vitamin C keeps our gums healthy and strong. Healthy gums lead to healthy lungs because when bacteria from our mouth travel to the bloodstream, it could increase the risk of pneumonia and other respiratory tract infections.
- Good source of vitamin C
- Keeps our gums healthy and strong
- Healthy lungs
- Reduce risk of pneumonia and other respiratory tract infections
The Shishito pepper is a vibrant green pepper native to Japan. Shishito becomes red when ripe, but because it is too spicy, it is eaten when green. The green ones are not spicy, although now and then, one of them might pack a punch.
These peppers contain fiber, which is beneficial in preventing hemorrhoids. More than half of adults suffer from hemorrhoids by the time they are 50. Hemorrhoids are swollen blood vessels and veins in the rectum and anus. It can cause rectal bleeding and discomfort like pain and itching. Although very rare, in severe cases, this condition can lead to anemia, blood clots, and infection.
- Rich in fiber
- Prevent hemorrhoids
- Reduce chances of anemia, blood clots, and infection
Jalapenos are a type of chili pepper often used in Mexican cuisine. They are usually red or green and have mild to medium heat. They taste similar to a green bell pepper but are much sweeter and spicier.
Like most chili peppers, Jalapeno contains capsaicin, which has many health benefits. One such benefit is weight management. These peppers can help with weight loss by enabling our body to burn more calories at rest and reducing our appetite. Research conducted by the International Journal of Obesity found that capsaicin could boost metabolism by 4 to 5% per day, which could help with weight loss.
- Support weight management
- Reduce appetite
- Boost metabolism
Eggplants, also known as aubergine or brinjal, are staple in many cuisines worldwide. They are mostly purple, but varieties of black, green, and red also exist. They are firm and spongy to the touch but turn tender when cooked.
Eggplants contain high levels of antioxidants that are beneficial for our body. Antioxidants eliminate free radicals in the body. A free radical is an abnormal molecule that causes chronic health problems such as cancer, cardiovascular and inflammatory disease, and cataracts. Antioxidants prevent the formulation of such free radicals and neutralize existing ones.
- Rich in antioxidants
- Has anti-cancer properties
- Prevent cardiovascular and inflammatory disease
- Fight free radicals
- Prevent cataracts
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