20 years ago, when I was following a Macrobiotic diet, I remember the negative talk about eating “nightshade” vegetables and fruits. They contained a substance called solanine: a bitter poisonous alkaloid found in tubers and fruits of the nightshade family (solanaceae).
At the top of the list of this toxic family was the potato. Ahhhhhh the dreaded potato!
How can such a chubby little nourishing spud cause so much hullabaloo?
It seems the current food trend has nightshades (potato, tomato, peppers, eggplant) once again back in the spotlight as toxic (and dangerous) foods. According to some nutritional science, these foods contain lectins that contribute to stomach upset, arthritis, inflammation, diabetes and autoimmune disease.
And, yet according to other nutritional science, lectin-containing foods help good bacteria thrive in the digestive system and are being studied for their potential to slow down the rate that cancer cells multiply.
Hmmmmm, so with all of this conflicting information what on earth are we supposed to do?
How about let’s forget about the nutritional science for a moment. Because, I believe, most of it is just meant to scare you into submission.
Yes, nightshades contain both lectins and solanine.
But guess what?
When you cook these “toxic” foods (boiling, baking, stewing, braising, etc.) both the lectins and solanine are reduced and/or eliminated. In the case of potatoes, the lectins are reduced by up to 60% by cooking.
Plus, most of the alkaloid is naturally excreted by the body. “The amount of solanine in an average portion of potatoes is easily broken down by the body and excreted. Solanine levels in the blood are low after ingestion due to poor absorption by the gastrointestinal tract. Second, it is removed from the body fairly rapidly in both the urine and the feces, usually within 12 hours, preventing accumulation in the tissues. Third, intestinal bacteria aids in the detoxification by hydrolyzing the glycoside into solanidine (aglycone), which is less toxic than solanine and also poorly absorbed.”
It’s also wise to take a look at your spuds and don’t eat the ones with green under their skin (they contain higher levels of solanine). And, certainly don’t eat the potato eyes (sprouts) or the leaves – they can be quite toxic.
One more thing to consider is that the liver is responsible for metabolizing and clearing toxins from the body. If you are having a negative reaction to nightshades and lectin-rich foods, consider reducing foods from the solanaceae family until your liver health improves, and/or your digestive system can naturally excrete the waste in a timely manner.
Other than all of that… the potato has been eaten for centuries because it is a highly nutritious food, rich in potassium, vitamin C, manganese, phosphorous, niacin and pantothenic acid. Potatoes contain a wealth of beneficial nutrients and starches that feed bacteria in the colon.
And, of course let’s not forget that potatoes are just pretty darn delicious. Especially, when coated in olive oil and roasted with herbs and spices.
Here are some takeaways:
- Enjoy your spuds without fear that they are going to kill you
- Don’t eat the green ones and don’t eat the leaves or eyes
- Eat a normal sized portion, not a mountain of mashed-potatoes
- Support your body’s natural detoxification processes
- Don’t eat potatoes raw or undercooked
- Enjoy this delicious recipe: Rosemary Roasted Potatoes
Wishing you a healthy, happy and fear-less day!
Andrea Beaman is a internationally renowned Holistic Health Coach, Natural Foods Chef, Speaker and Herbalist. Named one of the top 100 Most Influential Health and Fitness Experts, she is also a recipient of the Natural Gourmet Institute’s Award for Excellence in Health-Supportive Education and a Health Leadership award from The Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Since 1999, Andrea has been teaching individuals and health practitioners how to harness the body’s own preventative and healing powers using food, herbal remedies and alternative medicine.