Are Nightshades Paleo?

By Jane Barthelemy.
I adore spicy foods! My favorites are Pizza, Hot Salsa, Eggplant Parmesan, and Ratatouille. Recently I’ve been trying a nightshade-free diet, and guess what? I feel so much better. What’s the real scoop on nightshades? Tomatoes, Potatoes, Peppers, Eggplants. Are they really part of the Paleo Diet?

They are part of the Solanaceae family. They have become staples of our modern diet, and now Americans consume almost 230 pounds of nightshades per person per year. Yet it is interesting to note that nightshades are a very recent addition the human diet. In fact, all nightshades came from the New World, and these foods were unknown to Europeans, Middle Easterners, Africans or Asians until the “discovery” of America in 1492. That is very recent in the time span of human biological evolution.

According to Dr. Loren Cordain, professor and author of “The Paleo Diet”, nightshade plants contain toxic substances that can interfere with human digestion causing intestinal permeability, or “leaky gut”, and creating an open invitation to many of our modern auto-immune diseases.

Are Nightshades part of the Paleo Diet?
Maybe not. Anthropologists concur that humans’ genetic roots began in Africa about 200,000 years ago. Tomatoes and peppers didn’t grow in Africa, or any areas of the world where humanity originated. Therefore we can fairly say they were not part of the human diet during Paleolithic times. There are many blurry areas in our modern interpretations of the Paleo Diet. Anthropologists define the Paleolithic period or “Stone Age” as a time period from 2.6 million years ago to 10,000 years ago. Scientists believe that humanity was probably birthed in Africa, migrating to Europe, Asia, and more recently to the Americas.

The Verdict is – I don’t know!
Nightshades are American plants, therefore it would seem they’re definitely NOT part of the original Paleo diet. However should we then throw out all the other New World foods we love? Oh dear, that would mean no chocolate, sunflower, squash, vanilla, avocado, pumpkin, sweet potato, common beans, green beans, strawberries, blueberries, cranberries, pecans, tapioca, quinoa, Brazil nuts or cashews. I can’t live without chocolate!  What about the “Stone Age” civilizations in the Americas? Was their food “Paleo”? Are my favorite blender and food processor Paleo? I’m looking for the healthiest diet for my body in the 21st century. Where should we draw the line?

It’s great to be inspired by the true ancestral diet.
However in our enthusiasm for health it is important to remember there’s no no place for rigid rules. And no Paleo Police. Hooray! Your digestion is unique. My recommendation is to listen to the intelligence deep in your own body, and to follow that. View all my Nightshade-free recipes.

Read: Living Nightshade-Free.  Paleo or not, I won’t be eating nightshades. How about you?

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