The 6 Bone-Healthy Foods with a 'Shady' Reputation - Save Our Bones

You are probably aware of a group of vegetables known as “nightshades,” which continue to be the subject of controversy. So you could be asking if they are healthy or harmful to your bones.

And that’s not surprising, since even the name of the plants – nightshades – sounds a bit dubious. After all, Deadly Nightshade is an often fatally toxic wildflower, and some people do have sensitivities to foods in this group. So it’s understandable that nightshades arouse suspicion.

But there’s no need to be suspicious of these nutritious vegetables. Instead, you can learn the truth and discover the facts about these controversial foods. That’s what we’re going to explore today.

Vegetables and Spices

The nightshades are members of the Solanaceae family. Aside from the fancy name, they are very common foods, which include:

  • Eggplant
  • White potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Bell peppers
  • Hot peppers
  • Paprika

Farmers in the 18th century learned that the leaves and stems of tomato plants (grown as an ornamental at that time) were fatal to certain livestock, so the tomato fruit was considered to be poisonous too.

The eggplant, also originally grown as a decorative plant, earned the nickname “mad apple” in the Mediterranean for its alleged psychotic effects. Potatoes exposed to sunlight develop a green color under their skins, indicating the presence of solanine, and are therefore considered too toxic for human consumption.

Why the Poisonous Reputation?

Members of the nightshade group do contain compounds called oxalates (oxalic acid) and alkaloids. And as noted above, the leaves and stems of nightshades are toxic. But oxalates and alkaloids may not be the villains that many people think they are. I’ll explain.

For instance, nightshade vegetables are not very high in oxalates, compounds which are said to bind to calcium in the gut, therefore inhibiting calcium absorption. So the alkalizing effect of the nightshades may offset this, since it protects bones from being depleted to compensate for an acidic body environment.

Alkaloids may sound healthful since the word is close in nature to alkaline, but alkaloids are actually substances plants produce to ward off predators like insects. Solanine, mentioned above, is a type of alkaloid found in potatoes (producing that green color just under the skin). The other nightshades also contain alkaloids.

On the Other Hand, Many Nightshades are Touted for Their Healthful Benefits

The flipside of nightshades is that they contain important nutrients. For example, tomatoes (especially when cooked in olive oil) contain lycopene, an antioxidant that protects against free radical damage and also stimulates the production of osteoclasts.

Eggplant is an alkalizing Foundation Food listed in the Osteoporosis Reversal Program and it’s full of bone-healthy manganese and antioxidant phytonutrients. Potatoes are also an alkalizing, nutritious Foundation Food when eaten with the skins, and are an excellent source of potassium.

Bell peppers are a rich, alkalizing source of Vitamin C and silicon, Foundation Supplements that are vital for bone health.

Hence the Confusion Surrounding Nightshades!

You can see the problem here. There is a great deal of conflicting information mixed in with centuries-old superstition, making the nightshades seem shady indeed. But taking a closer look, we can see some common-sense truths beginning to emerge.

First, nightshades do not all contain toxic levels of alkaloids. In fact, the alkaloid levels in nightshade veggies are quite low. But in certain sensitive individuals, nightshades can induce digestive upset and even joint pain. That’s where some of the confusion arises – just because some individuals react to the alkaloids does not mean that nightshades as a group are toxic.

Cooking these vegetables also reduces their alkaloid content by nearly 50%.

Does Eating Nightshades Harm Bones?

The bottom line is, if you are not sensitive to the compounds found in nightshades, there’s no reason not to include moderate amounts of these vegetables in a bone-healthy diet. They are alkalizing foods with many important nutrients that build bones.

What About Nightshades and Arthritis?

It’s true that the nightshades have a reputation for worsening (or even causing) arthritis and joint pain. I would urge anyone with arthritis to exercise caution regarding nightshades. If you suspect that this group of vegetables is aggravating your joints, you may want to stop eating them for a few weeks and see if it makes a difference in how you feel. There are plenty of other bone-boosting, delicious foods in the the Osteoporosis Reversal Program, so you will not lack variety or health benefits.

Cessation of nightshade consumption is just one natural approach to relieving arthritis pain.

So Should You Eat Nightshades or Not?

As in so many things, the key is moderation. Feel free to enjoy nightshades if you don’t suffer any ill effects. Just don’t eat them three times a day every day, a surprisingly easy thing to do considering nightshades’ prevalence in our modern diet. For example, it’s not uncommon to have some form of bell pepper, tomato, and potato for breakfast (hash browns), lunch (tomato/pepper salsa), and dinner (eggplant Parmesan and salad with bell peppers).

If you’re following the Osteoporosis Reversal Program, you’re familiar with the concept of balanced meals. No foods are off-limits, but acid-forming foods are balanced with alkalizing ones to produce healthful meals and snacks that build up your bones. The Osteoporosis Reversal Program does not recommend large amounts of one or two “miracle foods” or a disproportionate emphasis on certain categories of foods.

Till next time,

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Comments on this article are closed.

  1. Antionette

    Thanks Paul! I had a blast and learned a lot about html5 in the process. The screenshot and links are now added.

  2. Gloria Gonzalez

    I really appreciate for all different people that take the time to research for different situations. It is true the saying: “Some people’s garbage is another people’s treasure” Human opinions are according to the point of view and the focus of the need and investigation. In this case, I am very fortunate to have found this website. Even though I do not suffer with osteoporosis, I am not far from getting it. So, prevention is a great thing to do it. It has helped. I suffer from acidosis. I have to be careful of what I ingest. All you recommend has been very valuable to me. Thank You!!!!!

  3. Eleanor Peed

    What you read one day is contradicted the next day by some other doctor or researcher. I have found that today’s workers are less efficient and knowledgeable than in previous years (witness Congress) and I assume doctors are too. I go by gut feeling. Having always been a milk drinker and now having so many compression fractures the doctor says they’re too many to count, my gut feeling is that milk is not good for bones.

    • Shirley

      I quit drinking milk about one year ago after discovering the Save Our Bones and learning to eat the balanced diet alkalizing/acidic (80%/20%). I also had to quit ice cream because it gave me headaches. My favorite grocery store has frozen yogurt, which satisfies my craving. For next summer, I’m looking up Vivian’s recipe for a “bone-healthy” ice cream. I trust you’ll have success in finding more good foods and your compression fractures will heal.


  4. Leslie (Ms. L. Carmel)

    Hi! Vivian,




  5. Martha

    This is new , interesting information to me. I have recently been diagnosed with celiac disease; hence, severe osteoporosis, anemia and a myriad of other health conditions due to my body’s inability to absorb nutrients from food or supplements.
    I am very grateful for finally getting a correct diagnosis so I can hopefully heal my small intestine and start improving my health by being 100% gluten free. My latest fall in January resulted in a crushed sacrum. Now hopefully the information I have gained from the SaveOurBones Program will be able to help me.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      Best of luck moving forward, Marsha! I am so glad to hear that you’ve found what the cause of your health problems was – now that you are gluten-free, your body can heal.

  6. shula

    Thanks for this information.

  7. Sharon

    I am wondering whether taking bio-identical hormones will improve bone density. I have advanced osteoporsis and have fractured several vertebrae, but I also had in situ breast cancer in 1995. Because I had BC, does that rule out taking bio-identical hormones?

  8. connie

    I do believe that people with the blood type O are very sensitive to the nightshade family. It’s been well researched.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      Interesting, Connie!

  9. Terry

    Moderation is a wonderful word!!! …..So, I understand about cooking the Baked Potatoes and the Tomatoes, should we then make sure that more times than not the peppers are cooked to rid them of as many alkaloid as possible? This is great information. Thanks for the continued research!!

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      I always advocate variation, Terry! There’s no need to eat a vegetable only one way every time. 🙂 But if alkaloids are a concern, cooking these nightshades (including peppers) is a way to lessen the alkaloid content. 🙂

  10. Sharon Fritchie

    Some time ago I took a 6 week course at Tulane University in New Orleans called “Eat For Your Heart”. They told us, that heating olive oil makes it rancid, and takes away the good in it. As a result I have not heated it to cook with, but instead use it only in salads, etc., yet everyone on TV and in cook books, use it to cook with. What is your opinion?

    • Carole

      Hi Sharon,
      I remember reading that olive oil should not be overheated, such as to a smoking degree, so perhaps there is a compromise to cook slowly with it rather than to heat it up quickly!
      Just a thought as I wonder about these contradictions also!

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      Sharon, my thoughts on this go back once again to variation. Olive oil is excellent cold on salads and drizzled over hot vegetables, and it’s also a bone-healthy oil for cooking. 🙂 Cooking tomatoes in olive oil, for instance, releases important nutrients that wouldn’t be available if you only ate cold tomato salad drizzled with olive oil. So the best thing is it to find creative ways to eat olive oil both hot and cold!

      • Luc

        To cook the best is to use coconut oil.

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