Foods Native to South America – Difficult to Digest
Capsicums (bell peppers in the US) and their relations, chilies are native to South America. So too are eggplants (aubergines) – plus potatoes and all types of tomatoes. They make up the Nightshade family of plants. Many of them have toxic properties and have various chemical and medicinal applications.
As you may know, humans first appeared ‘out of Africa’ around two million years ago and very slowly moved north into Europe, west to Britain and Scandinavia – and eastwards to India and Asia. It took more than a million years to spread this far.
Eventually – humans populated regions further north into Russia and made it all the way east towards the Americas. This so-called ‘new world’ was the very last land mass settled – beginning in the north – about 15,000 years ago (quite recently). Gradually we humans made it right down to Cape Horn, South America.
Nightshades contain alkaloids and saponins
Plants native to this area had never been seen by humans before . . . they were potential ‘new’ foods – the Nightshade family, Solanaceae: eggplants, capsicums, chillies, tomatoes and potatoes. Unfortunately – as well as being ‘new’ they also contain two rather toxic substances, saponins and alkaloids.
People not native to South America however were introduced even more recently to nightshades – after seventeenth century Spanish and Portuguese explorers brought them back to Europe. That’s only three hundred years ago – not nearly enough time for the human digestive system to evolve far enough to process these things safely. So we actually do not process alkaloids and saponins. Instead they process us. . . we become ill.
As a result many respond badly to nightshades, suffering gastric disorders, headache, joint pain, inflammatory disorders and facial swelling . . . and most have no idea of the connection.
How to check if you react poorly to nightshades? Live without them for a month – then reintroduce them and watch out for symptoms.