Are Strawberries Nightshades, Too?

After the post I wrote a few days back on nightshades and autoimmune Paleo, I received a few inquiries from readers asking why I had not included strawberries in the nightshade family.

The idea that strawberries could potentially be grouped with nightshades was news to me, so first of all, thank you to those who wrote in asking a question which prompted me to investigate.  I learn from you readers, as much as you learn from me, by the way; it’s definitely a two-way street!

Here’s what I found:

  • Strawberries are not nightshades; in fact, they’re part of the rose family!   
  • A strawberry is not actually a berry. By technical definition, a berry is a fleshy fruit produced from a single seed. The strawberry, however has its dry, yellow “seeds” on the outside (each of which is actually considered a separate fruit). real berries, such as blueberries and cranberries have seeds inside. However, the banana fruit is a berry for the same reason strawberries are not.  There is a theory that strawberries were named by 19th century children who picked the fruit, strung them on grass straws, and sold them as “Straws of berries”.  Another surmises that their name came from ‘strewberry’ as they were often found strewn along creeks and riverbeds.
  • Strawberries and blueberries contain large amounts of salicylates, which are natural chemical compounds found in many plants. People who are allergic or intolerant of strawberries or blueberries may also have reactions to apricots, cranberries, cherries, raspberries, peppers, radishes and tomatoes.
  • The California Strawberry Commission funded a study published in The British Journal of Nutrition showing that anthocyanins in strawberries can lower inflammatory markers.  It was found that the group consuming the strawberry drink had significant reductions in their inflammatory response, including C reactive protein and interleukin 6, as well as favorable effects on insulin sensitivity.  It’s been shown previously that high blood pressure or hypertension can be reduced with consumption of strawberries and blueberries.

So does that mean that if you have an auto immune condition that strawberries are safe?   It may vary from person to person.  Unless you have done an actual test with an allergist to confirm you are sensitive to the little members of the rose family, it is probably safe for you to include them in your diet.   Certainly don’t experiment haphazardly if there’s a chance you’ll go into anaphylactic shock, but if it’s a case where you used to feel a slight reaction to strawberries before you were Paleo, there’s a good chance that having removed the other highly allergenic foods like gluten, dairy and soy that you  may be able to include them again without consequence.

As always, any experts on this topic are welcome to comment and fill me in if I’ve missed anything.

One last little tidbit- be sure and always buy organic strawberries; they’re at the top of the list of what not to buy from a conventional source!