Monday, August 13, 2012

Nightshade-Free Salsa

The other week I was picking my daughter up from art camp and another mother came up to me to let me know the changes in her health that came about after following our Elimination Diet years ago. She said that she looks and feels so different now and is not the person she used to a good way. She was beautiful and her skin was glowing! One of the things she discovered through the elimination diet process was a severe sensitivity to nightshade vegetables. You know what those are, right? Tomatoes, tomatillos, potatoes, eggplant, spicy peppers (including cayenne pepper), sweet peppers (including paprika), pimentos, tobacco, as well as goji berries and golden berries.

Symptoms of a nightshade sensitivity include:
  • joint pain
  • rashes
  • GI upset
  • fatigue
  • headaches
  • migraines
  • inflammation
All nightshade plants, including those growing in the wild, contain toxic alkaloid compounds. In foods, like tomatoes and peppers, these compounds are only found in small amounts so most people can process and remove them from the body and no harm is done. In wild plants, these compounds are found in a much higher concentration, sometimes causing death if ingested.

In people that cannot process these alkaloids very well, (and since many people consume nightshade vegetables on a daily basis) these compounds can build up in the body, which can contribute to certain health issues. Of course not all people are sensitive to nightshades so don't get too concerned here that you need to eliminate yet another food from your diet! If you suspect that your body might not be tolerating nightshades then do a simple elimination diet and keep them completely out of your diet (yes, that means 100%) for 3 weeks and then add them back in, noting how you feel.

Nightshade-Free Cucumber-Radish Salsa

My children actually prefer cucumber salsa over fresh tomato salsa so this is what I usually make for them, though I use a small amount of diced spicy pepper instead of the radish. However, when I first made this version, they said they liked it better with the radish! Radishes and cucumbers are some of their favorite vegetables you see. I've used both daikon radish and a small bunch of red radishes so use whatever you have on hand. The spicier the radish, the better! I think this salsa is best when you dice everything very finely, but you decide. 

2 medium cucumbers, diced small
1 small daikon radish, diced small (or ⅓ of a large one)
½ small sweet onion, finely diced (about ½ cup)
½ cup chopped cilantro
½ teaspoon sea salt
juice of 1 lime or 1 to 2 tablespoons raw coconut vinegar*

Place all ingredients into a medium-sized bowl and toss together. Let the flavors mingle for about an hour before serving if desired.

*Note: Use the coconut vinegar during Phase 2 of The Elimination Diet and use the lime juice during Phase 3 when you challenge citrus.  Source: 

More Nightshade-Free Recipes:

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About the Author

Alissa Segersten holds a Bachelor's of Science in Nutrition from Bastyr University. She is the founder of Whole Life Nutrition, the mother of five children, a whole foods cooking instructor, professional recipe developer, and cookbook author. She is passionate about helping others find a diet that will truly nourish them, and offers elimination diet recipes, healthy gluten-free recipes, paleo and vegan recipes, as well as tips for feeding your family a nourishing, whole foods diet. Alissa is the author of two very popular gluten-free, whole foods cookbooks and guidebooks: The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook and Nourishing Meals. She is also the co-author of The Elimination Diet book. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram!


  1. My eyes lit up when I saw the words "night-shade free". Nightshades are such an issue for me. I feel quite bad when I eat them and they prevent me from eating out or eating at a friends house. You can try to tell someone you can't eat nightshades and you can name them all and they will still hand you something with paprika in it. (Not their fault.) I recently realized blueberries share a quality with nightshades and eliminating them helped my joints even more. Other than the cookbook I just wrote, I haven't found many good nightshade-free cookbooks (and gluten and dairy-free)... Thanks for writing some recipes that work for me!!!

  2. Ali, We have been canning salsa with ingredients from our acres of gardens, and it is very hard to not enjoy having some with the rest of the family. I am very sensitive to nightshades, and haven't eaten them for a long time. I have made a nightshade free pineapple salsa before, but I never thought of cucumber and radish! I can't wait to make this. Thanks!

  3. What a great idea! Nightshades have done so well in the midwest this year, but many people have problems with these... You two read my mind. I'll use it for a cooking class (and of course site your website and books!. Thanks!

  4. I am so excited to see this recipe! I've been off nightshades for a while, and I had completely given up hope for a salsa option. This is a really creative approach, and I look forward to trying it this week!

  5. Wonderful recipe! Radish makes an excellent substitute for the bite of a pepper.

  6. Just made this and it is delicious! Thanks for the recipe!

  7. This looks so good! I have some friends who are nightshade-sensitive, so now I can have something for them as an appetizer at parties. Great recipe, as usual. You are so creative!

  8. I have been missing salsa so I was VERY excited to see the title of this posting! Thank you for making me a very happy camper. I will be making this recipe very soon!

  9. This looks like a great idea! my youngest is doing better with his autoimmune disease and starting to be open to new foods, including veggie dishes. can't wait to make this and see if he likes it!

  10. Yummy! I recently have had a few comments on my blog asking for nightshade free recipes! I think we (my family) needs to work on doing an elimination test with these, still there still a missing piece to the food allergy puzzle in my house! My name is Cindy and I blog over at I wanted to invite you to link up your recipe at our Gluten Free Fridays Recipe Link up party! It happens every Friday and we'd love to have you join us with some of your awesome recipes! You can find this week's link up here:
    Thanks, Cindy

  11. Just a quick question about nightshades and the elimination diet. I am a little confused as to whether I should test them all together for 3 days, or if each nightshade vegetable should be tested one at a time! Thank you!!!

  12. Thanks, jroush (above).
    I had that question too


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