Ah, mashed potatoes. The very thought of the creamy, light, buttery mounds of white bring up found memories of Thanksgiving, Christmas and Sunday night dinners. Giving us the cozy comfort only rivaled by a feather duvet, mashed potatoes are the traditional side dish that seem to round out every meal.
So why would I be trying to find a replacement for a seemingly perfect food? Well, there are a couple reasons: my right knee is one reason and my left knee is the other.
Believe it or not, potatoes, and all other vegetables a part of the same family, contain a whole host of alkaloids (re: plant poisons) that can trigger problems in our bodies, like arthritis
Potatoes (not sweet potatoes), tomatoes, eggplants and peppers (just to name a common few) are part of the Solanaceae family, also called Nightshades, a group of plants named for their ability to grow at night. Nightshades vegetables contain high levels of glycoalkaloids, compounds known to be toxic at certain levels, causing gastrointestinal inflammation, nausea, diarrhea, dizziness, and other symptoms severe enough to require hospitalization.
And as for my knees, they’ve been borderline arthritic for years now (don’t ask) and cutting back on all nightshades, but specifically, potatoes has seemed to help. What’s the connection? Glycoalkaloids like the solanine found in potatoes, not only exacerbate inflammatory conditions, but also can disrupt the metabolization of calcium in the body, by blocking its assimilation and therefore depleting already low calcium levels in people with arthritis.
Nightshade vegetables may also aggravate other conditions like eczema, cystitis, lupus and psoriasis. It can take up to six months of exclusion of nightshades from the diet to achieve a beneficial effect.
Surprisingly, tobacco is included in the nightshade family, and consequently all nightshades contain very small amounts of nicotine, explaining why these foods are so addictive. Some programs to help people give up cigarettes also recommend giving up nightshade foods in order to completely eliminate low level nicotine intake and consequent re-addiction.
Here is a recipe for mashed potatoes minus the potatoes! This is a great dish to serve even if you’re not trying to avoid nightshade vegetables. The main ingredient is millet, a nutty, quick-cooking grain similar to quinoa, only slightly drier. Millet can be used in place of rice, or any other grain. Aside from quinoa and amaranth, millet has the most complete protein of any grain, making it a great choice for vegetarians. It is naturally alkaline, which is beneficial to the spleen, pancreas and stomach. Its significant amounts of iron, lecithin and choline help keep cholesterol in check and stop the formation of certain types of gallstones.
1 cup millet
3 cups water
1 medium onion
1 small head cauliflower
2 Tbsp cold pressed oil (olive, flax, hemp, etc.)
2-3 cloves garlic (optional, but delicious)
¼ cup arame, soaked for 20 minutes (optional – a huge nutritional boost!)
Unrefined sea salt to taste
1. Rinse millet well by covering with water and swishing it around, then draining. Do this 2-4 times until the water runs clear.
2. Chop cauliflower and onion into chunks.
3. Put rinsed millet and water in a large pot and cover with chopped vegetables and salt. Bring to a rapid boil, cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes, until the vegetables are soft and the millet is cooked.
4. Remove from heat, add the cold pressed oil (and arame is you’re using it), and mash with a large fork or potato masher. For an extra smooth consistency, use a hand blender or a food processor.
Millet is like a blank canvas – you can use any type of vegetable you and your family likes. For orange mash, use carrots; for green use broccoli, kale, or spinach; for pink use beets!
info source: Balch, Phyllis, A. Prescription for Dietary Wellness. New York, NY: Avery, 2003.