Most of us already know that nicotine is not only highly addictive, but it’s also harmful and toxic to the body in larger doses. But when most people discuss nicotine, they often link it to tobacco products such as cigarettes. Surprisingly nicotine is not an engineered substance; it is in fact a natural occurring alkaloid and there are traces of nicotine in fruits and vegetables which we eat every day.
Why is There Nicotine In Fruits and Vegetables
Nicotine is harmful to humans in larger amounts, and it is also equally harmful to most other animals if they ingest it as well. Plants are unique in that they develop curious defenses to ward off predators and survive. Some plants emit a noxious smell, some have thorns, and others are poisonous and are distasteful when ingested. For certain plants, specifically those that belong to the nightshade family, their defense against predators is to produce nicotine.
Edible Plants in the nightshade family
There are many plants in the nightshade family, however not all of them are edible. Belladonna is quite a well-known plant due to its deadly effects when consumed. Surprisingly the following plants below are not only edible plants in the nightshade family, but also contain trace amounts of nicotine in them:
Understanding the concentration levels of nicotine in nightshade plants
For the average person, not nearly enough nicotine is present in nightshade plants to cause a problem. The average cigarette available for sale in the US contains around 9mg of nicotine. When you take into consideration the concentration levels of nicotine, which is measured in nanograms, the amounts seem insignificant.
There are a million nanograms in one milligram. This means that a normal cigarette will have 9 million nanograms of nicotine in it. If you’re concerned about the amount of nicotine in your foods, then don’t worry! It is estimated that you’ll need to ingest twenty pounds of eggplant to get the nicotine effects from secondhand smoking. This means that you’ll need to eat absurd quantities of the above foods to really get any effects from the nicotine.
High amounts of nicotine, anywhere between 50-100mg, are harmful to the body. Low amounts from nicotine in fruits and vegetables will cause no side effects. In fact, there are many studies which appear to document some health benefits of nicotine in the treatment of a variety of medical conditions.