Nicotine in Fruits and Vegetables: How Much Is There?

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.

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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:

1

Potato

This common starchy food is used on a daily basis. From delicious French fries to mashed potatoes, the uses for potatoes are endless. Surprisingly potatoes contain nicotine alkaloid in their skin. This nicotine alkaloid can be fatal in high levels. In the peels, there are around 4.8 ng/g (nanogram/gram). If you eat the whole potato you will obtain around 7.1 ng/g of nicotine.

nicotine in fruits and vegetables

Potato

2

Tomatoes

Green tomatoes are found to have around 42.8 ng/g of nicotine in them while a ripe red tomato will have only 4.3 ng/g of nicotine.

nicotine in fruits and vegetables

Tomatoes. Image: byfir0002 | flagstaffotos.com.au, GFDL 1.2

3

Peppers

Like potatoes, and tomatoes, peppers also contain nicotine alkaloids. But these are in very low concentrations. You’ll find that peppers contain small amounts between 7-9.2 ng/g of nicotine.

nicotine in fruits and vegetables

Peppers

4

Eggplant

Surprisingly, eggplants are another edible plant in the belladonna family that contains nicotine. There is around 100 ng/g of nicotine in a full eggplant.

nicotine in fruits and vegetables

Eggplant. Image: By Kiensvay [CC BY-SA 3.0]


5

Some Berries

Berries such as goji berries contain slight traces of nicotine. These small red berries, as well as huckleberries, are part of the nightshade family. Unfortunately no studies have been done to investigate their nicotine content, however normal nightshade edibles will contain anywhere between 2-7 ng/g of nicotine.

nicotine in fruits and vegetables

Goji Berries. Image: By Didier Descouens [CC BY-SA 4.0]

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.

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Jim H

I started vaping in January 2011 and haven't had the desire to smoke a traditional cigarette since. It inspired me so much that I created this website to help others like me who want to quit smoking. I hope you enjoy the site and please leave a comment.

  • Valerie Duncan

    Thanks for this info. My son bought me my first e-cig for Christmas 2011 and I smoked and vaped until April and decided I was sick of stinking like smoke and the awful taste in my mouth after a cig. Haven’t looked back since. Went from 24mg down to 6mg. I had such a smokers cough that that was the only way my husband could find me in the store as I am short. Now he can’t find me LOL. It was only about a week and my smokers cough left me.
    HAPPY VAPING!!

    • That’s great news, Valerie! Congratulations on becoming smoke free!

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