Fifteen million Americans have food allergies and one in every 13 children suffer from food allergies on a daily basis. That number has doubled since 1999 and no one seems to know why. The number one food allergens in the United States include: soy, gluten and wheat, dairy, eggs, nuts, peanuts, sesame, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish. Of course, other food allergens can occur from other foods. Some common allergens include moldy or fermented foods (chocolate, cheese, vinegar, peanuts, cashews), while many people have no idea what food they’re reacting to when they have an allergic response such as hives, anaphylaxis, itching, digestive upset, or trouble breathing.
Those suffering a food allergy can have a hard time getting enough nutrients into their diet such as protein, especially if they’re eating a plant-based diet. While few people have allergies to meat, that doesn’t mean it’s a health food. Considering a meat-free diet has been linked to tremendous health and environmental benefits, going meat-free is obviously the best choice, allergy or not. Milk, dairy, and eggs are also now being said to be one of the hardest food allergies to outgrow compared to other food allergies, which makes any forms of vegetarian, allergen-free diets virtually impossible.
However, many vegan protein sources are common allergens (namely soy, glutinous grains, peanuts, tree nuts), posing challenges for those with an allergy trying to get enough protein in an otherwise healthy vegan diet. But like anything else, nothing is impossible and there is always a variety of plants that can provide an easy answer to any common health issue including getting enough protein in an allergen-free and vegan diet.
Here are some of the best sources:
Containing all essential amino acids, this vitamin and mineral-packed powerhouse is one of the best (if not the best) source of easy to digest, allergen-free, plant-based protein. It’s also rich in chlorophyll which you can see by its green hues. This indicates its anti-inflammatory benefits which makes it perfect to add to your diet whether you have a food allergy or not. Hemp seeds are also a rich source of plant-based omega 3 fatty acids, perfect for those with a fish allergy or who don’t wish to eat mercury-laden fish to get their omega 3 fats. Hemp can easily be added to virtually anything, and it’s a great alternative to grains since it’s rich in fiber, if that’s a concern.
Chia seeds are another seed that is rich in anti-inflammatory benefits along with all essential amino acids. Chia (and hemp) come with added fiber benefits as well. This can be helpful when you’re not able to eat nuts and many grains, typical protein-rich sources of fiber in a plant-based diet. Chia is also beneficial in a plant-based diet since it provides the body with key minerals such as iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc.
Pea protein is an easy to digest and hypoallergenic protein. It’s also grain and gluten-free and high in amino acids similar to whey protein (without the negative effects of whey, of course!) Raw, pea protein isolate is the better form to consume since it’s high in amino acids, easier to assimilate, and is higher in protein than some other forms of pea protein. Always buy non-GMO sources of pea protein whenever possible since it is a frequently genetically modified crop. Pea protein can be used in smoothies, shakes, baked goods, or wherever else you need a protein boost. Or, regular green peas make the perfect substitution to soybeans (edamame).
The highest protein source in the world, with more protein than beef per tablespoon, spirulina is a complete source of protein and has 4 grams of protein in just one teaspoon. It’s also the one of the highest sources of chlorophyll on the planet, and is rich in Vitamin B12, iron, Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, potassium, and magnesium. Two teaspoons a day would lend you an easy 8 grams of protein, complimentary to other protein sources in a well-rounded, vegan diet. Spirulina is easy to add to smoothies and shakes, easy to digest, and provides many anti-inflammatory benefits that make it well worth adding to your diet.
5. Ancient Grain-Like, Gluten-Free Seeds
Quinoa, teff, amaranth, buckwheat, and millet are all wonderful sources of allergen-free protein. Quinoa and teff are rich in all essential amino acids, making them a complete protein source. These seeds are also rich in calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and B vitamins. Cook them just like you would other grains, whether that being in your morning porridge or in delicious energy bars, baked goods, and a variety of lunch or dinner entrees.
Other great sources of allergen-free, vegan protein include common vegetables like broccoli, beans, legumes, and leafy greens. Even some allergen-free and grain-free flours such as coconut flour and amaranth flour make it easy to get enough protein in a vegan diet.
If you eat an allergy-free vegan diet, we’d love to hear from you! Share your tips below on how you get enough protein and which sources supplement your diet the best.