Having a food allergy can change your entire diet schematic. Depending on the severity and the type of food, it may eliminate a whole category of products. With that said, for every food you’re allergic to there is an alternative waiting for you to try.
What is a Food Allergy?
While a food sensitivities result in unwanted side-effects — such as digestive discomfort, nausea, gas, and bloating — a food allergy can result in hospitalization and it can even be terminal.
An allergic reaction is all about your immune system.
If you are documented with a food allergy your immune system is reacting to a certain food or substance that you put in your body. When it comes to an allergic reaction, “even a tiny amount of the allergy-causing food can trigger signs and symptoms such as digestive problems, hives or swollen airways,” and, with certain severities, “a food allergy can cause severe symptoms or even a life-threatening reaction known as anaphylaxis.”
“With that said, food allergies are incredibly common with an “estimated 6 to 8 percent of children under age 3 and up to 3 percent of adults,” affected.
Common Food Allergies and Plant-Based Alternatives
It’s not surprising that a large portion of the most common food allergies are meats and animal products. With that said, this makes finding healthy replacements an easy task as there are a plethora of plant-based foods that are great for animal-product substitutes.
An allergy to nuts can be broken down into tree nuts — brazil nuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios, pine nuts, and more — and peanuts. Why are these broken into two distinct allergies? Peanuts are actually legumes. Many people who suffer from one nut allergy, generally means you may be allergic to another, as “being allergic to one type of tree nut increases your risk of developing an allergy to other types of tree nuts.”
Nuts also happen to be a staple of a plant-based diet. They are used to make dairy-free cheese and milk, as well as playing an integral ingredient in rich and fatty recipes. With that said, it doesn’t mean you can’t find great plant-based alternatives.
Try substituting oats, granola, seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, and chia) dried fruits (raisins, cranberries, or goji berries), and even dark chocolate nibs or chocolate chips (make sure it’s at least 70 percent or higher!). For dairy-free milk and cheese, use oats, such as in this Simple Vanilla Oat Milk or this Smokey Oat Cheese Sauce. Soy and starch products are also great nut substitutes for dairy-free cheese, such as this tofu-based Feta Cheese or this Stretchy Potato Cheese. You can also use seeds in lieu of nuts for milk, such as this Sesame Seed Milk.
An allergy to cow’s milk is one of “one of the most common childhood allergies, affecting 2–3% of babies and toddlers.” There are two types of allergic reactions to cow’s milk: IgE and non-IgE. Those with an IgE “experience symptoms like swelling, rashes, hives, vomiting and, in rare cases, anaphylaxis,” while those with a non-IgE allergy have “more gut-based symptoms like vomiting, constipation or diarrhea, as well as inflammation of the gut wall.”
Luckily, plant-based substitutes abound for cow’s milk!
If you are allergic to cow’s milk but aren’t allergic to nuts, you can pretty much make any type of cheese or milk product using your favorite nut. Here are a few of the many, many options: Roasted Garlic and Fresh Herb Cream Cheez, 5-Ingredient Almond Feta, Sliceable Cashew Cheese, Baked Macadamia Feta, or this Sunflower Cheddar Spread. The same goes for milk alternatives. When soaked, most nuts swell making them perfect to be ground and siphoned into a creamy milk substitute such as this Almond Milk and Cashew Milk, or they can be turned into your favorite milky creamers such as this Almond-Macadamia Nut Creamer or this Almond Milk Pumpkin Spice Coffee Creamer.
Next to cow’s milk, eggs are the “second most common cause of food allergy in children.” Fun fact: you can be allergic to egg whites, but not the egg yolk. On top of that, some people with an egg allergy can actually tolerate eating baked products with egg yolk in them without having a severe reaction. With that said, if you have an egg allergy, the reaction is not pleasant and symptoms can span from digestive distress to skin reactions, respiratory problems, and even anaphylaxis.
Substituting eggs is actually quite easy!
One of the best substitutes, especially in baking, is flaxseed. In fact, you can make a flaxseed egg. Per the Kitchn, “the basic ratio is one tablespoon of flax seeds and three tablespoons of water to replace one egg. You’ll need to grind the flax seeds into a fine powder using a coffee or spice grinder (or use 2 1/2 teaspoons pre-ground), and then you simply whisk in the water until it becomes gelatinous.”
Some other great egg substitutes include tofu — Mexican-Spiced Tofu Scramble or this Tofu Benedict with Hollandaise — chickpeas and garbanzo beans — Chickpea Flour Quiche or this Garbanzo Bean Flour Omelets — or even starchy potato — Sweet Potato Frittata. You can also opt for an easy egg replacer mix “using starches, gums, and sometimes gluten” with a mix of water or another liquid.
Shellfish — crustacean and mollusk families of fish — are yet another common allergy. A shellfish-driven allergy “is caused by your body attacking proteins from” these specific fish families. With that said, the biggest offender and “most common trigger of a seafood allergy is a protein called tropomyosin,” as well as the runners up arginine kinase and myosin light chain. Shellfish include shrimp, prawns, crayfish, lobster, squid, and scallops. An allergy to shellfish can be one of the most virulent, as even the vapors from cooking shellfish can trigger a reaction.
When it comes to fish outside the shellfish realm, it turns out this one can hit you later in life. A fish allergy also has similar symptoms to shellfish and can oftentimes be fatal. With that said, shellfish and fish with fins have different proteins, which means if you are allergic to one, you aren’t necessarily allergic to the other.
Vegan seafood can be accomplished by using the right type of substitute for the various types of sea-dwelling creatures or type of preparation. For instance, tempeh is perfect for flaky and chewy “fish” fillets and “fish” sticks. Hearts of palm mimic the texture and look of scallops. Young coconut meat is a great meaty fish or lobster substitute such as in this Young Coconut Meat Ceviche. You can even make replicate fish sauce with this How To Make Vegan Fish Sauce recipe using wakame, water, soy or tamari sauce, miso, and water.
While soy is a common allergy, it’s only known to “affect around .04% of children and are most commonly seen in infants and children under three.” Similar to a shellfish allergy, a soy allergy is “triggered by a protein in soybeans or soybean-containing products.” Symptoms for a soy allergy reaction include “an itchy, tingly mouth and runny nose,” as well as “a rash and asthma or breathing difficulties,” and even, “in rare cases, a soy allergy can also cause anaphylaxis.”
Yet, one of the most common questions when it comes to soy allergies is what exactly triggers an allergic reaction? To make it easy, a soy allergy can be triggered by any soy-based product including soy milk, soy sauce, or even soybeans. With that said, soy is a hidden ingredient in many processed and packaged products, therefore reading ingredients labels in incredibly important.
While soy is generally used in many plant-based products, it’s also very easy to either avoid altogether or substitute. It’s easiest to identify soy foods including edamame, miso, tamari, tempeh, tofu, and, of course, soy sauce, to name just a few. Next, find great substitutes! For soy sauce, try this Tahini Soy Sauce. For miso, use vegetable stock, tahini, vegan fish sauce, or even simply salt. Soy may be one of the easier items to avoid, simply try a few of these soy-free recipes.
Many people confuse a gluten or yeast allergy with a wheat allergy. While they are similar, the mechanism of the allergy is different. Specifically, if you have a wheat allergy your immune system is reacting to one of hundreds of proteins that are found in wheat. In particular, wheat allergy can be “confused with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity, which can have similar digestive symptoms.” Wheat allergy symptoms include “digestive distress, hives, vomiting, rashes, swelling and, in severe cases, anaphylaxis.” Some of the products that include wheat are bread crumbs, bulgur, faro, all-purpose flour, pasta, seitan, and spelt. For a full list of wheat products, visit this Food Allergy.org.
Going wheat-free can be a challenge in the beginning, yet there are a host of plant-based foods that will happily take the place of those wheat foods. A great baking substitute is quinoa — which is a seed, not a grain — such as these Chocolate Pretzel Quinoa Bars or these Sugar-Free Puffed Quinoa and Cacao Nib Chocolate Bars. Think you can’t have that wonderful sandwich? Try packing this Cashew Mozzarella That Melts recipe between a couple of wheat-free slices of this Base Culture Paleo Bread. Want your favorite pasta dishes? Try substituting wheat-based pasta with rice noodles, such as in this Filipino One-Pan Noodle recipe, or eggplant for those lasagna noodles, such as in this Tomato and Vegetable Lasagna. Instead of using all-purpose flour, substitute almond, coconut, or even 100 percent buckwheat flour, or even make your own mixtures, such as in this Strawberry Rose and Berry Lavender Tarts, this The Best Banana Cream Pie Ever, or this Chocolate Cream Caramel Bars.
For some reason, this healthy and digestive tract friendly fruit also happens to be one of the top allergy fruits. The allergic reaction to kiwi fruit ranges in severity and physical manifestation. Some people react with “itching and inflammation in the mouth and throat (this is usually linked with oral allergy syndrome),” while other people may experience serious symptoms such as “abdominal pain, vomiting, difficulty breathing, and in rare cases, anaphylactic shock and death.”
This fuzzy little juicy fruit has the ability to cross-react “with many other foods and substances, including birch pollen, avocado, banana, rye grain, and hazelnuts, meaning the allergens share similar properties and can react the same way in the body.”
Luckily, there are hundreds of other fruits available and ready for consumption! Fruits are generally rich in nutrients, especially antioxidants, which help fight inflammation. Here are a few wonderful ways you can go kiwi-free, yet fruit-rich in your kitchen! Try an easy smoothie, such as this 3 Ingredient Mango Smoothie. Top off your favorite bowl of whole grain, such as this Warm Blueberry Overnight Oats. Go with a tropical snack, such as in these Plantain Sweet Potato Tacos with Guacamole. Get your dessert on with this Raspberry and Dragon Fruit Mousse Cake. Sweeten your favorite drink, such as in this Lychee and Kombucha Spritz.
If you’ve got an allergy, there is a substitute out there for your favorite recipe! In order to discover your favorite allergy-free substitutes, we highly recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 15,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to new recipes every day. Check it out!
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