The Daily Beet

21 Mar Allergies: Nuts and Seeds

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We have covered allergies to gluten and soy, today we look at nuts and seeds.

I (Natala if you weren’t sure) :) mentioned earlier this week that I almost killed my husband with nuts before we got married.. The thing is that I knew about his nut allergy, however I did NOT know about cross contamination nor did I know that some packaged food would have nuts in it even if it wasn’t obvious! I had made a cake that had a few ingredients that I thought were nut free, but were not. The result? My now husband (then crush) started swelling up like a balloon. Thankfully he is a forgiving guy, and I learned how to check and double check everything that comes into our house. (our house is completely nut free). That is a lie, we are nuts, but that is an entire different blog post.

Nuts are a serious allergy, and to our knowledge are the only food allergy that can cause death almost instantly. For those of you who do not know about nut allergies, it is important to know a few things:

Cross contamination is serious business. If you are having someone over to your home that has a nut allergy and you plan to cook, be sure to use separate utensils/cooking pans if you are also using nuts in a dish. Better yet – skip the nuts all together to be on the safe side.

Many people do not know that the peanut is an airborne allergy as well, so if you are serving something with peanuts and you have a guest that is allergic to peanuts, they could be in big trouble.This is why it is such a big issue in schools, if there is a child allergic to peanuts, just being around a child eating peanut butter can cause the child with the allergy to become very sick (or worse). If your child is in school, try switching to sunflower butter or using seeds instead (which are not airborne allergies).

I also found out the hard way about airborne allergies with my husband. On one of our first dates I wanted to go to this Asian place – well the place used tons of peanuts in other dishes. Even though my husband was not eating anything with nuts, he soon felt ill and started to experience the same symptoms he has when he consumes a peanuts.

Wow, looking back on things – it’s really amazing he still took a chance on me. :)

Another note – if you have a child that does not like nuts, it might be a sign that they have an allergy. It might be best to get them tested to be on the safe side.

For more information on nut allergies you can check out this WebMD article.

What to do if you have a nut/seed allergy:

First it is important to know: You do not need to eat nuts or seeds to be healthy. You will get every thing you need from a plant-strong diet that is absent of nuts and seeds. In fact, Dr. Esselstyn’s diet for “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease” encourages people to greatly limit and eliminate nuts all together. You will get your healthy fats from plants, and you do not have to worry about adding any extra. If you have a child and are worried about them getting enough fat, you can add avocado or tofu to their diet to up their fat intake. If your child is allergic to nuts but not seeds you can also add in seeds or seed butter.

If a recipe calls for nuts or seeds:

We have found that you can often substitute beans in savory recipes. All of the flavors still go really well together. We really like using chickpeas when we’re substituting for nuts. We’ve also used lentils in place of nuts in savory recipes.

In recipes calling for nut based flour: use any other flour or for nut based ‘meal’ try using corn meal instead.

“Cheese” sauce: We’ve found that simply using nutritional yeast and water and something to thicken it up a bit – like some mashed up potatoes works great. You can also use a thickening agent to do the trick. You can also use tofu (silken works well for sauce). For people who do not like nutritional yeast, you can make a savory ‘spread’ or sauce using mashed up potatoes or chickpeas, and then adding savory spices like: garlic, pepper, mustard powder, tumeric and a little hot sauce.

Sweet recipes:

Oats are a great substitute.

Depending on the recipe, often  you can just skip the nuts all together, you can add something like raisins if you are looking for another texture in the recipe. For instance, in our mighty muffin recipe you can skip the walnuts all together and you will still have a great tasting mighty muffin!

Another thing you can try is using whole grain rice crisps (depending on the recipe).

And lastly in some recipes bran works great.

The bottom line is that even if you have a nut or seed allergy you can still thrive and be satisfied on a plant-strong diet.

Do you have a nut or seed allergy? What are some of your strategies?

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Natala Constantine
  • Pemillia915

    I am allergic to most nuts but oddly enough I can still eat peanuts and cashews although I havent tried them raw, scared to try them. My strategies for avoiding the dangerous nuts like almond and walnuts are read, read, and read the labels on everything and when dining out I ask the waitress and let them know that this is serious, they don’t mind checking with the chef, I am sure they would rather do that than have to call 911. Thanks Natala for these blogs, I just started going plant strong this week and was ready to give up because of my allergies, thank you for showing me that there are other options.

    • sally

      Why would anyone with sever nut allergies even eat in a restaurant? Why even take the chance? I think it’s terrible to say, feed me but if there is a trace of nuts I’ll die. be responsible for your own heath and don’t put your burden on others. How does one even grocery shop. Peanuts and tree nuts are everywhere!

  • http://bentoville.blogspot.com/ Tina

    My 6yo daughter is very allergic to tree nuts and several seeds. We carry her epipen and some benadryl with us everywhere. We have to be especially careful in ethnic restaurants – often simply ordering steamed rice or a simple salad for her, both of which she is happy to have.

    At a local Indian restaurant, they apparently didn’t understand what “she’s allergic to nuts” meant. They sprinkled the top of her mango lassi with cashews.

    I have been fairly concerned about her fat and protein intake so I’m glad to read some encouraging words about that in this article. She’s always been vegetarian, but I’ve been worried about removing dairy from her diet. She has really taken to the soy milk, however, and seems to like it better than the cow’s milk.

    The one thing I’m sad I can’t try on this diet are the “cheese” substitutes. I don’t mean the stuff they sell in the store – I’m talking about the tasty cashew and/or nutritional yeast extract recipes. You see, I’m allergic to mushrooms and nutritional yeast. I wish I could find something we both can enjoy that is “cheese-like”.

    Anyway, thanks for such an informative and helpful article. :)

  • Patrick

    I have enjoyed reading the allergy blogs this week. Interestingly I discovered a couple of food allergies during my initial 28 days doing the Engine 2 diet. I was quite skeptical about Nutritional Yeast and tried it sparingly…next thing I knew I was loving it. Unfortunately, I began breaking out in hives and had swollen lips. I narrowed it down to the nutritional yeast or avocados, two things I love on the Engine 2 diet. Ultimately, it was the nutritional yeast. Everyone once in awhile I get some itchness from the avacodos, but it is worth it.
    I wondered if anyone had any other suggestions for substitutions to Nutritional Yeast. I liked the texture and taste Nutritional Yeast added to my foods.

  • Debbie

    I really like the substitution suggestions. I thought it was a little strange that I am following this way of eating when I have no allergies, unlike my sister who has a vegan house due to dairy/egg allergies. A few years ago when I was pregnant with my first I noticed a little bit of a reaction to cashews (itchy mouth and weird feeling lips) so I have mostly avoided them since. I can’t seem to find any information on “mild” nut allergies but I have the same reaction if I eat too much conventionally grown fruit so I don’t know what it is. Still, I am glad to see creative ways to follow all these new-to-me vegan recipes that call for cashews, and I am especially glad to learn that if needed my kids can get enough fat without pumping them full of nuts.

    To Patrick: I have heard some compare nutritional yeast to miso, but I don’t know if the use is similar as I have never really had it. Miso also has fungus though, so if it is the mushrooms you are reacting too it might not work. Hope someone else can clarify.

  • Karina99

    I, too, have enjoyed the recent posts that offer food allergy tips. 3 out of 5 members in my immediate family have tree nut or peanut allergies, so I have been adapting plant-strong recipes for years. I am very careful at home, and we avoid most asian restaurants, and cook recipes ourselves at home. Mexican restaurants may offer a good deal of flavor without the nuts and peanuts (just watch out for the mole). For those friends avoiding nuts and peanuts, I have been soaking and whipping pumpkin seeds to a creamy texture. For those avoiding nuts, I like to make a lemony, garlicky tofu (extra firm) “ricotta cheese” in the VitaMix that, with a dash of cumin and tumeric, can make a good mac and cheese. E2 Dark Chocolate Brownies show up at nearly every occasion lately…as well as oat, cocoa, date truffles. In muffins, oat flour ground in your blender offers a “nutty” flavor witout the nuts. Good luck!

  • CMV

    I have been dealing with my tree nut allergies since 1972 when I was 5. The days before epipens. They had a kit with a small vial of epinephrine, a syringe needle, Benedryl and directions. I also have mouth itching when eating certain raw fruits & vegetables. (Called Oral Allergy syndrome). Such as apples, peaches, pears, cherries , strawberries, bell peppers , carrots….. However I can eat these things if they are cooked. Drying or freeze drying has no effect. Canned are ok.

    As far as my nut allergies are concerned, here is what I do. Be familiar with where nuts are likely to show up. Bakery items, desserts, ice cream, cereal, rice pilef, candy, chocolate ( European chocolate often has hazelnuts), nut flours, almond milk, oils, flavorings, (including flavored coffee), salads & salad dressing( I have seen raspberry vinageritte with walnuts) , pesto often has pine nuts in it, marzapan (an almond paste), even facial scrubs sometime use crushed nut shells. Read labels and ASK!!

    Substitutes: crushed pretzels, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, Oatmeal, or just leave it out. Vanilla is a good sub for nut flavorings.

    The food allergy network has many good resources

  • cloud

    You’ve given some great information here on nut and seed allergies and their management. I am severely allergic (anaphylaxis) to the peanut along with my eldest son and grandson. It has gotten a lot harder to avoid the allergen, but you have put out some great basic wisdom and understanding for those of us who have to manage it for ourselves and others. Thanks. C

  • RLev

    I thought I was the only vegan out there with my severe food allergies!!! It has been difficult for me to eat out as I am very limited to what I can eat. I am only allergic to cashews and pistachios but started to avoid all other nuts just as a precaution. I am also severely allergic to seseme seeds and recently developped an allergy to avocado, coconut and cinnamon! UGH! Does not help my vegan life style at all…
    It does get frustrating as I come in with a huge list of allergies when I order food. I mostly cook at home too. My diet consists of lots of beans and veggies! I seem to be doing fine with all of my allergies :D