A food allergy occurs when your body’s immune system sees a certain food as a harmful compound, and reacts by causing various symptoms. The process is called an allergic reaction, and the foods that cause reactions are called allergens.
If you have food allergies, you know it can be a nightmare to find alternatives. And that becomes even harder when you go out to a nice restaurant. You might show food allergy symptoms when you least expect it.
With that in mind, what are some food allergy alternatives you can choose?
Before we look at the alternatives and allergy substitutes, let’s look at common allergens. Some of the most common food allergies include shellfish allergy, peanut allergy, and egg allergy.
That being said, there is a difference between intolerance to food and being allergic to food.
Difference between allergy and intolerance
A food allergy, as we mentioned before, is an abnormal response to a food that is triggered by the immune system. On the other hand, your immune system is not responsible for the symptoms that occur due to an intolerance to food, and it is worth noting that these symptoms can sometimes resemble the symptoms of a food allergy.
One example is being allergic to milk. But that’s different from lactose intolerance. When you’re allergic to milk, your body reacts and your immune system sends a response. Being lactose intolerant, on the other hand, means that your body cannot properly digest lactose, a protein found in milk.
It’s important to make the difference between food allergies and an intolerance to food. Preventing allergic reactions can be vital, as these reactions can cause devastating illnesses. And in the case of food allergies, these reactions can sometimes be fatal.
Symptoms to watch for
Let’s take a look at the common food allergy symptoms. Remember, these are reactions your body’s immune system is sending. They are different from what happens when you’re intolerant to a food.
Most of the symptoms of a food allergy involve the skin, the cardiovascular system, the respiratory system, and the gastrointestinal tract.
- Stomach cramps and stomach pain
- Shortness of breath and inability to breathe properly
- Repetitive cough
- Hives and similar skin reactions
- Tight, hoarse throat, which often results in trouble swallowing
- Swelling of the tongue, which affects your ability to talk and breathe properly
- Pale or blue colouring of the skin
- Weak pulse
- Anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening reaction that impairs breathing and sends the body into shock
Now that we know the symptoms, let’s look at some of the alternatives for food allergies. They work great for common food allergies.
For those who are allergic to milk, there are many cow’s milk substitutes you can try. One of them is coconut milk, and others include soy, potato, oats, almond, cashews, hemp, and macadamia. All of the milk alternatives are fortified with vitamins A and D, the same way cow’s milk is.
But coconut milk is the healthiest option. Coconut milk has a thick consistency and is also dairy-free, lactose-free, grain-free, nut-free, and soy-free.
Some people and nutritionists warn about the fat content of coconut milk. And while it’s true that coconut milk has a high-fat content, those are good, beneficial fats. Studies have shown that despite being high in fat, coconut milk can improve your cholesterol levels by boosting the good cholesterol and reducing the bad cholesterol.
One thing to note: coconut milk contains no calcium, something cow’s milk is rich in. But you can always make up for it by adding more kale, broccoli, and watercress into your diet.
Depending on what you need eggs for, there are different substitutes. Nowadays, many recipes call for eggs, be it for cooking, baking, or even frying. That makes cooking challenging for people with food allergies. Eggs are a binding or leavening agent in most recipes. The good news is there are substitutes that can work great.
If you need eggs for binding, combine two tablespoons of fruit purée (like banana or apple sauce), 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseeds, and 3 tablespoons of water. This mix can substitute for the eggs in your recipe.
If you need an alternative for binding and leavening, you can use one of the following:
- Mix 2 tablespoons of warm water, 1 packet of gelatin, and 1 teaspoon of yeast dissolved in ¼ cup of water
- 1 teaspoon of baking powder, 1 tablespoon of vinegar, and 1 tablespoon of water
- 1.5 tablespoons of water, 1 tablespoon of baking powder, and 1.5 tablespoons of oil
Chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, and sunflower seeds
No matter which seeds you choose, they’re all high in omega-3 fatty acids, and because of that, seeds serve as an anti-inflammatory food. Their richness in omega-3 makes them great food for the brain, and are a fantastic alternative for nuts. Nuts are also high in omega-3, but they’re also a common food allergy (especially peanuts).
When you’re on a restricted diet, seeds can serve the same purpose as nuts. You can try any of the above-mentioned seeds, and you won’t go wrong. Pumpkin and sunflower can also be used for baking when you need an alternative to nuts.
Note: It’s recommended that you check with your nutritionist and allergist before using seeds as an alternative to nuts.
Finding gluten-free flours and grains is one of the biggest challenges, but that applies only to the less educated in cooking. There are many flours that you can use that have zero gluten, including coconut flour, spelt flour, oat flour, rice flour, and almond flour.
If you need high-energy flour, use coconut flour, as it’s high in fibre and healthy fats. This makes coconut flour much easier for the body to digest and use for energy. The coconut flour will also help your body balance its sugar levels.
Almond flour, on the other hand, is rich in minerals. It’s the flour you use when you want to get a boost in your magnesium, calcium, potassium, manganese, and copper levels. Almond flour works great in baked goods and helps lower your cholesterol.
For those of you who love pasta but need gluten-free flour, try brown rice and quinoa paste. Their texture is similar to regular pasta, and also have a taste that is close to regular pasta. Combine them with a healthy sauce, and you’re good to go.
We mentioned previously that many people are allergic to peanuts. That makes consuming peanut butter a problem. One of the best alternatives to peanut butter is almond butter. Unlike peanut butter, almond butter is low in saturated fatty acids, high in fibre, and rich in unsaturated fatty acids. Almond butter also contains vitamins and antioxidants, as well as trace minerals.
You can also use sunflower seed butter, as it’s free of tree nuts. Sunflower seed butter is high in protein and fats, making it great for controlling your weight. In addition, the butter is rich in magnesium and vitamin E, as well as a decent amount of omega-6 fatty acids.
Lentils and quinoa
When you want a meat-free protein, the three best options are legumes (lentils), beans, and quinoa. Soy also contains protein, but there are studies showing that soy is not as good as advertised.
On the other hand, lentils are high in protein and rich in healthy nutrients. Their dense texture makes them versatile for almost any meal. Quinoa is the healthiest grain available, and it’s packed with nutrients. Its neutral taste makes quinoa seeds perfect for a salad, soup, stew, and even dessert.