People mainly switch to eating more plant-based food because of the health benefits associated with it. But this can be restrictive and complicated if there are allergies, sensitivities, and intolerances to certain food or groups of food. One of the more well-known and common types of food allergy that belongs to this category is a peanut allergy. Due to these reasons, many readymade plant-based foods available these days are allergy-friendly products. The purpose of this article is to guide you with eating a plant-based diet even if you have allergies.
Common Food Allergens
Food allergens are compounds, chemicals, or substances in food that triggers an allergic response when you consume them. Listed below are the common food allergens, and this includes both vegan and nonvegetarian foods.
- Tree nuts
When ordering food from restaurants, ensure that there is no cross-contamination, and you must mention this when placing the order.
Allergy-Friendly Alternative Plant-Based Food
It is the gluten in wheat that causes an allergic reaction. So, you must choose a gluten-free whole-grain product for plant-based food preparation. Gluten is made up of two components gliadin and glutenin; the former is responsible for inflammatory response. Some of the wheat allergy symptoms are vomiting, digestive distress, hives, rashes, inflammation, and anaphylaxis if thw allergy is severe.
Quinoa, brown rice, and buckwheat are good alternatives for wheat. You can use almond, quinoa, cassava, chickpea, or teff flours instead of wheat flour for making bread. The advantage of using these alternatives is that they have higher protein content. For instance, a quarter cup of teff flour has 7 grams of protein. Cassava flour is good at mimicking wheat flour when you make bread, pancakes, or any baked goods. So, many gluten-free alternatives can replace wheat in plant-based food preparation.
Almonds, cashews, hazelnut, walnut, pecans, pistachio, and Brazil nuts are tree nuts. You must know that being allergic to one of them will increase your risk of allergy to others. Also, they are a staple in plant-based based diets because they are used for making dairy alternatives like plant-based cheese and butter. Not only that, but they also have high amounts of essential fatty acids and antioxidants that are beneficial for health.
Those who are allergic to tree nuts can use alternatives like sunflower, pumpkin, hemp, and chia seeds in their plant-based diet. They can be consumed either in their whole form or use butter made from them. For example, sunflower seed butter is widely available in supermarkets. According to the US Food and Drug Administration, coconut is classified as a tree nut, but it is not a botanical nut. People who have tree nut allergies can also try using coconut butter.
Peanut is a legume, so it can be considered a pseudo nut. Peanut allergy is one of the most common types of food allergies. If you are allergic to peanuts, you have a risk of developing allergies to other legumes like chickpea, peas, etc. Also, you must be careful about using pea milk as an alternative to cow’s milk as part of your vegan or vegetarian diet. Furthermore, if you have peanut allergy, you can use alternatives like sunflower, pumpkin, sesame, and chia seeds in your plant-based diet. For instance, use sunflower seed butter instead of peanut butter when preparing plant-based food.
Sesame seeds are one of the main ingredients in many Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines. Sesame seed oil is used in a variety of ways when preparing foods. Likewise, hummus which is part of most Arab cuisine is made using tahini, i.e. sesame seed paste. So, when ordering food at Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Korean, and Mediterranean restaurants, ensure that they do not use sesame seeds or oil in your food. The only available alternative for sesame seed oil is grapeseed oil as they have a similar flavor. The other alternatives to sesame seeds that can be used in plant-based food preparation are flax, chia, and hemp seeds because they have similar flavors and nutritional profile.
In plant-based diets, soy-based products like tempeh and tofu are used as meat alternatives. This is because they are good sources of complete protein for those following a strict plant-based diet like vegan-diet. Soy milk is widely used as an alternative to dairy milk by most vegetarians and vegans. Some people might develop an allergy to soy products, but there are other plant-based alternatives. For example, rice or oat milk can be used instead of soy milk in beverages like tea and coffee. You can also use nuts, seeds, whole grains, and legumes for protein. Quinoa, amaranth, and buckwheat are good alternatives to soybean because they are good sources of complete protein. A cup of cooked quinoa and amaranth contains up to 8 and 9 grams of protein, respectively.
On a final note, before switching to a plant-based diet, find out whether you have any type of plant-food allergy.