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Healthy Eating & Food AllergiesHealthy Eating & Food Allergies


Healthy Eating and Food Allergies

An allergic reaction to food can be as mild as an upset stomach, or as serious as restricted breathing and death. Food allergies may be identified when eating a new food for the first time, or they may develop during adulthood with foods you have regularly eaten for years. If you’ve noticed changes in how you feel after eating, you may need to eliminate certain foods from your diet.

Common food allergies include shellfish, fish, peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, dairy, soy and wheat.

Symptoms of food allergies

Food allergy symptoms can occur within a few minutes of eating. Sometimes the symptoms are mild and include stomach cramping or itching in the mouth and throat. More severe allergies may cause lip and tongue swelling, hives, vomiting or diarrhea. Some allergies cause tightening of the throat and a dangerous drop in blood pressure. This severe reaction is called anaphylaxis and requires immediate medical attention.

The severity of an allergic reaction can vary from person to person. An allergy to peanuts in one person may cause an itchy throat while others risk anaphylaxis simply from exposure to peanut particles.

Healthy food substitutions

Foods most commonly associated with allergies are also nutritious, which can make healthy eating a challenge. Nuts contain heart-healthy fat, whole wheat provides fiber, and fish and eggs are good sources of protein. It’s important to talk with your doctor before making any food substitutions to ensure you are not swapping one allergen for another. These foods may provide healthy options to ensure you get the nutrients you need while decreasing the risk of aggravating a common food allergy.

  • Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and seed butters provide similar protein, fat and minerals as many nuts and nut butters.
  • Replace dairy with almond, rice or soy milk products.
  • Choose poultry, beans or tofu to replace lean protein in fish and shellfish.
  • Lentils, chickpeas and fava beans can serve as a substitute for soy and soybeans.
  • Gluten-free oats and flour blends can be used in baked goods for those with wheat allergies.
Lori Rice, M.S., is a nutritional scientist and author with a passion for healthy cooking, exercise physiology, and food photography.
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