C wrote us a nice note asking what she can do about her food allergies. She reports that she is allergic to seafood and nuts, is trying to lose weight, and wonders what she can do when the recipe calls for these foods.
Food allergies are fairly common, especially in children, and symptoms range from mild (lip swelling) to scary (difficutly breathing, a sensation of throat tightness). Hopefully your symptoms are on the mild side, C.
At the top of treatment recommendations for food allergies is almost always complete avoidance of the offending food, so carefully reading food labels is an important part of what you can do to stay well. Packaged foods with an ingredients statement have to include information on any major allergens they may contain.
Children sometimes grow out of food allergies, but allergies to peanuts, tree nuts and shellfish are often lifelong concerns.
Many people have food sensitivites, not true allergies, where symptoms are related to inflammatory changes that, while typically mild, are nonetheless problematic (causing for example bloating or nasal congestion). Identifying the specific food that causes us discomfort can help us individualize our meal choices, but total avoidance of the food is not as important as it is for true food allergies.
I asked my yourwellness partner and nutritionist, Beth, to consider your question for us. She recommends consideration of chicken or tofu as alternatives to seafood when the recipe calls for fish, and soybeans when the recipe includes nuts. Tofu typically takes on the flavor of the foods it's cooked with or the marinade you choose. Tempeh is a favorite of mine with a texture that many people says reminds them of chicken. You might be thinking, "Why would I use soy nuts if I'm allergic to nuts?" Well, soy nuts are actually dried soybeans, not nuts, and Beth says they provide a nutty texture to a dish without overwhelming one's palate. Ask your doctor if soy products are appropriate for you, however, since both peanuts and soybeans are legumes and thus related (but most people with peanut allergies tolerate soy products well).
C also asked about peanut oil. In general, I'm not a fan of peanut oil as I believe there are healthier options for cooking and making salad dressing (extra virgin olive oil and cold-expeller-pressed canola oil come to mind). If you have allergies to peanuts, however, staying away from peanut oil makes good sense unless you are absolutely certain you have pure peanut oil, which some people with peanut allergies can tolerate. Terms like "cold-pressed," "expelled," or "crude" on the label imply that the oil is not pure and should be avoided by those with peanut allergies.
I hope this is of help to you, C. Be well.
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