Food allergies occur when the body’s immune system abnormally reacts to a food as if it were a threat. Instead of digesting the food normally, the immune system responds by launching an attack against the ‘foreign’ invader, releasing antibodies (or defense proteins) and triggering an inflammatory response. This reaction is what ultimately brings about the symptoms of a food allergy which can range from mildly unpleasant to severe and potentially life-threatening. – Andrea Hill, BASc, MSc, Holistic Nutrition Educator
Here are the eight most common food allergies. Know what to avoid, which foods may contain these potential allergens, and what to use as a substitute in its place. Always read the ingredient list of any food product before buying it to determine its safety.
Foods to Avoid: Eggs, including both the egg white and the egg yolk; eggnog, mayonnaise and meringue desserts.
Common Hidden Sources: Baked goods, egg substitutes, pasta and egg noodles, marshmallow fluff (in jars), nougat, marzipan and surimi (imitation crabmeat).
Foods to Avoid: Cow’s milk, including condensed and evaporated milk, cream, half-and-half, dry or powdered milk, butter, buttermilk, cheese, cream cheese, cottage cheese, yoghurt, sour cream, ice cream, sherbet, puddings and custards.
Common Hidden Sources: Deli meats, hot dogs, sausages, vegetarian ‘meat’ products (i.e. veggie burgers, veggie dogs), chocolate, margarine spreads, ‘dairy-free’ creamers (can contain milk derivatives), sandwich breads and yeast breads, protein bars, boxed cereals, salad dressings and dips.
Foods to Avoid: Fish including but not limited to tuna, salmon, snapper, tilapia, catfish, anchovies, sardines and cod.
Common Hidden Sources: Fish sauce, Worcestershire sauce, Caesar salad dressing (may contain anchovies), imitation crabmeat (surimi), fish broth, fish stock cubes or bouillon; omega-3 fat supplements (aka ‘fish oil’).
Foods to Avoid: Shrimp, lobster, crab, crawfish (also known as crayfish) and prawns. Can also include oysters, mussels, clams, cockles, octopus, scallops, squid (aka calamari), snails, conch and whelks.
Common Hidden Sources: Fish stock, imitation crabmeat (surimi), seafood flavourings (anything labelled ‘natural and/or artificial flavourings’ may contain fish by-products), cuttlefish ink pastas, bouillabaisse and cioppino dishes; glucosamine supplements.
Foods to Avoid: Wheat-based breads, pasta, crackers, cereal, flour tortillas, wheat germ, spelt, farro, couscous, bulgur, kamut, wheat bran, wheat berries, einkorn, emmer, triticale, sprouted grain products (like Ezekiel®), matzo, semolina and durum wheat.
Common Hidden Sources: Seitan (wheat gluten ingredient common in vegetarian products), soy sauce, surimi (imitation crabmeat), rye breads (unless labelled 100% rye), baked goods, cookies, granola bars, hot dogs, most sausages, deli meat, modified starch, commercial salad dressings and ice cream desserts.
Note: Wheat-free does not mean gluten-free; they are not the same. If you need to avoid gluten, you must avoid all wheat, barley and rye grains. If you have a wheat allergy (but are not sensitive to gluten), you can eat barley and rye.
Foods to Avoid: Anything made from soy, including soy milk, tofu or bean curd, tempeh, edamame (soy beans), soy nuts, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, miso, soy protein isolate, soy nut butter and soy oil.
Common Hidden Sources: Hydrolyzed or Textured vegetable protein (TVP, common soy ingredient in processed vegetarian products), canned tuna, infant formulas, vegetable starch and vegetable broth (ingredients that ‘may contain’ soy), mono- and di-glycerides.
Foods to Avoid: Peanuts and anything made from peanuts, including peanut butter, mixed nuts, beer nuts, artificial nuts, goobers (chocolate-covered peanuts), monkey nuts (term used to describe peanuts), peanut flour, peanut oil, arachis oil (another name for peanut oil).
Common Hidden Sources: African, Mexican and Asian (Chinese, Indian, Thai, Vietnamese and Indonesian) restaurant food, candy (including nougat and chocolate), sunflower seeds (processed on equipment shared with peanuts; check the label), marzipan, granola bars, energy and protein bars, glazes and marinades, egg rolls, mandelonas (peanuts soaked in almond flavouring), ice cream and nut butters (often processed on equipment shared with peanuts; check the label to determine those that are kept separate).
Foods to Avoid: Almonds, Brazil nuts, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pistachios, cashews, pine nuts, chestnuts and tree nut butters (almond butter and cashew butter).
Is Coconut Considered a Tree Nut?
The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, states that although the Food and Drug Administration considers coconut a tree nut, it is not a botanical nut, and is classified as a fruit. “While allergic reactions to coconut have been documented, most people who are allergic to tree nuts can safely eat coconut. If you are allergic to tree nuts, talk to your allergist before adding coconut to your diet.”
Common Hidden Sources: Pesto, some deli meats (like mortadella), candy, nougat, chocolate, cereals, crackers, cookies, granola bars, energy bars, marzipan, nut milks (almond milk, cashew milk, etc.), flavoured coffee, artificial flavouring, nut extract (e.g. almond extract), nut flavouring, lychee, nut flour (almond flour, hazelnut, etc.), nut paste (e.g. almond paste), praline, and nut oils (can be in lotions, hair care products and soaps).
Source: Food Allergy Research and Education Organisation
Mild to moderate symptoms may include one or more of the following:
Severe symptoms may include one or more of the following:
Sources referred to in article:
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