What you need to know if you are a vegan
Does a vegan diet provide all adequate nutrition if you have food allergies? Understanding food allergies, its triggers, symptoms and alternative options would help in adapting to the new diet, which already poses restrictions.
A food allergy is an unusual, over-reactive response by the immune system to a food wrongly considered harmful to the body. As a protective measure, it triggers inflammation in the body and the reaction could usually be mild, but rarely the severe symptoms like “anaphylaxis” could be life-threatening. The most common symptoms include skin rashes, itching, swelling of the lips, tongue, eyes, and face, vomiting. Once the allergy is triggered, the symptoms can occur in different parts of the body, simultaneously. In case of serious reactions like “anaphylaxis”, a person could experience difficulty swallowing and speaking- with a feeling of a lump inside the throat, breathing difficulties and dizziness. If a person is highly sensitive to a food allergen, even tiny amounts of it could set-off a severe reaction.
What are the Triggers of food allergy?
Even though there’s no cure for a food allergy, it can be managed better through earlier detection, and the key to controlling this is strictly avoiding the food allergens. An allergic reaction can be caused by many types of food, however, 90% of the food reactions are caused by milk, egg, tree nuts, wheat, soybean, fish, shellfish and peanut. Avoiding these ingredients is not as simple as it sounds. Many food allergens are hidden ingredients in packaged and processed foods. Hence, it’s prudent to read the food labels before consuming anything. However, the ingredients are not always mentioned in the packaging explicitly. For instance, flavoring agents and emulsifiers could contain soy protein or milk casein. It’s always advised to check with the manufacturers in these cases. You’ll need to start explaining your restrictions to restaurants and other food outlets as well.
Food allergies already restrict you from consuming certain foods, it can be even more daunting to commit to a vegan diet where you would face more dietary restrictions. It wouldn’t be surprising to speculate if the body would get enough nutrition with so many restrictions. Understandably, people are concerned about their adequate protein intake with a vegan diet as we normally associate meat as a high source of protein. The DRI (Dietary Reference Intake) is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight or 0.36 grams per pound. This amounts to 56 grams per day for the average sedentary man and 46 grams per day for the average sedentary woman. But it’s interesting to note your body’s protein needs can be easily met through plant sources. Hence, if you have made that choice to go-ahead, here’s what you can do if you are allergic to the below-mentioned foods.
Alternative to vegan food allergens
Wheat is an important source of carbohydrate, protein, and fiber. Apart from the obvious wheat-based food including bread, pasta, and cereals, it is important to stay away from vegan-meat and other meat alternatives that contain seitan, a wheat protein- used as a binder. Due to an increasing population of people being diagnosed with food allergies, many plant-based products are manufactured without gluten wheat can be substituted with grains like quinoa, buckwheat, barley, oats, amaranth, chickpea, etc. The best part is you get more protein from these grains as compared to wheat.
Soy is an important food to vegans due to many reasons. It is a fantastic source of protein, and its usage is so versatile that vegans consume soy milk, soy yogurts, tofu, tempeh and use them as a meat substitute for its texture. Hence, it would be advisable to stay away from processed meat and fast-food vegan options. Nonetheless, soy is not the only plant-based protein option for you, if you are allergic to it.
Amaranth is a seed gaining a lot of popularity among vegans. It is high in protein and quinoa, has all the essential amino acids, in other words, it’s a complete protein. You can also use coconut, almond or oat milk in place of soy milk. However, the usage would vary depending on the consistency and flavor of the milk.
Peanut allergy has become one of the most common severe allergies. However, as a vegan, peanuts are comparatively easy to avoid or substitute with other nuts. If you consume this legume for its protein, you can always have lentils and beans as a substitute
4. Tree nuts
Nut milk is the got-go dairy substitutes for vegans. So in place of almond milk, probably you can use oat milk or rice milk, depending on the recipe requirements. Also, most people who are allergic to tree nuts can consume coconut- which is an excellent alternative. As it has become mandatory to mention the allergen information on packaged products, avoid consuming products processed in a facility that handles any of the food that triggers allergies for you.
Whole grains, seeds, and legumes are excellent substitutes to fulfill your dietary needs.
Seeds again can be completely avoided without compromising the nutrition in your diet. Whole grains, legumes, nuts, vegetables, and fruits will be adequately sufficient to have a nutritious meal. Watch out for seeds as a hidden ingredient in the vegan packaged products.
Dealing with food allergies while you are vegan is definitely not a cake-walk. However, like following any particular diet, planning your meals ahead can take you a long way. It would be an admirable practice to cook your own meals, rather than resorting to fast-food, and processed-packaged food, where you are not completely informed of the ingredients and method.
Cooking your meals give you complete control, and it could be interesting too!
Markus is a certified professional health coach with over a decade of experience in the field. He specialises in helping individuals navigate their health journeys, whether they are dealing with chronic conditions, working towards weight management goals, or seeking to improve their overall wellbeing.
Markus is also a prolific contributor to our blog, where he shares expert insights, tips, and advice to help you stay healthy. He is passionate about ensuring our readers have access to the latest research and information. For personalised health advice, consider scheduling a consultation with Markus.