Food allergies and intolerances are not uncommon in this day and age. The most common food allergies that are relevant for us that follow a plant-based diet are soy, tree nuts, peanuts and wheat.
Food allergies differ from food intolerances and cause your immune system to incorrectly identify some of the proteins in one of the listed foods above as harmful. These problem foods then trigger an abnormal immune response.
Exposure to even very small amounts of food can cause a reaction. In some cases, an allergy is potentially life-threatening, and the only solution is to remove the problem food from your diet completely.
Since soy, tree nuts, peanuts and wheat are protein-rich staples, removing one, or multiple of them can make a high-protein diet a bit more challenging, but perfectly possible. In this article you’ll read some useful tips and tricks to guarantee enough protein from your plant-based nutrition protocol.
Soy & soy-products
Soy allergies are commonly outgrown, but other reasons, such as a preference for a diet low in lectins, soy-phobia or simply not being a fan of the bean and its derived products can all be good, or maybe uncritical reasons to avoid soy.
Soy products include edamame, textured vegetable protein (TVP), tofu, soy cheese, soy fiber, soy flour, soy grits, soy ice cream, soymilk, soy nuts, soy sprouts, soy yogurt and different forms of soy protein (powder).
Allergies are out of the question here, but depending on your tolerance, you might not want to exclude soy from your diet completely. If you’re intolerant to or skeptical about soy, fermented soy products might be a choice that you’re more comfortable with. Fermenting is an effective way to reduce the phytic acids in soy-products.
Commonly fermented soy-products:
Soy sauce and tamari (gluten-free soy sauce) are naturally brewed or fermented, or chemically produced. Naturally brewed soy sauce is fermented for months or even longer and has an aroma and complexity of flavor. Industrial soy sauce on the other hand, is super salty.
Soy is found in many (processed) foods, and if you’re allergic, it’s important to always read food labels. If you’re forced to, or make a personal choice to avoid soy, here are some practical solutions to substitute soy-products.
- Eat seitan – also known as ‘wheat-meat’ (contains gluten)
- Try hemp milk, which is actually higher in protein than soymilk!
- Choose hemp-fu, chickpea or white bean tempeh instead of tofu (these products might be hard to find)
- Replace soy sauce with coconut aminos
- Substitute soy protein powder for pea protein isolate, another low-carb protein powder
Tree nuts & related products
Roughly 1% of the Western population can’t stand one or multiple type of tree nuts. People that are allergic to one or multiple type of tree nuts will also be allergic to related products made with the nut they’re allergic to, such as nut butters.
These tree nuts are also found in baked goods, cereals, energy bars, veggie burgers, oils and many other (processed) products. Another thing to look out for is possible traces of nuts. Food labels will usually indicate this with the statement ‘may contain traces of …’. Manufacturers will put this on the label when they believe that there’s a risk of contamination.
The best way to deal with a tree nut allergy is to avoid most of them, because an allergy to one type of tree nut increases the risk of developing another type of tree nut allergy. However, some people have no problem avoiding one type of tree nut while enjoying other types.
The most common type of tree nuts that are sold include:
- Brazil nuts
- Macadamia nuts
- Pine nuts
Avoiding tree nuts
If you’re allergic to tree nuts, here are some practical tips for substituting nuts and nut-products.
- Choose seeds, which have a similar nutrition profile to nuts
- Try seed butters (they’ll be a lot cheaper to make yourself)
- Choose hemp milk, which has more protein than almond, cashew or coconut milk!
- Substitute (roasted) tree nuts for roasted peas or chickpeas for a crunchy, protein-rich snack.
Peanuts are not nuts, but legumes. Allergies to legumes other than peanuts and soy – which are also legumes – are uncommon. However, people that are allergic to both tree nuts and peanuts are common.
Just like with tree nuts, the best way to deal with a peanut allergy is to avoid peanuts. Note that many products available contain, or may contain traces of peanuts.
If you’re allergic to peanuts, here are some nutritious substitutes:
- Tahini is a great substitute for peanut butter and contains roughly the same amount of protein.
- Choose sunflower and pumpkin seeds, which are higher in protein than peanutes
- Substitute (roasted) peanuts as a topping of various Asian foods for roasted cashews or sesame seeds.
- Try dry roasted edamame as a snack substitute.
Wheat & gluten
Wheat contains various proteins, which can cause a immune response in people that are allergic to wheat. An allergy to any of the hundreds of protein present in wheat can result in digestive distress, swelling, rashes, and in some cases, anaphylaxis, but is commonly outgrown at a young age.
An intolerance to gluten – a specific protein that’s also found in wheat, differs from a wheat allergy, but can have similar digestive symptoms. People with celiac disease, or non-celiac gluten sensitivity need to avoid grains that contain the protein gluten.
Some common wheat grains and products include:
- Wheat (including wheat starch, bran, and germ)
Common gluten-containing grains that aren’t wheat include:
Other than these common ingredients, wheat can also be found in soy sauce, veggie burgers, dressings, seasonings, spice mixes and condiments.
If you’re allergic to wheat and you’re fine with other types of grains that include gluten, here are some practical tips for you.
- Use brown rice, oats, rye, spelt or barley.
- Substitute wheat flour for buckwheat, quinoa, oat, almond, chickpea or rice flour.
- Replace seitan and other wheat-based meat substitutes with soy products
If you’re avoiding gluten, here are some practical tips for substituting grains containing this protein.
- Choose gluten-free grains like buckwheat, quinoa, teff and rice
- Buckwheat, chickpea, lentil and nut flours are all gluten-free and high protein
Some great plant-based protein sources are displayed in edible form in the chart below, including their allergy tag.
|Hemp seeds, roasted||100 g||36.7 g||30 g||23.3 g||13.3 g||–|
|Pumpkin seeds, roasted||100 g||32.1 g||46.4 g||14.3 g||10.7 g||–|
|Peanuts, roasted||100 g||26.7 g||50 g||16.7 g||10 g||peanuts|
|Seitan||100 g||24.6 g||3.5 g||7 g||1.75 g||gluten|
|Tahini||100g||21.5 g||51,5 g||6,5 g||12.5 g||sesame seeds|
|Almond flour||100 g||21 g||56 g||6.9 g||4.4 g||tree nuts|
|Sunflower seeds, roasted||100 g||20 g||50 g||20 g||10 g||–|
|Pistachio nuts, roasted||100 g||20 g||46.7 g||26.7 g||10 g||tree nuts|
|Tempeh||100 g||19 g||5.35 g||11.9 g||8.3 g||soy|
|Pine nuts||100 g||15.4 g||65.4 g||11.5 g||3.8 g||tree nuts|
|Kamut||100 g||15 g||2.3 g||60.9 g||9.7 g||gluten|
|Oatmeal||100 g||14.3 g||7.1 g||67.85 g||10.7 g||*cross|
|Soybean sprouts||100 g||12.9 g||7 g||9.4 g||2.35 g||soy|
|Teff||100 g||12.2 g||3.65 g||70.7 g||12.2 g||–|
|Edamame, cooked||100 g||10.9 g||5.2 g||9.9 g||5.2 g||soy|
|White beans, cooked||100 g||9.7 g||0.4 g||25.1 g||6.3 g||–|
|Chickpeas, cooked||100 g||9.5 g||3 g||30 g||8.6 g||–|
|Tofu, firm||100 g||9.5 g||4.2 g||2.4 g||<1 g||soy|
|Cranberry beans, cooked||100 g||9.3 g||0.5 g||24.5 g||10 g||–|
|Pinto beans, cooked||100 g||9 g||0.65 g||26.2 g||9 g||–|
|Lentils, cooked||100 g||9 g||0.4 g||20 g||7.9 g||–|
|Black beans, cooked||100 g||8.9 g||0.5 g||23.7 g||8.7 g||–|
|Kidney beans, cooked||100 g||8.7 g||0.5 g||22.8 g||6.4 g||–|
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[Ready next week]