What is an allergy?
Don’t confuse allergies with an intolerance. Most people who think they are ‘allergic’ to foods, may only have an intolerance. An allergy involves the immune system – and can be life threatening – an intolerance does not, but can certainly be a nuisance.
Allergies are marked by swelling, rashes, difficulty breathing, or even shock. Intolerances usually result in some sort of GI discomfort.
If you do have an intolerance, read on. You may find some of the information helpful.
Some of the most common foods are also the most allergenic. Here, we’ll examine animal-based-food allergies that can be substituted with inspiration from a vegan diet.
Approximately 2 to 5 percent of children around the world have an allergy to cow’s milk. Many of these children will eventually outgrow it, but some do not. In fact, most doctors recommend not giving milk to babies until they are at least 1 year old.
The milk allergy is not to be confused with lactose intolerance. Many people are indeed lactose intolerant, meaning they lack sufficient quantities of the enzymes to break down lactose – the sugar in milk. Being lactose intolerant may cause people to experience digestive discomfort, but a true milk allergy may cause hives, or in extreme causes, anaphylactic shock.
Some delicious alternatives to milk are soy milk and almond milk. If you’re new to trying these as milk substitutes, go with an open mind. While they don’t taste like cow’s milk at all, they are great on cereal, for cooking and on their own. Opt for the sweetened versions if you are new to them. Even sweetened, some brands of soy milk contain less sugar than cow’s milk.
I really enjoy Silk’s Soy and Almond milk. 8th continent is probably my favorite soy milk of all time, but it is harder to find.
BEWARE: Soy can be an allergen. Almonds allergies are rare, so this is a safe bet.
Egg allergies are frustrating. Even if you can live without omelettes and scrambled eggs, eggs are ubiquitous in baking. Cakes, brownies, cookies…all contain eggs. As does mayonnaise.
Eggs are also used in food additives, which are used in too many processed foods. Check the labels for food additives beginning with the prefix ‘ova’ or ‘ovo’, as these are derived from eggs. A few others are also derived from eggs: albumin, livetin, simplesee…to name a few. Here is a more comprehensive list.
The good news is you can live without eggs…you can even make delicious cakes and cookies. There are many ways to successfully substitute for an egg in baking; for example, bananas, soy products and baking powder can be used depending on the eggs purpose, leavening or binding. Take a look at our article on vegan egg alternatives for baking delicious vegan treats.
Cheese allergies can come from an underlying allergy to milk, or can come from the products produced by cheese making. Either way, cheese allergies can cause rashes, upset stomach, swelling and even anaphalaxys.
Don’t fret. There are some many delicious alternatives to cheese, and you may wish to try them even if you aren’t allergic to cheese.
Instead of using cheese on a sandwich, try guacamole or hummus.
Add a touch of soy sauce to spaghetti sauce instead of adding parmesan cheese – you’ll be surprised at how it tastes!
On pizza, though it may sound sinful, you can forgo the cheese. Try adding artichokes or capers soak in olive oil to spice up a cheeseless pizza.
Cod and salmon cause more allergic reactions that other types of fish. Fish is pretty easy to avoid; however, some condiments like Caesar dressing for example, may contain anchovies. Anchovies are not as allergic and cod and salmon, but can be to some people, as can tuna, sardines and mackerel.
Fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which can help reduce inflammation throughout the body and may even help reduce depression.
If you can’t eat fish, there isn’t really a proper vegan alternative to it, unless you happen to like fake meat, but you can get the omega-3 found in fish from many vegan foods, particularly walnuts and flax seed.
Shellfish include (but are not limited to) shrimp, lobster, crab, mollusks and oysters.
If you are allergic to fish, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are allergic to shellfish, and vice versa. However, it’s worth getting a test just to make sure.
Shellfish allergy is the most common allergy in adults and can be very serious. It often doesn’t develop until adulthood either, so it can seem to come out of no where.
Again, a vegan-inspired substitute for shellfish is difficult, but they do exist. Shellfish are high in zinc and iron. These minerals are easily obtainable in lentils, beans, spinach and whole wheat, for example.