Egg Free Diet
by Sue Kira, Naturopath & Clinical Nutritionist
About an Egg Free diet
There are various reasons to choose an egg free diet. Most people are egg free because of an allergy or intolerance, some have a sensitivity to eggs or just egg whites, due to histamine intolerance. Others simply don’t like the taste of eggs.
In this article, we’ll look at various aspects of an egg free diet, such as allergies and intolerances, and how to use egg free substitutes for your favourite meals that may normally contain eggs. There is also advice on how egg may be hidden in various places such as vaccines.
Egg allergies and intolerances
Egg allergy is the second highest allergenic food after dairy milk and its associated products, with a whopping 20% of young children in western countries allergic to eggs.
50% of these kids tend to grow out of this allergy (but do they?) and a small number of people will further develop an allergy to the meat of poultry like chicken, turkey and duck.
Symptoms of egg allergy
Common egg allergy symptoms can include swelling and itching around the eyes, throat, mouth, lips and skin anywhere on the body, often producing a rash or hives, creating or exacerbating eczema, or giving rise to nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, headaches or feeling faint or dizzy. Severe reactions can give rise to anaphylactic reactions.
Blood allergy testing or skin prick tests can show if someone has an allergy to eggs. Intolerances and sensitivities are harder to diagnose and are often diagnosed purely by noting symptoms after consumption of eggs or products containing eggs. Some are not allergic or intolerant to eggs but find them difficult to digest, giving them bouts of constipation if eaten too regularly.
Some people are allergic or intolerant to just the ‘whites’ or just the yolk of eggs, but care needs to be taken as you can get cross-reactivity, or contamination of the other part of the egg, by trying to separate the two parts. This is particularly important if you have an allergy, but if you have a histamine intolerance, then avoidance of the separated ‘whites’ can work well.
Ingredients to look out for when choosing an egg free diet
Substances to beware of include: egg powder, albumin, globulin, lysozyme, livetin and lecithin (E322). Lecithin can be derived from soy and is fine for the egg intolerant person.
The Latin word for egg is ‘ova’, so look out for words like ovalbumin, ovomucin, ovoglobulin and ovovitellin. Sometimes egg isn’t listed, but is commonly found in products like baked goods (esp. glaze on buns etc), mayonnaise, aioli, tartare sauce, hollandaise or béarnaise sauce and custards.
Many processed foods such as pasta, ice-creams, burgers, canned soups and food with breadcrumbs often contain eggs. Vegan foods may also contain some egg in the form of lecithin. Dairy free foods are not always egg free.
If you have a strong sensitivity to egg, then when eating out beware of foods cooked with the same oils/butter as your food e.g. they may cook bacon and eggs alongside your dish.
Vaccines with egg protein
If you have an egg allergy then did you know that some vaccines contain egg protein? This includes the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine). Some authorities say that it is safe to use this vaccine with egg allergies, but is it? The flu vaccine also contains egg protein as does the yellow fever vaccine.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) say that if you have a severe egg allergy then these vaccines are contraindicated, which means it is not advisable to have a vaccine that contains egg protein.
What do you miss out on by not having eggs?
Eggs are a good source of high-quality complete protein (amino acids) and omega 3 fatty acids. Eggs also contain all vitamins except vitamin C and are rich in vitamin D, B12 and folate. Eggs are also a good source of: iodine for a healthy thyroid; phosphorous for healthy bones; selenium, an antioxidant; and calcium for your bones.
However, you can get all of these nutrients from other foods including:
- Omega-3 fatty acidscan be found in fish and seafood.
- Vitamin Acan be found in liver or other organ meats or you can get a precursor form called beta-carotene in any vegetable that has a yellow, orange or red colour.
- Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)can be found in spinach, mushrooms and many other vegetables.
- Vitamin B12can be found in any animal product
- Vitamin K2can be found in any organ meat.
- Cholinecan be found in any meat, especially seafood and poultry.
- Phosphoruscan be found in any red meat.
- Seleniumcan be found in fish, seafood and Brazil nuts.
What can I eat for breakfast if I don’t eat eggs?
Before answering this question, ask yourself if you should eat a traditional breakfast in the morning, or eat whatever you want (providing it’s nutritious) and at a time that suits your rhythms. Some prefer to skip breakfast, opting for an intermittent fast regime with their first meal at 11am or midday. There are no rules.
Here are some suggestions (*note: if you are allergic to poultry meat then avoid)
- dinner leftovers*
- chicken drumsticks*
- canned fish like tuna or sardines
- sausages & patties (chicken*, beef etc)
- bacon with spinach
- fish, like salmon
- a paleo style nut and seed muesli with coconut or almond milk
Egg substitutes in cooking
Depending on what you want to cook, there are many great substitutes for eggs.
- Tofu can be a great alternative to scrambled eggs
- Vegan mayonnaise can be tofu-based
- For baked goods, baking powder can be used for the leavening factor normally provided by eggs, and additional water and oil to replace the liquid and fat.
- Baking soda and lemon juice or vinegar makes bubbles to give cakes and biscuits a light, fluffy texture.
- Pectin in fruit puree can act in a similar way to the fat in egg.
- Flax seeds and water are great alternative ‘sticky factor’
- Chickpea flour can also be used as a binder in batter recipes like tempura.
- Chia seeds and water are a good alternative gelling agent.
- Gelatin also works well in some recipes as a sticky substitute for eggs
Before you commence a new diet, see your medical or health care professional for qualified guidance about what foods and supplements are best for your body. While on the diet do not stop any medications or supplements previously prescribed unless advised otherwise by your medical or health care professional.
During the early stages of a new diet, you may experience symptoms such as fatigue, headaches or body aches, which may occur because your body is detoxifying. However, if you are unsure about a symptom at any time, check immediately with your medical or health care professional.