Nut Free Diet
by Sue Kira, Naturopath & Clinical Nutritionist
About a Nut Free Diet
Nuts come in many shapes, sizes, and colours, contain great levels of vitamins and minerals as well as good sources of protein and essential fats. But the biggest issue with nuts for some people can be a nut allergy, intolerance, or sensitivity. Some nuts are not really ‘true’ nuts such as peanuts and cashews, but they can still be big offenders in the allergy arena.
With such a prevalence of nut allergies amongst kids these days, many schools have opted to go ‘nut free’ for all food brought into school and canteens to avoid any possible risk for children who have allergies.
Even though your child may not have nut allergies, you may not be permitted to send them off to school with foods containing nuts.
Nut allergy symptoms
- An itching or tickling sensation in the mouth, lips, tongue, or throat
- Itchy skin with or without hives (small spots or large welts)
- A congested or runny nose
- Anaphylaxis: a potentially life-threatening reaction that creates swelling of the tongue and throat which affects breathing. The shock of this happening can also make that person panic or even pass out.
Types of ‘nuts’ that people can be allergic to
The most common reaction is to peanuts, which are called nuts because of the name ‘Pea-nuts’, but they are actually legumes. Most legumes grow underground or as bushes just above the ground and are sometimes called ground nuts, whereas all other nuts grow on trees are aptly called tree-nuts. However, cashews (which are usually called a nut) are legumes that grow on trees. Confused?
Many people are only allergic to peanuts whereas others may be only be allergic to ‘tree-nuts’.
Examples of tree-nuts that many are allergic to include:
- Macadamia nuts
- Brazil nuts
- Pecan nuts
- Pistachio nuts
- Pine nuts (actually a seed, but some get cross reactive reactions)
- Hazelnuts (also known as ‘filberts’)
- Cashews (less frequently reactive)
Nut substitutes in cooking
When someone goes gluten free, they often use almond meal or other nuts as flour or milk and then suddenly find out they are allergic to nuts. Bear in mind that it is possible to be allergic to any foods, so if you are unsure, it is best to see an allergy specialist who can check your reactivity in a safe clinical setting.
Following are some alternatives to nuts that can be used in cooking.
- Any seed, such as sesame, pumpkin (pepitas) and sunflower seeds can be useful alternatives to nuts and nut flours.
- Coconut flour, shredded coconut or other coconut products are a great alternative to nuts, especially in cooking. Even though the word coconut contains ‘nut’ in it, it is really a fruit and is generally considered safe for most people with nut allergies – but remember that it is possible to be allergic to anything.
- Tapioca starch is another great gluten free, nut free, alternative to use in cooking. Tapioca is from a root called cassava, and it is rare to be allergic to it.
- Potato flour is commonly used as a nut alternative in cooking.
- Arrowroot from the maranta arundinacea plant (considered a herb) used as a powder is a good alternative in cooking for thickening.
- Plantain flour, which comes from a starchy fruit (a type of banana) should be fine for nut allergy sufferers.
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.