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Diet Diva
Diet Diva

Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus. 

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Could You Be Allergic?

This week is Food Allergy Awareness Week, so I thought I would spend a few minutes talking about how serious food allergies can be. This was not an area of specialty for me, but if you have someone close to you with a food allergy, you can become an expert really quickly! I am a Girl Scout leader and one of my girls is allergic to peanuts so my awareness went up quite a bit several years ago when we met.

Only 1% of adults and 3% of children have an actual allergy to food. Children can often outgrow allergies, but adults do not. Many people think they are allergic, but it could be a different reaction that is not actually an allergy. If it is a true allergy, some can be mild and some can be very serious and even lead to death. Common reactions are hives, eczema, or asthma. In severe cases it can cause anaphylaxis, which is a drop in blood pressure that can cause shock to the body and ultimately death. Timing is everything when anaphylaxis is happening, and many people with severe allergies carry an EpiPen (shot of epinephrine).

8 Most Common food allergens:
Shellfish (shrimp, lobster, crab)
Tree nuts (such as almonds, cashews, walnuts)

I think the scariest of these is the peanut allergy. Peanuts even in very, very small amounts can cause a reaction in those highly allergic. Many airlines have actually stopped serving peanuts because of some people having a reaction to the particles released in the air in a confined place. In addition, you may have seen packages that say, “Processed in a plant that manufactures peanuts.” M&M’s are an example of a food that do not contain peanuts in their plain variety, but because Peanut M&M’s are processed in the same facility, someone highly allergic should stay away from even the Plain M&M’s.

The good news for people who suffer from allergies is that food labels are now mandated by the FDA to list in common language if the food contains any of the eight most common allergens. Instead of saying “whey” which is a protein in milk, the label has to say, “contains milk” somewhere on the label. Usually you can find this info after the ingredient listing.

If you have a friend or family member who has an allergy, make sure that you read labels to see if what you are cooking or serving may unknowingly contain that allergen.

Be safe and read labels to keep everyone else safe, too!

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About the Author


Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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