Don't Let Hidden Sources of Nuts Trigger Your Nut Allergy

Various nuts
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For many people having an allergy to nuts, be it peanuts or tree nuts, can lead to a very scary life-threatening situation if not handled properly. While some allergies can cause stomach aches, skin rashes, diarrhea or other symptoms, nut allergies often have more dramatic reactions. Being allergic to nuts can often cause an anaphylactic response, which without the proper treatment can have a deadly result.


Nut Allergy Facts

In the United States, approximately 3 million people have been diagnosed with nut allergies, and a majority of those people will never outgrow this allergy. The number of children living with peanut allergies has been found to have tripled between 1997 and 2008.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics nut allergies are considered to be the most severe food allergy. While some people can be allergic to both types of nuts, others may be allergic to only one. Peanuts are considered to be legumes, while tree nuts include walnuts, almonds, cashews, pistachio, hazelnuts and Brazil nuts. 

Nut Allergy Reactions

As in any food allergy, a reaction can include everything from stomach discomfort, vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty swallowing, swelling or tingling of the lips, mouth or tongue, or difficulty breathing, among other symptoms. Many people diagnosed with nut allergies also risk having an anaphylactic response, which is a severe life-threatening reaction, where the patient has difficulty breathing, requiring immediate medical attention, or they can potentially die.


In the event that someone experiences any symptoms that appear to be that of an allergic reaction, it is important to consult a doctor for treatment. Allergy testing is imperative, especially when dealing with nut allergies, as reactions can worsen and have life threatening effects. 

For those diagnosed with nut allergies, it is important to learn to read labels, advocate for themselves, and to be certain to lead a nut-free life.

Carrying an epinephrine auto-injector and even wearing a medical alert bracelet are often recommended for those with life threatening nut allergies. In 2004 the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act required that nuts be listed on all food labels for the safety of those with allergies.  

Hidden Sources of Nuts

While it is easy to recognize obvious sources of nuts, such as peanut butter and mixed nuts, there are many cases where it is not that clear. Learning to identify hidden sources of nuts is something that cannot be overlooked. Being familiar with these foods can help you to recognize the foods that could trigger an allergic response before it happens. 

Below is a list of foods that often contain “hidden” sources of peanuts and should be avoided:

  • Baked goods
  • Egg rolls
  • Marzipan
  • Nougat
  • Candy
  • Chocolate

Below is a list of foods that often contain “hidden” sources of tree nuts and should be avoided:

  • Cereal
  • Cookies
  • Candy
  • Barbecue sauces
  • Frozen Desserts
  • Flavored Coffee
  • Energy Bars
  • Artificial flavoring

    People with nut allergies may also find that they react to the following "hidden" foods:

    • Almonds
    • Butternuts
    • Brazil nuts
    • Cashew nuts
    • Hazelnuts
    • Chestnuts
    • Coconut
    • Artificial nuts
    • Lychee nuts
    • Macadamia nuts
    • Almond paste
    • Nut butters 
    • Nut meal
    • Nut milk
    • Pesto
    • Pine nuts
    • Pecans
    • Pistachio nuts
    • Walnuts

    Someone with a nut allergy can never be too careful. It is always important to read and re-read labels, continue to research unfamiliar ingredients, talk to your waiters and waitresses at restaurants to be certain they are aware of your allergy needs and when in doubt, pass up on potentially nut contaminated items.  

    How to Follow a Nut-Free Diet

    When following a nut free diet it is important to replace the nutrients that the body might not get without this food group. Tree nuts are rich in protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin E, calcium, magnesium and potassium. Peanuts are rich in protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin E, niacin, folate and manganese. Nuts are also a source of several heart-healthy substances, such as unsaturated (good) fats, omega-3 fatty acids and plant sterols. These substances have been shown to improve heart health by lowering the bad cholesterol levels and preventing dangerous heart rhythms. 

    Supplementing with additional sources of protein, such as lean protein, chicken, fish and beans will help the body meet it’s needs. Additionally, olive oil and avocado can provide the body with alternative sources of “good fats” for heart health. Adding fruits and vegetables to round out the diet will help to ensure a balanced diet for optimal health.

    Living with a peanut or tree-nut allergy is not an easy task. It is something to be taken seriously, as it can be potentially life threatening. However with the proper precautions, a true understanding of your needs and following a nut-free diet, one can certainly lead a happy and healthy life. 

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