More than 11 million Americans are estimated to have food allergies, which occur when the immune system reacts poorly to certain food. If you have an allergy, you know: Within minutes of eating the offending food, you may experience hives, swelling or have trouble breathing. • Less obvious and more common are food intolerances, which can be digestive issues that don't involve the immune system. Symptoms may include cramps, gas and bloating. Unlike with food allergies, you may be able to eat small amounts of problem foods. • But don't torture yourself. Instead, try some of these lower risk alternatives to the most common food allergies, including milk, eggs, peanuts and soy.
Apples and applesauce
In addition to vitamin C, pectin (a soluble fiber), potassium and important phytochemicals, apples contain high amounts of quercetin, which can help reduce allergy symptoms, according to a study in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. German researchers recently showed organically produced apples have a 15 percent higher antioxidant capacity than conventionally produced apples.
Some people with allergies have trouble removing toxins through the liver and kidneys, said nutrition expert Bonnie Minsky. If the toxins back up into the body, it increases the chances of inflammation, which leaves an allergic person even more sensitive. Vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and cabbage greatly assist the process, she said.
Probably the least allergenic of the grains, quinoa's high protein content (12 to 18 percent) and balanced set of essential amino acids make it a complete source of protein, according to chef Lisa Williams (lisacooksallergenfree.com), who has allergies to wheat and dairy and sensitivities to sugar and gluten. Quinoa is a good source of dietary fiber, phosphorus, magnesium and iron.
Food can be expensive when you're on a specialized diet, which makes cheap lentils a superfood on all fronts. Lentils are loaded with iron, protein and folic acid. One cup has 16 grams of fiber — six times more than a serving of Metamucil, said Christine Doherty, a naturopathic doctor in New Hampshire. If you're allergic to peanuts, you have a 5 percent chance of having an allergic reaction to other legumes such as lentils, according to allergy expert Dr. Lee Freund, author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Food Allergies.
Rice is a standard hypoallergenic food. Though rice milk is low in protein, it's a popular alternative for those who are lactose intolerant.
Packed with potassium and containing more calcium than orange juice, sweet figs beat candy for an instant sugar fix. Figs are high in soluble fiber, which can relieve constipation. Dark figs have a stronger taste. Eat them fresh, if you can.
Nutritious and rich in complex carbohydrates and fiber, sweet potatoes are a member of the morning glory family. They are brimming with carotenoids, vitamin C, potassium, fiber and vitamin B-6, which all contribute to reduced inflammation, Minsky said.
Avocados can be an ideal source for healthful fat. They also are a natural anti-inflammatory because they have a high amount of vitamin B-6 and magnesium. If you have a latex sensitivity or are allergic to melons, you may have a reaction to avocados.