Healthy Cooking
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Allergy Free Cooking

Adverse food reactions, also called food allergies and food intolerances, affect millions of people, and are believed to cause a variety of common health complaints and diseases.

If you have been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome, migraine, recurrent otitis media (ear infections), rheumatoid arthritis, or asthma, you may have been counseled by your health care practitioner to eat a more hypoallergenic diet.

That's because a great deal of scientific research indicates that eating certain foods, most notably wheat, dairy products, eggs, soy foods, yeast, and artificial colorings, may cause allergic reactions that can result in a variety of health complaints.

Unfortunately, the above-mentioned allergenic foods are widespread in the American food supply, so it can be very difficult to avoid them. Planning a hypoallergenic diet may seem to be an overwhelming task, but we have a few tips that can make it a lot easier. To help you navigate, read the following tips and the article entitled Allergy Avoidance Diet.

Many nutritionists and physicians believe that the only definitive way to identify and manage adverse food reactions is through an Allergy Avoidance Diet. Because the recipes on our website are prepared from minimally processed whole foods, you'll find very few "hidden ingredients" when planning meals with our recipes—regardless of whether you need to avoid wheat, soy, eggs, dairy products or other allergens.

When you venture out into the grocery store and attempt to plan your meals around highly processed foods, however, hidden ingredients are common. Especially when grocery shopping with children, it really helps to make selecting allergen-free foods a big detective game. The entire grocery store is your game board. All packaged foods are potential culprits. Here's how to win the game (and your health)!

Dairy-free meal planning

In addition to cow's milk itself, products made from cow's milk— including yogurt, ice cream, sour cream, half and half, cottage cheese, hard and soft cheeses, butter, and puddings are typically made from cow's milk.

One of the most common allergenic proteins in cow's milk is called casein, and all variations of this word appearing in an ingredient list signify the presence of cow's milk as a food source: casein, caseinate, calcium caseinate, ammonia caseinate, magnesium caseinate, potassium caseinate, and sodium caseinate.

Casein also hides out in unexpected places. It can be used in food processing as an extender, tenderizer, and protein fortifier, and can be found in items as unlikely as chewing gum and imitation sausage.

The words "non-dairy" do not necessarily mean that a product does not contain casein. Even many "non-dairy" products on the market, including soy cheeses, almond cheeses, and rice cheeses use casein as a primary protein-boosting ingredient. When purchasing "non-dairy" cheeses, look for the term "vegan" on the label; this means that no animal ingredients, including casein, are in the product.

Wheat-free meal planning

All of wheat's components, including wheat bran, wheat germ, wheat starch, wheat nuts, and wheat berries should be excluded from a wheat-free meal plan. Similarly, any type of wheat, including bulgar, durum, and graham should be excluded. Semolina, seitan, triticale, couscous, and tabouleh should also be avoided, along with any product containing the word "gluten" (or a variation of this word) in its ingredient list. These include high-gluten flour, vital gluten, and wheat gluten.

Even more hidden are food additives that may or may not be made from wheat. Ferreting out these additives will engage your detective skills! They include:

  • Dextrin, an incompletely hydrolyzed starch that may be derived from the dry heating of corn, potato, rice, tapioca, arrowroot, or wheat.
  • Caramel color, which can be made from heat treatment of many food-grade carbohydrates, including molasses, corn sugar, invert sugar, milk sugar, barley malt syrup, or wheat starch hydrolysates.
  • Extracts, including vanillin extract, which often use grain alcohol in preparation of the extract and contain wheat protein residues.

Egg-free meal planning

The dessert sections of the grocery store contain the most egg-based products, including puddings, custards, ice creams, frozen yogurts, cakes, cookies, meringues, cream-filled or fondant-filled chocolates, fudge, icings and frostings, doughnuts, and muffins.

Baked goods and baking mixes also frequently contain egg. The list here includes frozen waffles and waffle mixes, frozen pancakes and pancake mixes, and french toast.

Egg noodles, breaded meats, breaded fish, breaded poultry, souffles, hollandaise sauce, most mayonnaise, meat loaf, some sausages, many fried rice dishes, egg drop soups, egg noodle-containing soups, and even egg substitutes may also contain egg.

On an ingredient list, any of the following words would indicate the presence of egg: albumin, egg white, egg yolk, dried egg, egg powder, egg solids, ovalbumin, ovomucin, ovomucoid, ovovitellin, and livetin. The fat substitute Simplesse´┐Ż also contains micro-particulated egg protein.

Soy-free meal planning

Soy sauce, shoyu, tamari, miso, tofu, tempeh, soy curd, and soy granules should all be avoided on a soy-free meal plan.

An ever-increasing number of ingredient-listed items can include some soybean-derived component. Items that indicate or may indicate the presence of soy include: hydrolyzed soy protein, hydrolyzed plant protein, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, texturized vegetable protein (TVP), soy flour, soy grits, soy nuts, soy milk, soy sprouts, isolated vegetable protein, vegetable gum, vegetable broth, and natural flavoring.

Yeast-free meal planning

A yeast-free meal plan is one of the most confusing to implement because of the controversies surrounding residual amounts of yeast in many commercially-prepared, processed foods. For example, small amounts of yeast many become present during the drying of tea, coffee, and spices. The culturing of yeast is also used a starting point for commercial production of fermented products, including vinegars and ciders. Citric acid, a food additive, is also derived from yeast-culturing and yeast-fermenting processes.

Many cow's milk-containing products also contain yeast since yeasts thrive on milk sugar (lactose. This list of products typically includes sour cream, buttermilk, cream cheese, ricotta cheese, and powdered milk.

Yeasts also thrive on concentrated sugars, so many canned and frozen fruit juices, in particular fruit juice concentrates, can contain yeast. Since the mid 1970s, several dozen research studies on this topic have appeared in food science journals.

Feeling overwhelmed?

  • Let our Recipe Assistant help you choose easy, delicious recipes free of whatever allergens you need to avoid.
  • Print out the above sections that apply to the allergens you need to avoid and take us with you to the grocery store.
  • The first trip to the grocery will be the most challenging. You may want to take along a magnifying glass as well as your reading glasses. See yourself as a super sleuth and get to the truth in those labels. Once you've identified the products you can healthfully eat, you'll be home free—of allergens!

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