A nut allergy is typically caused by the proteins in a nut, which will cause an immune system reaction when consumed. There are many forms of nut allergy and it is possible to be allergic to only a few varieties of nut, or all types.
Peanut allergies, although often thought to be the same thing, are technically classified differently, as a peanut is actually a type of legume.
How common are nut allergies?
Nut allergies represent the largest proportion of allergies in the UK, with 0.5 per cent of British people suffering from an allergy to nuts and a further 0.1 per cent of the population being allergic to peanuts.
The majority of people will discover their allergy before the age of two and it is very rare for people to outgrow it, with only 20 per cent of sufferers experiencing a reduction in or complete removal of symptoms.
How to follow a nut-free diet
It can be easy to follow a nut-free diet, at least as far as consuming whole nuts is concerned. Provided that you know precisely which nuts you are allergic to, then you can just avoid eating these.
However, if you are unsure then it is simply best to avoid all kinds of nut, which are listed below.
- Brazil nuts
- Macadamia nuts
- Pine nuts
The more difficult part of a nut-free diet is avoiding products that may contain nuts, or traces thereof. Cereals and cereal bars can often contain nut products, as can a lot of sauces and dressings. Vegetarian options, such as sausages for example, can be risky as well.
The most commonly used nut-related ingredients are peanut oils and extracts, which can also be listed as groundnut or arachis oil. Always read labels carefully, and try to avoid products that are made in a factory that processes nuts, as there is always a chance these may be contaminated.
When dining in restaurants, talk to staff to make sure that what you order is safe, particularly in Oriental restaurants where peanuts and peanut oil are frequently used.