Top 8 Food Allergens To Avoid

Food Allergens: What Are They?

Food allergies occur when our body’s system reacts to certain substances in the food and sees them as harmful invaders. As soon as our body detects these invaders, it immediately sets off a series of reactions as a self-defence mechanism.

The different substances that cause allergic reactions are called allergens; these allergens trigger an immune reaction in the body, also called an allergic reaction.

There are many kinds of allergies; the most common one among them is a food allergy. Food allergies are very common than most people think.

There is a wide range of items that causes food allergy. However, most food allergies are caused by the top 8 food allergens: Milk, eggs, peanuts, fish, wheat, soy, nuts, and shellfish.

Symptoms Of Food Allergy

For people with food allergies, eating even very small amounts of that particular food, knowingly or unknowingly exposing them to that food can trigger an allergic reaction. The symptoms of an allergic reaction occur instantly or after a few hours of consumption in some cases.

Some of the common symptoms of food allergy are:

  • Tongue, mouth, or face swelling
  • Itchy rash
  • Vomiting
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Low blood pressure
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Cramps
  • Hives
  • Dizziness

Top 8 Food Allergens

Here is a list of the top 8 food allergens that causes food allergies in most people around the world:

1. Milk

Many people make the most common mistake because they mistake milk allergy and lactose intolerance as the same when they are entirely different and caused due to different reasons.

A milk allergy occurs when our body’s immune system reacts strangely against the proteins present in the milk. While on the other hand, lactose intolerance occurs due to digestive problems and the body’s incapability to break down certain enzymes.

Milk allergies are usually found in infants; while some may grow out of it, others may still suffer from it even in the later stages of their life.

Having an allergy to milk could be very problematic as most food varieties contain milk as their key ingredient due to its high protein content; however, milk can be substituted with other alternatives such as soy milk, coconut milk, but there are chances of allergic reactions to these as well, so it is highly recommended to be cautious before consumption.

2. Eggs

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Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Eggs can be a great source of protein and energy, but they are also the second most common cause of food allergy caused in individuals worldwide.

In many cases, most people are allergic to egg whites and not the yolk and the best way to avoid this allergy is to be on an egg-free diet.

Even unknowingly consuming eggs in baked items can result in severe symptoms like stomach aches, skin rashes, respiratory problems, and so much more.

Cornstarch, flaxseed oil, and tofu can be used as substitutes for eggs while cooking.

3. Peanuts

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Peanut allergies are very common and are one of the most fatal of all food allergies. This particular allergy is said to affect children more than adults.

Peanuts, unlike other nuts like almonds, walnuts, and cashew nuts, do not grow on trees. Instead, they grow underground and belong to a different plant family called the legumes, which are generally high in oil and proteins.

Individuals with peanut allergy should not even be exposed to tiny quantities of the product as it may lead to swelling or blistering in the mouth, breathing problems like asthma, and so much more.

The only treatment for this allergy is to stay away from peanuts and peanut products lifelong.

4. Wheat

Wheat allergies are very common but most often are confused with celiac disease1, a type of medical condition that stops the body from absorbing essential nutrients and causing an opposing reaction to gluten. Both these conditions have similar digestive symptoms.

People who are allergic to wheat, and eating pasta, bread, crackers, or even beer can cause adverse reactions like anaphylaxis. Rice flour, tapioca flour are some of the alternatives that can be substituted for wheat.

There are also instances of people working with wheat flour developing a condition called “Baker’s Asthma,” a type of breathing problem caused by inhaling wheat. Still, these people experience no side effects when eating.

5. Fish

High thermic foods
By Gregor Moser, Unsplash, Copyright November 2017

Fish also comes under the top 8 food allergens category as it is one of the most common food allergies found in adults. Unlike other allergies, fish allergy does not occur in infants and instead occurs in later stages of an individual’s life.

This type of allergy is very serious and can cause serious harm. Some of the symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, and even anaphylaxis in some serious cases.

Individuals with this allergy need to stay cautious as there are very high chances of cross-contamination in food, especially in restaurants and public places.

Another reason to avoid fish is because of the bacteria and virus present in it which can cause serious problems for some people.

6. Soy

What is Soy Lecithin
By makidotvn/unlimphotos. Copyright 2022

Soy allergies are most commonly found in children and are often carried into the later stages of an individual’s life.

Apart from its original form, Soy can easily creep into our lives in expected ways, like in the form of baked items, meat products, cereals, chocolate, and many more forms.

Symptoms of soy allergy include rashes, itches, runny nose, and sometimes even asthma 2and breathing difficulties in serious cases.

Lupin seeds can be used as a healthy alternative for soybean in meals as they are gluten-free, rich in antioxidants and amino acids, and low in fat and oil.

A similar number of people who are allergic to cow’s milk were also allergic to soy milk. Therefore, people with soy allergies need to stay away from soy milk, soybeans, soy sauce, and all other soy products.

It is also essential to read food labels before purchasing any food products to avoid unexpected allergic reactions.

7. Nuts

too many nuts
Image by Bob from Pixabay

Nuts are a major cause of allergies among people. They are considered major food allergens because allergies caused by tree nuts alone affect about 1.2 percent of the whole population of the United States, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

These nuts include a wide variety of nuts like almonds, walnuts, cashew nuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, and so much more. For people suffering from a nut allergy, tree nuts and oils from nuts must be avoided, and extra precautions must be taken as there are high chances of nuts being included in pies, salad dressing, and barbeque sauces.

Symptoms of nut allergy include anaphylaxis 3and breathing problems as well. It is advised to read the ingredient list before going for a product and to completely steer away from anything that mentions tree nuts.

Sunflower, pumpkin, and sesame seeds are some of the alternatives that can be substituted for nuts and are considered safe.

8. Shellfish

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This allergy is also one of the most easily identifiable among others. But unlike the other allergies that occur in children, shellfish allergy affects adults more than children.

The only way to treat this allergy is to completely stay from seafood, but if you want protein benefits, switch to white meats like turkey and chicken.

Individuals with a Shellfish allergy should avoid:

  • Lobster
  • Prawns
  • Squid
  • Shrimps
  • Crayfish
  • Scallops

Read more about the top 8 food allergens

Other Food Allergies

Apart from the top 8 food allergens, many other foods cause allergies. They are:

  • Sesame seeds
  • Kiwi
  • Garlic
  • Banana
  • Peach
  • Avocado
  • Mustard seed
  • Chamomile

Food Allergy Diagnosis

The first step to treating a food allergy is a preliminary diagnosis. In most cases, allergies 4are diagnosed using medical history as well as a physical exam. Some of the tests that are used in diagnosing food allergies are:

1. Skin Prick Test

With the help of a tiny needle, a small amount of food is pricked into an individual’s skin. The skin is then monitored for any reactions later.

2. Oral Food Challenges

The trigger food is eaten in increasing amounts under medical supervision in a controlled environment.

3. Blood Tests

In some cases, blood from the individual is drawn, and the level of IgE antibodies is measured.

4. Diet Review

A proper in-depth review of all the foods that are eaten, which includes their timing and symptoms.


Most often, people get confused between food allergies and food intolerances. In case of a suspected food allergy, it is very important to consult with a doctor who will help diagnose and chart out an effective treatment plan.

Food allergies are very common in individuals, but it becomes a serious issue when it becomes life-threatening.

The ideal way to deal with it is by making sense of it, consulting with a doctor, and taking appropriate measures to stay away from it.

  1. Lebwohl, Benjamin, and Alberto Rubio-Tapia. “Epidemiology, presentation, and diagnosis of celiac disease.” Gastroenterology 160.1 (2021): 63-75. ↩︎
  2. Cevhertas, Lacin, et al. “Advances and recent developments in asthma in 2020.” Allergy 75.12 (2020): 3124-3146. ↩︎
  3. Muraro, Antonella, et al. “EAACI guidelines: Anaphylaxis (2021 update).” Allergy 77.2 (2022): 357-377. ↩︎
  4. Giannetti, Arianna, et al. “Cow’s milk protein allergy as a model of food allergies.” Nutrients 13.5 (2021): 1525. ↩︎

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Jenita T.J

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