SUNDAY, OCTOBER 4TH, 2020.-
The Nutrition Alphabet focuses on food allergies and intolerances. What are your differences?, What are allergens?, How to cook to avoid adverse reactions? This is explained by nutritionist Laura González
🖊 LAURA GONZÁLEZ/NESTLÉ 📸 FOOD STANDARDS AGENCY
Food allergies or intolerances are adverse reactions caused when eating a food or any of its components. Allergies cause immune system disturbances caused by exposure to one or more allergens, while intolerances are mainly caused by some digestive reaction.
Allergy symptoms and food intolerance
"In allergies, the most common symptoms are sneezing, coughing, itching, skin rashes, abdominal pain or diarrhea," says nutritionist, Nestlé's health and nutrition manager.
In addition, as he warns, in more severe cases a reaction known as anaphylactic shock can occur, requiring urgent treatment, as it can result in death within a few minutes.
That's why these people often always carry information about their disease and a dose of medications for immediate application in case of need.
As for a food intolerance, the symptoms are usually rather digestive in nature, "such as diarrhea, vomiting or abdominal pain, and do not appear suddenly," says Laura González.
"Thus, when a celiac person consumes some gluten-free food, there is a serious alteration in the intestine that prevents him from properly absorbing nutrients. This results in digestive problems that can lead to malnutrition and other major discomfort," he adds.
Allergens, what foods can we find them in?
Although allergen is sometimes the food itself, as with fish or eggs, in others it is a food component such as gluten or lactose.
However, many foods that might apparently be included in the diet may also contain them, as many of them are used as processed food ingredients. This is the case with soybeans, celery or peanuts.
"It is important to emphasize that the elimination of allergens from food in people who do not suffer from any diagnosed adverse reactions (allergy or intolerance), does not add any added value to their diet or health," she says.
It can even be harmful by inadequate replacement of key nutrient sources.
"That is, lactose-free milk does not provide any nutritional advantage to people who are not intolerant or allergic. The same goes for gluten, non-celiacs don't eat healthier if they exclude gluten," she recalls.
Tips for preventing adverse reactions to food
Since December 2014 it is mandatory to report on the presence of allergens in both packaged foods and those served in restaurants or collective dining rooms.
Here are Laura González's tips for preventing adverse reactions to food:
Eat at home based on fresh foods excluding allergy-causing foods and taking hygienic measures to avoid cross-contamination.
In case of consuming packaged food it is very important to read the labels; allergens are necessarily identified in the ingredients list.
In the face of doubt whether a food has an allergen or not, it is best not to eat it.
If a substitute is sought for the food or substance that causes the problem, we must ensure that it has similar nutritional characteristics: fish and shellfish by meat or eggs; soybeans for another legume; cow's milk by another soy plant or rice enriched with calcium and without added sugar; wheat bread by corn cakes or gluten-free bread, etc.
Consider hidden allergens, such as nuts, which can be used for sauces (such as pesto), or sulphites, which may be present in some preserves.
How to cook at home to avoid these reactions?
If there are any allergic or intolerant at home, the nutritionist recommends cooking the recipes exempt from the specific allergen first to avoid cross-contamination with other dishes; extreme cleaning of hands, utensils and surfaces that may have come into contact with any food containing this allergen; and use exclusive utensils, "for example, oils where foods containing these substances are not cooked," concludes Laura González.