What are some safe foods to eat if you have peanut allergies?

By: HowStuffWorks.com Contributors

If you have a peanut allergy, it means your body doesn't treat peanut proteins for what they are: perfectly safe. Instead, your immune system identifies those proteins as dangerous invaders, and when you eat something with peanuts in it, your body releases an antibody called immunoglobulin E to take care of it. That antibody then releases chemicals, including histamine, to fight off the allergen. As a result, you suffer allergic symptoms that can range from annoying to life-threatening. Doctors agree that the best way to prevent a peanut allergy reaction is to avoid peanuts and peanut products. So anything without peanuts is perfectly safe, as long as you don't have any other food allergies.

The trick is in knowing which foods contain peanuts or peanut byproducts. Clearly, anything with peanut oil, peanut butter, peanut flour or peanut pieces is off-limits. Certain foods have peanuts in them, though you might not realize it. For example, ground nuts, mixed nuts, marzipan and nougat typically contain peanuts. African, Chinese and Thai foods are notorious for including peanuts in the recipes. Likewise, many baked goods incorporate some form of peanut, too. Surprisingly, a lot of sauces have peanuts or peanut butter in them; the peanut products act as thickeners. When an ingredients list includes hydrolyzed plant protein or hydrolyzed vegetable protein, there's a good chance peanuts are hiding in there, too.


Another issue to look out for is cross-contamination. Sometimes, foods don't actually contain peanuts, but they still might have traces of peanuts because they're made in the same facility. Such products typically have a warning on the label saying that they're made in a factory that also processes nuts or that they might have nuts in them. Another place cross-contamination is a problem is at ice cream parlors. The safest foods for people with peanut allergies are those they make themselves or those that are made by people they trust.