3 of the best plant-based protein sources for people with common food allergies

Help save the planet with these allergen-free plant-based proteins

Increasingly, more and more of us are turning to whole, plant-based foods for meeting our daily protein intake requirements. Because agricultural cultivation has only roughly one-tenth the carbon footprint of raising livestock, eating plant-based food and moderating — or even eliminating — consumption of animal proteins is a proactive step we can take to help limit greenhouse gas emissions in the fight against climate change. In addition, these nutrient dense foods confer a number of praiseworthy health benefits. Consuming plant-based proteins can reduce chronic inflammation in the body, lessen the risk of developing diabetes and certain cancers and help stave off cognitive decline, to name but a few. From supporting optimal health to helping protect the environment, eating more plant-based protein has become a ‘fashionable trend’ undoubtedly worth following.

Sufferers of the most common food allergies, though, may find that making the switch can come with a few complications. For instance, navigating protein choices can be an ongoing challenge and source of frustration for those of us allergic to soy or wheat, given how extensively these foodstuffs are used as primary ingredients in meat-substitutes as well as their ubiquity throughout our food system. And cross-reactivity - when proteins in different foods induce similar immune system reactions - can mean some people with a peanut allergy are also allergic to other legumes or even to tree nuts such as brazil nuts or almonds.

The great news is there are a number of allergen-free, great tasting, easy-to-shop-for and simple-to-prepare plant-based protein choices available for those with the most common food intolerances.

Here’s 3 to get you started:

Lentils

Though from the same family of legumes, lentils are nevertheless usually well tolerated by people with allergies to soybeans and/or peanuts. With 18 grams of protein per one cup cooked serving, lentils are also chock full of fiber, minerals, antioxidants and contribute to ‘good’ gut bacteria. When cooked they yield a meaty texture that’s an ideal ground meat substitute in veggie burgers, chili and pasta sauces. In hearty soups and stews are where lentils have long been staples, from curry-based dal recipes to Mediterranean and North African savories. And since lentils don’t require soaking, they can be ready at almost a moment’s notice to add complex flavor notes and thickening to any dish.

Quinoa

It’s not without good reason these tiny, edible South American seeds have emerged as a hip superfood up here in the North. Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) offers 8g of protein per one cup cooked serving and boasts an impressive complement of amino acids for supporting muscle growth and immune function. High in fiber, with a low glycemic index for helping to regulate blood sugar levels, quinoa is also rich in iron, magnesium and zinc. With its grain-like texture, quinoa can be added to the diet as a gluten-free rice substitute or as a hearty breakfast porridge. It can be eaten both raw and cooked, making it a uniquely flavorful, protein-packed addition to salads or thickener in soups.

Pumpkin Seeds

The tasty, long unsung seeds also known as “pepitas” have undeniably increased their profile from back in the days when Americans usually only ate them as a roasted afterthought to the carving of a Halloween jack-o-lantern. Their meaty texture may offer folks with a food allergy to tree nuts a welcome, similarly buttery mouth finish. Each ounce of pumpkin seed contains 7 grams of high-quality protein, while also providing laudable amounts of potassium, omega-3 and omega 6 fatty acids, vitamin E and zinc. Eat them raw in a trail mix or a homemade granola, add them to salads or rub them with olive oil and sea salt, roast in the oven and blend into a Pumpkin butter for spreading on raw veggies.

For more ideas be sure to check out the great recipes posted on Instagram by two of our Cleared favorite allergen-friendly resources: Amanda Orlando (@everydayallergenfree) and Kortney The Zestfull Magazine (@thezestfull)

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