Fish for a healthy diet if you're allergic to seafood

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 15 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 15 May, 2011, 12:00am

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Jonathan asks: I have a seafood allergy. What should I eat to give me the nutrients I lack?

Wynnie says: Seafood allergies are the most common type of food allergy and are usually lifelong. The seafood that triggers allergic reactions can be divided into:

Vertebrates (creatures with backbones): scaly fish such as cod, salmon, halibut, mackerel, sardines, herring, anchovies, tuna, trout, haddock and John Dory; and

Invertebrates (without backbones): crustaceans (such as prawns, shrimps, lobster, crab and crayfish); molluscs (such as abalone, clams, oysters and mussels); cephalopods (such as octopus, cuttlefish and squid); and gastropods (such as snails).

What is a seafood allergy?

When someone has a seafood allergy, their immune system has an abnormal reaction to the proteins in some fish, crustaceans or shellfish. Sometimes cooking can destroy the allergen, allowing some sufferers to eat canned salmon and tuna safely.

Why is seafood good for us?

Seafood is relatively low in fat and is an excellent source of nutrients such as iodine, selenium, zinc, calcium and vitamin B12. Most of these nutrients, though, are also found in common foods such as legumes (eg beans), meat, grains and oils. However, seafood, in particular oily fish, is also a rich source of omega 3 fats. Omega 3 fatty acids are 'essential' nutrients, which means that the body cannot produce them itself. Omega 3 fats can perform health 'miracles' by building cell membranes in the brain; controlling blood clotting; reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke, and the symptoms of high blood pressure and joint pain; and boosting the immune system.

Get the goodies elsewhere.

The best sources of omega 3 fats for people with a seafood allergy are flax seeds and flax-seed oils. Ground flax seeds can be eaten raw and sprinkled on top of salads, cereals, yoghurt and cooked veggies or added to smoothies or other drinks. They can be used in baked cakes, muffins, biscuits and bread, and in burgers and meatloaf. Other good sources of omega 3 fats are: walnuts, hemp seeds, soya beans, tofu, cloves, mustard seeds, some dark leafy green vegetables such as kale, Brussels sprouts, spinach, romaine lettuce and cabbage, and canola, sunflower, safflower and corn oil.

Read the labels and beware.

If you have a seafood allergy, it's best to read product labels carefully. Avoid products that don't list ingredients and watch out for hidden seafood when eating out.

Possible seafood sources include:

Deli meats such as ham;

Spreads and dips such as taramasalata (which contains fish roe) or caviar;

Dishes such as fried rice, paella, spring rolls, dumplings, dim sum;

Fish pastes such as surimi, used to make fish sticks and imitation crab meat;

Gelatin, marshmallows;

Salad dressings such as Caesar that may contain anchovies;

Sauces such as fish, marinara, steak, barbecue, Worcestershire;

Soups such as bouillabaisse;

Sushi, sashimi;

Fried foods. Some restaurants may use the same oil to fry both seafood and other items;

Some calcium supplements that are obtained from coral reefs;

Glucosamine supplement, which is made from crustacean shells.