The World's Healthiest Foods are health-promoting foods that can change your life.

How to Eat Healthier in 2018

Try our exciting new WHFoods Meal Plan.

The George Mateljan Foundation is a not-for-profit foundation with no commercial interests or
advertising. Our mission is to help you eat and cook the healthiest way for optimal health.


While sometimes complicated, allergies are the best understood of all unwanted food reactions because they always involve immune system reactions to very specific components in foods. If you have an allergic response to a food, certain proteins in your immune system identify and bind together with very specific components (called antigens) in foods. While food antigens are typically protein-like in nature, our immune system can mount an allergic response to some carbohydrates in foods, as well as some fat-plus-carbohydrate-containing molecules (called lipopolysaccharides). Still, in every one of these situations, our immune system gets involved in a food allergy, and, because it does, levels of immunoglobulins in our blood can be measured to document the allergenic response. (However, even though blood work can be used to help identify a food allergy, this blood work is not always conclusive, since food allergy tests can often show "false positive" results in which a food allergy is not actually present, and the immune system has reacted to some other non-food molecule.)

When should you consider the possibility that a whole, natural food that you enjoy is actually a bad fit in your meal plan due to food allergy? At WHFoods, we believe that it makes sense for everyone to consider the possible presence of a food allergy if they routinely eat foods commonly associated with food allergy. In the U.S., eight foods account for about 90% of all reported food allergies, and the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (FALCPA) requires that the presence of these foods—or any food ingredient containing a protein derived from one of them—be identified on food packaging labels. These eight most commonly allergenic foods are as follows.

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Fish (e.g., bass, flounder, cod)
  • Crustacean shellfish (e.g. crab, lobster, shrimp)
  • Tree nuts (e.g., almonds, walnuts, pecans)
  • Peanuts
  • Wheat
  • Soybeans

To be sure, these eight foods are not the only foods that can trigger food allergy. However, they can be a good place to start in assessing food allergy risk. If you consume any of these foods on a regular basis, it's worth paying attention to see if you notice any pattern in the way you feel in the minutes and hours following food consumption. Most food allergies are both predictable and consistent in their occurrence. You typically don't experience an allergic reaction to the food on one day, and then no reaction whatsoever on the next. In addition, the timing and nature of the reaction are usually predictable. For example, if you feel cramps and pain in your abdomen two hours after eating a food, you would expect to experience the same problems in the same time frame whenever that food was eaten.

Given the very large number of factors that can cause symptoms resembling food allergy symptoms, it can be difficult to recognize this kind of pattern and link it up with food allergy on your own. Even if you are able to recognize a pattern on your own, food allergy many not end up being the culprit. That's because the same immune system proteins that can recognize and react to food antigens can recognize and react to molecules in bacteria, parasites, and pollens. It's possible to have an allergic reaction to any of these agents, and confuse the reaction with a food allergy. So as you can see, identifying a genuine food allergy can be complicated. However, it can be a step well worth taking for optimal nourishment and feeling your best. Many people find that reduction or elimination of verified allergenic foods from their meal plan results in very noticeable changes in their everyday sense of well-being. Often, the help of a healthcare provider is needed to identify a food allergy with certainty.

For persons interested in the more technical side of food allergy, we've created the following list of allergen types frequently found in animal and plant foods.

These are some common allergens found in animal foods:

  • tropomyosins (contracting proteins found in muscle, and especially common allergens in shellfish, including crustaceans and molluscs)
  • parvalbumins (common allergens found in white muscle of fish, with cod, swordfish, and whiff being the best studied food examples)
  • ovomucoids and ovalbumins (predominant allergens in egg white)
  • caseins (common allergens in cow's milk)

These are some common allergens found in plant foods:

  • prolamins (a very large family of allergens that includes seed storage proteins in cereal grains, including gliadins and glutenins found in wheat; and also 2S albumins found in many tree nuts—including Brazil nuts, English walnuts—and also in seeds, including yellow mustard seeds) profilins (an equally large family of allergens that have been best studies in melons)
  • cupins (another large family of allergens that includes beta-conglycinin, found in soybeans; conarachin and arachin, found in peanuts; and Jug r 2, found in lentils and walnuts)

We'd like to complete this first section on food allergies by providing you with an example of an allergen type that is not as common as the allergens listed above but which can still be the source of an adverse reaction. This allergen type involves sesame seeds. On a global basis, and especially in countries like Canada, Japan, and Israel, researchers have documented an increased prevalence of sesame seed allergy. Studies have identified three factors as potentially contributing to the rise in sesame seed reactions. First has been an increasingly widespread use of sesame oil and sesame seed components in both food and cosmetic products. Sesame oil has become an increasingly common component in skin and massage oils and can also be found in hair care products, cosmetics, perfumes, soaps, topical oils, and sunscreens. Within the food supply, sesame oil can often be found in cookies, crackers, pastries, dips and spreads, soy burgers, tempeh, granola bars, and other foods. Tahini is a butter made from sesame seed. Gomasio is a sesame-based salt. Halvah is a sweet dessert often made using sesame paste. On a product label, you should suspect the presence of sesame whenever you see any of the following descriptions: sesamol, sesamolina, tahini, tahina, gingelly oil, til oil, or benniseed.

A second factor involves cross-reactivity with other foods. Although we address environmental cross-reactivity below in section 3 of this overview article, most of the research on sesame seed reactions appears to involve cross-reactivity with other specific foods rather than non-food cross reactions that would fall into the category of "environmental" (like cross-reactions to pollens from trees or grasses). While not fully conclusive, research in this area suggests that individuals with food allergy to peanuts, walnuts, hazelnuts, or cashews may also experience allergic response to sesame seeds. This allergic response is likely to involve proteins like Ses i 6 or Ses i 7 that are found not only in sesame seeds but also in the other foods listed above. Alternatively, the allergic response to sesame seeds may be related to proteins like oleosins (which are storage proteins found in a wider variety of nuts and seeds).

The intermingling of sesame seeds with other nuts or seeds during processing is a third factor that has added confusion to analysis of sesame seeds as a potentially allergenic food. Foods not expected to contain any sesame seed components have sometimes ended up containing sesame seed components through shared equipment at food processing facilities or through accidental contact during storage and transit (for example, rotation of nut and seed products in bulk storage bins). This intermingling of sesame seed parts with parts of other nuts and seeds may have increased our exposure to isolated sesame seed components in a way that is still somewhat confusing from a research standpoint and will take more time to evaluate. Adverse reactions to sesame seeds provide a good example of food allergies and their challenges from a research perspective.


  • References for Entire Article
  • Aceves SS. Food and aeroallergens in eosinophilic esophagitis: role of the allergist in patient management. Curr Opin Gastroenterol. 2014 Jul;30(4):391-5.
  • Allen KJ, Turner PJ, Pawankar R, et al. Precautionary labelling of foods for allergen content: are we ready for a global framework? World Allergy Organ J. 2014 Apr 30;7(1):10. doi: 10.1186/1939-4551-7-10. eCollection 2014.
  • Ban GY. Clinical Features of Sulfite Hypersensitivity. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Volume 131, Issue 2, Supplement, February 2013, Page AB97.
  • Bansal AS. Aubergine and potato sensitivity with latex sensitisation and oral allergy syndrome. Case Rep Med. 2013;2013:314658. doi: 10.1155/2013/314658. Epub 2013 Jul 11.
  • Brown-Whitehorn TF and Spergel JM. The link between allergies and eosinophilic esophagitis: implications for management strategies. Expert Rev Clin Immunol. 2010 Jan;6(1):101-9.
  • Casquete-Roman E, Rosado-Gil T, Postigo I, et al. Profilin cross-reactive panallergen causes latex sensitization in the pediatric population allergic to pollen. Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, Volume 109, Issue 3, September 2012, Pages 215-219.
  • Cox AJ. Obesity, inflammation, and the gut microbiota. The Lancet: Diabetes & Endocrinology, March 2015, Volume 3, No. 3, pages 207—215.
  • D'Amato A, Bachi A, Fasoli E, et al. In-depth exploration of Hevea brasiliensis latex proteome and "hidden allergens" via combinatorial peptide ligand libraries. J Proteomics. 2010 May 7;73(7):1368-80. doi: 10.1016/j.jprot.2010.03.002.
  • Fernandez-Rivas M, Bolhaar S, Gonzalez-Mancebo E, et al. Apple allergy across Europe: How allergen sensitization profiles determine the clinical expression of allergies to plant foods. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Volume 118, Issue 2, August 2006, Pages 481-488.
  • Fritsch R, Bohle B, Vollmann U, et al. Bet v 1, the major birch pollen allergen, and Mal d 1, the major apple allergen, cross-react at the level of allergen-specific T helper cells. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Volume 102, Issue 4, October 1998, Pages 679-686.
  • Garcia-Menaya JM, Cordobes-Duran C, Bobadilla-Gonzalez P, et al. Anaphylactic reaction to bell pepper (Capsicum annuum) in a patient with a latex-fruit syndrome. Allergol Immunopathol (Madr). 2014 May-Jun;42(3):263-5.
  • Gasbarrini G and Mangiola F. Wheat-related disorders: A broad spectrum of 'evolving' diseases. United European Gastroenterol J. 2014 Aug;2(4):254-62. doi: 10.1177/2050640614535929.
  • Gendel SM and Zhu J. Analysis of U.S. Food and Drug Administration food allergen recalls after implementation of the food allergen labeling and consumer protection act. J Food Prot. 2013 Nov;76(11):1933-8. doi: 10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-13-171.
  • Hansen KS, Vieths S, Vestergaard H, et al. Seasonal variation in food allergy to apple. Journal of Chromatography B: Biomedical Sciences and Applications, Volume 756, Issues 1—2, 25 May 2001, Pages 19-32.
  • Hemmer W, Focke M, Gotz M, et al. The Ficus-fruit-syndrome is a distinct entity not related to natural rubber latex allergy. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Volume 113, Issue 2, Supplement, February 2004, Page S78.
  • James JM, Burks W, and Eigenmann P. (Eds). (2012) Food Allergy. Elsevier Saunders. Philadelphia.
  • Jonsson T, Olsson S, Ahren B, et al. Agrarian diet and diseases of affluence — Do evolutionary novel dietary lectins cause leptin resistance? BMC Endocrine Disorders 2005, 5:10 doi:10.1186/1472-6823, pages 5-10.
  • Katta R and Schlichte M. Diet and dermatitis: food triggers. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2014 Mar;7(3):30-6.
  • Kuehn A, Swoboda I, Arumugam K, et al. Fish allergens at a glance: variable allergenicity of parvalbumins, the major fish allergens. Front Immunol. 2014 Apr 22;5:179. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2014.00179.
  • Landa-Pineda CM, Guidos-Fogelbach G, Marchat-Marchau L, et al. [Profilins: allergens with clinical relevance]. Rev Alerg Mex. 2013 Jul-Sep;60(3):129-43. Review. Spanish.
  • Lee MF, Lin SJ, Wang NM, et al. Plant chitinase III Ziz m 1 stimulates multiple cytokines, most predominantly interleukin-13, from peripheral blood mononuclear cells of latex-fruit allergic patients. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2012 Feb;108(2):113-6. doi: 10.1016/j.anai.2011.10.011.
  • Levine B and Weisman S. Enzyme replacement as an effective treatment for the common symptoms of complex carbohydrate intolerance. Nutr Clin Care . 2004;7:75—81.
  • Ma ZF, Majid NA, Yamaoka Y, and Lee YY. Food Allergy and Helicobacter pylori Infection: A Systematic Review. Front Microbiol. 2016 Mar 23;7:368. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2016.00368. eCollection 2016.
  • McPhee JB and Schertzer JD. Immunometabolism of obesity and diabetes: microbiota link compartmentalized immunity in the gut to metabolic tissue inflammation. Clin Sci (Lond). 2015 Dec;129(12):1083-96.
  • Mills EN, Jenkins J, Marigheto N, et al. Allergens of the cupin superfamily. Biochem Soc Trans. 2002 Nov;30(Pt 6):925-9.
  • Ojeda P, Bobe A, Dolan K, et al. Nutritional modulation of gut microbiota - the impact on metabolic disease pathophysiology. J Nutr Biochem. 2016 Feb;28:191-200.
  • Pedrosa M, Garcia-Vena E, Quirce S, et al. Prevalence Of Latex, Latex-Related Fruit Allergens And Pollen Profillins Sensitization In A Group Of Patients With Latex Sensitization And Its Value As Predictors Of Clinical Vs Subclinical Sensitization To Latex. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Volume 127, Issue 2, Supplement, February 2011, Page AB250.
  • Pop A, Cornea CP, Lordache F, et al. Lectins in food: friends or enemies? Abstracts/Journal of Biotechnology 2015, 208: S5-S120.
  • Radauer C, Adhami F, Furtler I, et al. Latex-allergic patients sensitized to the major allergen hevein and hevein-like domains of class I chitinases show no increased frequency of latex-associated plant food allergy. Molecular Immunology, Volume 48, Issue 4, January 2011, Pages 600-609.
  • Ricci G, Piccinno V, Calamelli E, et al. Latex-fruit syndrome in Italian children and adolescents with natural rubber latex allergy. Int J Immunopathol Pharmacol. 2013 Jan-Mar;26(1):263-8.
  • Roses JB. Food allergen law and the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004: falling short of true protection for food allergy sufferers. Food Drug Law J. 2011;66(2):225-42, ii.
  • Rothenberg ME. Molecular, genetic, and cellular bases for treating eosinophilic esophagitis. Gastroenterology. 2015 May;148(6):1143-57.
  • Sanchez-Chino X, Jimenez-Martinez C, Davila-Ortiz G, et al. Nutrient and nonnutrient components of legumes, and its chemopreventive activity: a review. Nutr Cancer. 2015;67(3):401-10.
  • Sanchez-Salguero CA. Are profilins relevant allergens or confusion allergens? Allergologia et Immunopathologia, Volume 42, Issue 4, July—August 2014, Pages 267-268.
  • Santos KS, Gadermaier G, Vejvar E, et al. Novel allergens from ancient foods: Man e 5 from manioc (Manihot esculenta Crantz) cross reacts with Hev b 5 from latex. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2013 Jun;57(6):1100-9. doi: 10.1002/mnfr.201200433. Epub 2013 Mar 25.
  • Saulnier N, Nucera E, Altomonte G, et al. Gene expression profiling of patients with latex and/or vegetable food allergy. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2012 Sep;16(9):1197-210.
  • Schnaar RL. Glycans and glycan-binding proteins in immune regulation: A concise introduction to glycobiology for the allergist. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2015 Mar;135(3):609-15. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2014.10.057. Epub 2015 Jan 30. Review.
  • Shen S and Wong CH. Bugging inflammation: role of the gut microbiota.
  • Clin Transl Immunology. 2016 Apr 15;5(4):e72. doi: 10.1038/cti.2016.12. eCollection 2016 Apr. Review.
  • Taylor SL and Hefle SL. Food allergies and other food sensitivities - A publication of the Institute of Food Technologists' Expert Panel on Food Safety and Nutrition Article in Food technology 55(9):68-83.
  • Tham EH, Rajakulendran M, and Shek LP. Prevention of food allergy in the real life. Asian Pac J Allergy Immunol. 2014 Mar;32(1):16-24.
  • U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Food labeling: gluten-free labeling of foods. Final rule. Fed Regist. 2013 Aug 5;78(150):47154-79.
  • Vojdani A. Lectins, agglutinins, and their roles in autoimmune reactivities. Altern Ther Health Med. 2015;21 Suppl 1:46-51.
  • Wai CYY, Leung NYH, Chu KH, et al. (2012) From Moleculer
  • Studies of Allergens to Development of Immunotherapy of Allergies. J Aller Ther
  • 3:124. doi:10.4172/2155-6121.1000124.
  • Zhang X, Vincent AS, Halliwell B, et al. A mechanism of sulfite neurotoxicity: direct inhibition of glutamate dehydrogenase. J Biol Chem. 2004 Oct 8;279(41):43035-45. Epub 2004 Jul 23.

Printer friendly version

Send this page to a friend...


Newsletter SignUp

Your Email:

Find Out What Foods You Should Eat This Week

Also find out about the recipe, nutrient and hot topic of the week on our home page.


Everything you want to know about healthy eating and cooking from our new book.
2nd Edition
Order this Incredible 2nd Edition at the same low price of $39.95 and also get 2 FREE gifts valued at $51.95. Read more

Healthy Eating
Healthy Cooking
Nutrients from Food
Website Articles
Privacy Policy and Visitor Agreement
For education only, consult a healthcare practitioner for any health problems.

We're Number 1
in the World!

35 million visitors per year.
The World's Healthiest Foods website is a leading source of information and expertise on the Healthiest Way of Eating and Cooking. It's one of the most visited websites on the internet when it comes to "Healthiest Foods" and "Healthiest Recipes" and comes up #1 on a Google search for these phrases.

Over 100 Quick &
Easy Recipes

Our Recipe Assistant will help you find the recipe that suits your personal needs. The majority of recipes we offer can be both prepared and cooked in 20 minutes or less from start to finish; a whole meal can be prepared in 30 minutes. A number of them can also be prepared ahead of time and enjoyed later.

World's Healthiest
Foods is expanded

What's in our new book:
  • 180 more pages
  • Smart Menu
  • Nutrient-Rich Cooking
  • 300 New Recipes
  • New Nutrient Articles and Profiles
  • New Photos and Design
privacy policy and visitor agreement | who we are | site map | what's new
For education only, consult a healthcare practitioner for any health problems.
© 2001-2018 The George Mateljan Foundation, All Rights Reserved