Can you eat coconut if you have a nut allergy?
In this short article, we will provide an answer to the question, “Can you eat coconut if you have a nut allergy?” and discuss what are the symptoms of a nut allergy and which foods you should avoid when having a nut allergy.
Can you eat coconut if you have a nut allergy?
Yes, you can eat coconut if you have a nut allergy, unless you have coconut allergy in addition to nut allergy. Although rare, allergy to coconut does not necessarily mean allergy to nuts. These allergies are not exchangeable (1).
According to scientific literature, there is a mistaken belief that individuals allergic to nuts should not consume coconut as well (1). However, it was reported by studies that children having allergy to peanuts and other tree nuts, especially macadamia were at higher risks of also having an allergy to coconut (2,3).
Are all nut allergies the same?
No, not all nut allergies are the same, however, some individuals having allergy to a specific nut may have allergic reactions to other types of nuts, seeds and legumes or to have allergic reactions to other foods (3).
Although many foods are called “nuts”, they are different types of plants. For instance, peanut is a called “ground” nut, despite being a legume (4). Coconut is called a “nut”, however, it is a fruit (1) and macadamia, walnut and hazelnut are tree nuts and pine nuts are considered seeds.
Allergic reactions can occur after the exposure of an individual nut and not to others, but some individuals have nut allergy in general and experience allergic symptoms when ingesting any types of nuts, legumes or seeds.
What are the symptoms of nut allergy?
The possible symptoms of nut allergy are (1,2,3,4):
- Skin reactions, such as eczema
- Nausea and vomiting
- Respiratory symptoms, such as coughing
- Shortness of breath
- Anaphylaxis, a potentially dangerous reaction that causes breathing impairment and can lead to shock
How to avoid exposure to nuts?
To avoid exposure to nuts, it is necessary to read the food labels. The presence of allergens in the commercial food products should be, according to food legislation, notified on the food label.
Federal Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) demands that all packaged foods monitored by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) must include the common names of all tree nuts prominently on the ingredient description if it includes tree nuts (6).
The label “contains” followed by the common name of the nut is necessary in the case of a food that has a nut as an ingredient.
The label “may contain” followed by the common name of the nut is necessary in the case of unintentional cross-contamination of the food product with the corresponding nut.
Therefore, the accurate reading of the food label is required. When dining out, you should request the menu with the information about allergens as well.
How to know if you have a nut allergy?
To know if you have a nut allergy you should submit yourself to an allergy test. The most common test methods are the skin prick test and the patch test (5).
Skin prick test: In this test, the specific allergen is introduced on a small portion of the skin of the patient, normally on the arm. The reaction is observed through alterations on the skin.
Patch test: In this test, specific proteins are applied on the skin in increased doses and in distinct days during a week. The reactions are then followed by skin alterations. However, it is not considered an accurate test and can lead to false conclusions.
The best way to know if you have a nut allergy is to talk to your medical assistant and discuss which tests are more suitable for your personal case. In the case of suspected allergy, avoid consuming nuts or foods containing nuts.
Other FAQs about Coconut that you may be interested in.
In this short article, we have provided an answer to the question, “Can you eat coconut if you have a nut allergy?” and discuss what are the symptoms of a nut allergy and which foods you should avoid when having a nut allergy.
- Anagnostou, Katherine. Coconut allergy revisited. Children, 2017, 4, 85.
- Stutius, Lisa M., et al. Characterizing the relationship between sesame, coconut, and nut allergy in children. Pedia allergy immunol, 2010, 21, 1114-1118.
- Kruse L, Lor J, Yousif R, Pongracic JA, Fishbein AB. Coconut allergy: Characteristics of reactions and diagnostic predictors in a pediatric tertiary care center. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol, 2021, 126, 562-568.e1.
- Brough, H. A., et al. Dietary management of peanut and tree nut allergy: what exactly should patients avoid?. Clin Experiment Allergy, 2015, 45, 859-871.
- Gupta, Neeraj, et al. Allergy testing—An overview. Indian pedia, 2019, 56, 951-957.
- The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004. Food and Drug Administration.