A couple of months ago, I decided to take a food sensitivity test–one of many commonly referred to as IgG testing–that looks for the presence of antibodies as an indication of what foods a person might not tolerate well. Obviously, if I had a severe allergy to a particular food, it would be plain once I ate that food… I would get hives, shortness of breath, start sneezing, have stomach pain, etc. For example, I know I’m allergic to the sulfites in wine, and after drinking even half a glass, I tend to get a stuffy nose, slight headache and flushing (a “blush” on a good portion of my body). And I’ve known for a few years now that I don’t tolerate dairy very well. This is why you’ll often see me mention milk substitutes, such as coconut and almond in my recipes. Just like with wine, it’s not as though I go into anaphylactic shock or anything remotely close; my body’s reaction is much more subtle–a few annoyances or pains here and there, and a slightly crummy feeling, but not enough to keep me from enjoying the things I love.
The exception is quinoa… Ah, yes, my (formerly) beloved quinoa. I used to eat loads of it–with fresh fruit and almond milk as my morning cereal, as a substitute grain for wheat, and in salads and “burgers”–and then about this time last year, I started having a reaction. At first it was a little nausea and stomach cramping, which I quickly blamed on other things. However, over a three month period, the nausea and cramping became more and more severe culminating in an episode last October where I was in so much pain, and experiencing such horrific nausea, that 1) I was able to definitively pinpoint quinoa as the culprit; and 2) I had to call my doctor after hours to prescribe an anti-nausea medicine so I could get off the bathroom floor and sleep away some of the reaction. (It turns out many others have, over time, developed an allergy to quinoa, as a quick search on Google will reveal. The experts are undecided as to whether it’s a reaction to one of the proteins contained in the grain or a reaction to the natural insecticide the plant produces.)
Since I’ve suspected for years that I am intolerant of a few other things that I eat regularly, I decided to have the IgG testing done. My doctor (head of an integrative practice) ordered the test, which costs approximately $250 out of pocket, as many insurance companies do not consider it a reliable way of testing for food allergies. The lab tech withdrew a little blood, and I sat impatiently for several weeks, eagerly anticipating the news.
Well, I have to say, the results proved surprising and perhaps a little disappointing. For example, the results confirmed my belief that I have a general intolerance to cow’s milk and cow’s milk products, but indicated goat milk is perfectly fine. I am somewhat skeptical of this, as I find that even goat milk products slightly aggravate my system. The results also indicated I have a moderate allergy to pineapple and green peppers. (I’ve never had an obvious reaction.) Aggravatingly, the test doesn’t indicate if I should avoid green bell peppers or all green peppers. (This would be an important distinction since I regularly eat jalapeño peppers in my guacamole, and occasionally use serrano peppers in my sauces.) I appear to have no problem with wheat or gluten, although I still think it’s wise to reduce these in my diet based on all the research that’s being conducted in this area.
Perhaps the most surprising thing was that the results indicate I am strongly–not severely–allergic to eggs, both the yolk and white. Now considering I believe eggs to be one of the most perfect foods in the world, and since I don’t eat mammals and rely heavily on eggs for protein, I wasn’t very happy to receive this news. My doctor said my allergy may not be permanent and suggested I give up eggs for 1-2 months to test my allergy. Right. Well I can’t seem to make it even one week without unwittingly consuming eggs. While I am not intentionally eating any (with one or two exceptions), eggs are in nearly everything I don’t make myself. Since I cook 90 percent of our meals from scratch, I will go for several days without eating anything containing eggs. Then suddenly, I have a piece of gluten-free sandwich bread and lo and behold–the bread was made with eggs! If there was widespread agreement that IgG testing is a reliable means of determining food allergies or intolerances, then I would make a much more concerted effort to avoid consuming egg for the suggested 1-2 months. However, since the value of the test is questionable, and since I’ve never had a noticeable reaction to eating eggs, I’m inclined not to give them up entirely.
That said, I’m doing my best to avoid eggs for the time being. Trying to avoid eggs has made my breakfasts a bit more challenging, and reminded me that I hadn’t shared my recipe for Maple Pecan Granola. This recipe is high in Omega-3 fatty acids, fiber and protein, and granola has to be one of the easiest things to make. Just add a little plain yogurt or almond milk and a handful of fresh berries, and you have a delicious, hearty breakfast. The biggest benefit to making your own is that you can control how much sweetener and fat (and which kinds) are in your granola. Most granolas found in your local supermarket contain loads of sugar and fats. That’s what enables the great, big crunchy chunks many brands contain. However, many of those granolas aren’t much different from a candy bar that happens to contain a few healthy ingredients. My recipe produces approximately 11-12 cups of granola using relatively little sweetener and the fat of your choice.
4 cups thick rolled oats
1 cup sliced almonds
2 cups organic pecans, coarsely chopped
1 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup sunflower or pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup ground golden flaxseed
8 tbsp coconut oil (you can use sunflower or safflower, too)
12 tbsp pure maple syrup
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 cup dried juice-sweetened cranberries, blueberries or dates, coarsely chopped
Preheat oven to 325F.
Combine coconut oil and maple syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat. Heat until melted. Combine oats, almonds, nuts, seeds, cinnamon, salt and shredded coconut in a large rimmed baking sheet and stir to mix. Gently whisk the oil/syrup mixture and pour over the dry ingredients. Stir well to coat evenly.
Bake in the center of the oven for 25-30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until the nuts are nicely toasted. Remove from the oven and stir in the chopped dried fruit while still warm. Allow to cool completely before putting in an airtight container. You can store it for up to 2 weeks.