Lentils are a healthy, vitamin-packed and protein-rich food. They’re classified as legumes, which puts them in the same family as beans and peanuts. That means if you have a peanut allergy, you may also be allergic to lentils. Fortunately, you can take care of yourself by watching your symptoms carefully and choosing to eat other plant-based proteins instead.
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Lentils and other legumes come from the plant family Fabaceae, which encompasses a wide variety of edibles including peanuts, soybeans, clover, peas, beans and alfalfa. Lentils in particular are prized as a nutritious food because of their high protein contents. According to the USDA, 1 cup of cooked lentils has about 230 calories, 18 g protein, 15.5 g fiber, 40 g carbohydrates, 3.5 g sugar and less than 1 g fat.
According to the Allergen Bureau, a test among Spanish children who demonstrated a legume allergy showed that the most common symptoms were respiratory in nature, including asthma and rhinitis. Skin reactions were also present in some children. The European Union’s InformAll allergy database also notes that oral allergy syndrome, hives and rashes can occur, and in severe cases, an individual who is allergic to lentils may experience anaphylaxis and require urgent care. If you are especially sensitive to lentils, you may even note symptoms in response to inhaling steam from cooking the food.
Similar compounds and proteins present in certain allergens may result in cross-reactivity, or experiencing allergies to related foods. InformAll points out that more than 50 percent of people who are allergic to lentils also have an allergy to peas and chickpeas. Cross-reactivity with peanuts is not as common; however, in the United States, allergy to peanuts is more common than allergy to lentils.
If you are not allergic to all legumes, you can get protein from several alternative plant-based sources, including beans, edamame, soy nuts and alfalfa or sprouts. Tree nuts and nut butters, including almonds, cashews and walnuts, also provide healthy sources of protein and fat.
If you’re concerned that you may have a lentil allergy but have not yet been diagnosed, talk with your physician, who may refer you to an allergist for testing. An allergist or registered dietitian can also give you personalized recommendations on what foods to eat and avoid to effectively treat your health conditions.