Sesame seeds are highly nutritious. They contain protein, calcium, vitamins, and healthy fats, which contribute positively to body health.
But there is the question of if it is safe for people with tree nut allergies. Sesame seeds are similar to tree nuts in appearance. Hence, it’s not surprising that this question exists.
In this post, I’ll explain all you need to know about the relationship between sesame seeds and tree nuts and if sesame seeds are allergy safe.
Sesame Seeds and Tree Nuts, Are They the Same?
Is a seed a nut? Obviously, the answer is no. Going with their technical definitions, a nut has a hard shell and often grows on trees. Meanwhile, seeds are small coated plants with shells that break open easily.
Sesame seeds, as the name implies, are seeds gotten from the sesame plant. Meanwhile, tree nuts grow on trees, with examples such as cashews, walnuts, hazelnuts, and almonds.
The sesame plant family differs from the trees that produce these tree nuts. In other words, sesame seeds and tree nuts are not the same. Sesame seeds fall in the same category as pumpkin and sunflower seeds, to name a few.
Suppose you’re on a nut-free diet due to allergic reactions. In that case, your doctor may recommend taking sesame seeds as an alternative. And this shows that they are different.
It’s easy to substitute sesame seeds for tree nuts, especially when cooking. I do it sometimes, and to be honest, it is hard to tell the taste apart.
Are Sesame Seeds Allergy Safe?
Sesame seeds may not be tree nuts but they are not allergy safe. In fact, sesame seed allergy ranks among the top ten food allergies among adults and children in the United States.
But sesame seed allergies are not prevalent in the United States. According to research, the percentage of sesame allergy sufferers is only about 0.1%.
This doesn’t mean sesame seed allergies should not be taken seriously. On the contrary, some sesame seed allergic reactions are life-threatening, known as anaphylaxis.
Sesame seed allergies are a more serious issue in countries where the seed is widely consumed. These include countries across Asia, Australia, Europe, and the Middle East.
If you are allergic to tree nuts, you may not be allergic to sesame seeds and vice versa. Tree nuts and sesame seeds contain similar amounts of protein. This is why many people who have tree nut allergies tend to stay off sesame seeds.
Some symptoms to know if you have a sesame allergy include itching, nasal congestion, vomiting, nausea, and dizziness. In some cases, swelling in the mouth, throat, and eyes and shortness of breath are possible. For the latter symptoms, it could be signs of anaphylaxis.
Gomestic Tip: Your doctor is the right person to inform you if you can still eat sesame seeds if you suffer from tree nut allergies. Discontinue use even if your doctor allows it but you start to notice symptoms of an allergic reaction.
Can You Be Allergic to Both Sesame Seed and Tree Nuts?
Earlier, I mentioned you may be allergic to nuts and not allergic to sesame seeds. You can, however, be allergic to sesame seeds as well as tree nuts at the same time. This is known as cross-reactivity.
How does this happen? I’ll explain.
Sesame seeds and tree nuts contain similar proteins, which include proteins like riboflavin, thiamine, and niacin.
Sometimes, when you consume sesame seeds and tree nuts, your body’s immune system mistakes both to be the same. In other words, the immune system creates antibodies to fight the allergens from both sesame seeds and tree nuts.
In one study of over two hundred children, researchers found that as much as fifty to sixty percent of the children with tree nut allergy also reacted to sesame seeds. Specifically, children with tree nut allergies were at six to ten times greater risk of allergic reaction.
The only way to determine if you are allergic to sesame seeds and tree nuts is to undergo an allergy test at the hospital. After the test, your doctor will tell you the exact food protein triggering the allergies – if it is sesame seeds, tree nuts, or both.
What Should You Do if You Have Sesame Seed Allergies?
I advise you to visit your doctor if you have sesame seed allergies. The earlier you book the appointment, the better, so the allergic reaction doesn’t become severe.
Typically, your doctor will counsel you to stay away from certain foods. They may also issue you certain medications. In serious allergic situations, you will receive an epinephrine or antihistamine injection.
In conclusion, sesame seeds are not tree nuts but are also not allergy safe. If you are allergic to tree nuts, you may or may not be allergic to sesame seeds.
Contact your doctor immediately if you notice any allergic symptoms, whether from consuming tree nuts or sesame seeds.