On Nutrition by Ed Blonz

Identifying Food-allergy Culprit

DEAR DR. BLONZ: What could be in food that would make me itch? It is not particular to any one type of food, but now and then I have this strange itching reaction. It lasts for about a half-hour, and then it’s gone. -- D.I., Hayward, California

DEAR D.I.: A reaction to food is by no means the only factor that can make one itch, but allergies to certain foods or additives do occur, and skin reactions such as itching are a possible symptom.

There is a good overview of food allergies at the National Institutes of Health (tinyurl.com/yd7srkvd). The most common food allergies involve nuts, eggs, milk and soy-based foods, but theoretically one can be allergic to almost anything he or she eats. Food allergies are most often seen in children, with symptoms ranging from mild discomfort to a life-threatening anaphylactic shock.

It’s not always easy to identify the culprit, as a reaction can come from one factor or many. For example, one could get hives from a single food, a specific combination of foods, or a food eaten after taking certain medication. If you feel that you might be having a food-allergy reaction, but are unable to zero in on the particular ingredient or situation, it may be helpful to keep a diary of times and dates when reactions occur, along with the foods you had eaten. Over time, you might be able to identify the culprit. Don’t ignore what you drink, or any seasonings you’ve added to your food.

I recommend you bring this to the attention of your family physician for a couple of reasons. First, there are specific tests that can help identify an offending substance; more importantly, there may be factors in your health situation beyond food that need to be considered.

DEAR DR. BLONZ: My aunt and I have this ongoing argument. When I make an egg white omelet with sauteed vegetables for breakfast, tossing the yolk, I contend that I am making a more healthful breakfast. My aunt says the egg whites have little nutritional value and that all the good stuff is in the yolk. Who do you think is correct? -- R.S., Phoenix

DEAR R.S.: You both have your facts wrong. The whites of eggs are far from valueless; they contain a source of high-quality protein. In fact, egg white is the standard to which all other proteins are compared. There are approximately 3.5 grams of protein in the white of every large egg. There are small amounts of other nutrients, including selenium, potassium and sodium, but protein is the main contribution that the egg white provides.

The yolk, by contrast, contains lesser amounts of protein, together with small amounts of vitamin A, folate, phosphorous, potassium and selenium.

I am wondering why you are tossing your yolks. Is it because of their cholesterol content (213 milligrams in the yolk of a large egg)? For those with an otherwise balanced diet, the periodic use of whole eggs has been shown to have a minimal impact on blood cholesterol levels. You are throwing away good food.

Send questions to: “On Nutrition,” Ed Blonz, c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106. Send email inquiries to questions@blonz.com. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.