Nutmeg vs. Tree Nuts: What’s the Difference? by Kimberly Holland

Nutmeg vs. Tree Nuts: What’s the Difference? by Kimberly Holland

Is nutmeg a tree nut?

Nutmeg is used to season dishes and is available to buy as a ground spice or in its whole form. It can be found in baked goods, entrees, and desserts. Certain cuisines, such as Moroccan and Indian cuisines, feature nutmeg in their dishes. It’s also sometimes used in beverages, like cider.

People with tree nut allergies may wonder if it’s safe for them to eat nutmeg. The answer is yes. Despite its name, nutmeg isn’t a nut. It’s really a seed.

If you have a nut allergy, you may be able to eat nutmeg without any risk of an allergic reaction. However, if you have a seed allergy, you may need to avoid nutmeg since it’s technically from a seed. But just because you’re allergic to one type of seed doesn’t mean you’re allergic to all of them.

What’s the difference between seed and nut allergies?

Peanut and tree nut allergies affect millions of Americans. They’re most common in children, but adults can also develop these allergies. Allergies to seeds such as nutmeg are much rarer.

Researchers don’t know exactly how many Americans have a seed allergy. They do know that the most common seed allergy is a sesame seed allergy. Sesame seed allergies are so common in Canada that Canadian nutrition labels are required to declare if the product contains even traces of sesame seeds.

Understanding food allergies

A food allergy is an allergy to a protein present in a particular food. You may be allergic to more than one type of food protein. In that case, you would be allergic to multiple foods. It’s not uncommon for a person to be allergic to several foods in the same category. These categories might include:

If you’ve been diagnosed with a nut allergy, you don’t have to avoid seeds such as nutmeg. Also, if you’ve been diagnosed with an allergy to seeds, you don’t have to avoid nuts.

What are some common seed, nut, and legume allergens?

Knowing the difference between seeds, legumes, and tree nuts can help you steer clear of potential allergens. That distinction is sometimes hard to keep clear because the food categories are easily mistaken for one another.

Here are some of the most common allergens in each category:

Common seed allergens Common legume allergens Common tree nut allergens
chia seeds black beans almonds
coconuts chickpeas Brazil nuts
flax seeds fava beans cashews
nutmegs lentils hazelnuts
poppy seeds lima beans macadamia nuts
pumpkin seeds peanuts pecans
sesame seeds peas pine nuts
sunflower seeds red kidney beans pistachios
wheat germs soy beans walnuts

The symptoms of an allergy to a seed like nutmeg will depend on the severity of the allergy. Some people with a seed allergy may have a severe reaction, such as anaphylaxis.

Anaphylaxis is a potentially life-threatening reaction that often occurs within minutes of exposure to an allergen. People experiencing anaphylaxis may have the following symptoms:

A less severe reaction is also possible. Other symptoms of a seed allergy can include:

How is a nutmeg or seed allergy diagnosed?

If you have a severe seed allergy, you’ll likely know very quickly after eating a seed. An anaphylactic reaction often occurs within minutes. A less severe reaction, however, may take hours or days to develop. Your symptoms may not be as obvious as some other allergic reactions.

In that case, the best way to know if your symptoms are the result of a nutmeg allergy is to be tested. An allergist is a specialist who can test and diagnose you if you’re allergic to a food. Your primary doctor or allergist may order both a skin test and a blood test. They may also want to perform an oral food challenge in their office to further identify your reaction to a particular allergen. This involves feeding you small doses of the suspected allergen.

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