Peanuts are classified as legumes, as are chickpeas. Does this mean a child with a peanut allergy needs to avoid eating chickpeas? As with many questions related to peanut allergies a simple “yes or no” answer does not exist, so chickpea recommendations from doctors and allergists are likely to vary. Some may advise this legume be avoided since there is a somewhat higher risk of chickpea reactions in a peanut-allergic child.
Reasons Not To Avoid
Jaffe Food Allergy Institute’s Dr. Scott Sicherer, however, does not believe individuals with a peanut allergy should automatically avoid eating chickpeas, for several reasons:
- Peanut, being a legume, shares similar proteins with many other legumes, but in a study done many years ago just five percent of kids with peanut allergy experienced allergic reactions to the other legumes (beans) tested.
- The risk of a peanut-allergic child reacting to eggs or milk is actually greater than their risk of a response to chickpeas, yet eggs and milk are not automatically avoided.
- When a peanut-allergic individual is given blood or skin prick tests for bean allergy, they test positive about fifty percent of the time–although 95 percent of these patients can safely eat beans. (Allergy tests are affected by shared legume proteins causing immune responses unrelated to actual allergic reactions.)
- A positive allergy test to chickpea, or other food, indicates an allergy might exist. A supervised food challenge, if warranted, is the only way to definitively diagnose a food allergy.
For those with a peanut allergy who have already eaten and tolerated chickpeas, Dr. Sicherer sees no reason to avoid chickpea consumption.
More Chickpea Data
Some interesting research from Mediterranean countries sheds a bit more light on the peanut and chickpea question. Studies there indicate that two-thirds of children allergic to either pea, chickpea, or lentil, also had reactions to another of those three legumes; however, it was unusual for these kids to have a peanut allergy.
Further, if a peanut-allergic child were already tolerating peas, their chance of being allergic to chickpea was slim, but if peas caused a reaction the risk of having a lentil or chickpea allergy was increased.
So, bottom line, there is a risk of cross-reactivity between peanut and chickpea proteins, but it’s generally small. If you are still uncertain, your doctor or allergist can help determine whether your child should avoid fiber, manganese, and iron-rich chickpeas. Or, as do many kids, maybe yours will turn up their nose at chickpeas and make the decision for you.