Allergy & Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics (AANMA)

by Chef Michelle Austin

Can’t make it to the islands this spring? Whisk your family away to a tropical paradise without leaving the kitchen. Our Island Cooler Shake is easy to make, nutritious and includes options for those with dairy or soy allergies. Fill your cup with fresh fruits and whole food ingredients, then savor the enriching interplay of vitamins and minerals.

Fruit & Veggie Benefits and Allergy Links
All food, including fruits and vegetables, have the potential of causing allergies; the ones we usually think about — milk, eggs, soy, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish and fish — just happen to be the most common in the U.S.

When we asked Johns Hopkins School of Medicine food allergy expert Robert A. Wood, MD (author of Food Allergies for Dummies®) about the ingredients in this Island Cooler, he says allergies or anaphylaxis to these fruits and vegetables are rare. However, he warns the foods can occasionally cause oral allergy syndrome (OAS) – meaning they may make your mouth or lips feel itchy – due to cross-reaction with pollen allergy or latex.

If you cannot or choose not to eat one of the ingredients in our Island Cooler Shake, just leave it out and enjoy the rest of the nutritional extravaganza!

Cucumber is in the gourd/melon family, a cousin to watermelon and zucchini. It’s a great source of antioxidant vitamins C and A, as well as folate, manganese, molybdenum and potassium. Its alkaline-forming ingredients help balance commonly acidic diets.

Some people with ragweed allergy will experience oral allergy symptoms when eating cucumber – especially during pollen season. This happens because cucumber and ragweed contain similar proteins.

Coconut is highly nutritious and rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin C, iron and folate. Traditional medicine uses coconut for a wide variety of health problems including respiratory and throat infections, skin infections and intestinal problems.

The Food and Drug Administration lists coconut as a tree nut for food labeling purposes. However, coconuts are scientifically different from tree nuts and Dr. Wood says allergy to coconut is rare.

This sticky, sweet and slightly tart tropical fruit is an excellent source of energy-enhancing manganese and thiamin (vitamin B1) as well as vitamin C. The core of the fruit also contains bromelain, a digestive enzyme.

Pineapple can cross-react with ragweed and birch pollen, causing OAS symptoms. AAT medical editor Michael Foggs, MD, says pineapple proteins also cross-react with some latex rubber proteins. He cautions that people with latex allergy who experience oral allergy symptoms from eating pineapple should be cautious, as “the immune system can shift direction at a moment’s notice.”

Navel Orange
Practically off the chart in terms of vitamin C content, oranges are also high in fiber, folate, thiamin and potassium (which is good for your muscles and nerves). While you can get vitamin C in supplements and fortified foods, it seems that the mix of other ingredients in fresh oranges boosts the benefits of the naturally occurring vitamin C.

Like cucumber and pineapple, orange can cross react with pollen (grass pollens) to cause oral allergy symptoms. Its citric acid juices can also cause a non-allergic irritation to lips and mouth.

Island Cooler Shake:
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, chopped
3 oz coconut milk or coconut water with pulp
1 oz fresh coconut, grated
4 oz fresh pineapple, chopped
1/2 navel orange, peeled and sectioned
1 oz fresh lime juice, or to taste
2 tablespoon vanilla yogurt
*non-dairy options: soy, coconut or rice yogurt
½ teaspoon coconut oil (optional)
1 tablespoon vanilla whey protein (optional)
*non-dairy options: hemp, rice or soy

Directions: Put all ingredients into blender with ice; blend till smooth and serve immediately.

Chef Michelle Austin is founder of On Thyme Consulting, and co-owner of Just to Please You Productions and a contributor to SOBeFiT magazine. All menu concepts and recipes have been prepared by Michelle exclusively for Allergy & Asthma Today.

Click here for more Michelle recipes!

First published in Allergy & Asthma Today magazine, Vol. 9, Issue 1.
Reviewed by Michael Mellon, MD, and Talal Nsouli, MD.