Monday, September 29, 2008

Are Peanuts Good for You?

That was the question I overheard the other day while watching my kids play at the park. A cute little girl, about 4 or 5 years old, was getting pushed on the swings by her dad. I was sitting on a nearby bench and I couldn't help but hear her as she babbled away on the swing.

Of course, my ears always prick up at the word "peanuts" so I waited to her what Dad would say. He said "Well, yes I guess they are." I, and many of you, would disagree, because from our perspective it would be nice if they weren't thought of as kid "go-to" food. However, nutrionally speaking, peanuts are a good source of protein (though, I would argue, not nearly as great as they're cracked up to be. Fat, cholesterol, etc.)

So then, the little girl said "Well, I had my friend over today for lunch. She's allergic to peanuts. She almost ate a piece of peanut popcorn (I'm guessing a snack w/peanuts or peanut oil) and her mom got her away from it just in time."

They then carried on with their conversation and it shifted quickly to other topics. I thought it was so interesting, though! Obviously, this young girl was confused and concerned for her friend. If peanuts are so "good for you," why does her friend have to avoid them and carry and EpiPen? Why does her friend's mom have to do a quick "food interception" at a lunch and play date? (How many of you have had to run interference before a very young child went for a seemingly harmless food it turns out they can't have?)

I felt for this other mother--I don't even know her, but I know what she's going through. And how many other mothers had to perform a "food allergy rescue" that day or just stress about a simple lunch date with their kids? Too many--but they're not alone, as we know all too well.

Based on this young girl as well as the kids my daughter meets at school, it seems to me that more and more young children accept peanut allergies with aplomb. It's the adults (especially the "message board haters" ) that seem to have a bigger problem with it.

Acceptance of this condition will take years for our generation, if it comes at all. However, this young girl gave me a glimmer of hope, that future generations will just accept that a friend or acquaintance has to avoid certain foods and then go about their business.

Wouldn't that be great?


RCRambling said...

I know how this feels (the almost-allergy accident, as I call it).

We have the dairy-protein allergy in our home, which hopefully, unlike many other allergies, will be outgrown in a few years.

This scenario just happened to us, as Little Dude is more social and likes to help himself to foods. We were at the park with our neighbors, and I saw his hand go into someone's bag of munchies.

Thankfully, I got to him just in time, only to find out it was one of the snacks he could have had. But you can bet I watched all of the other bags of "cheesy-flavored snacks" more carefully the rest of the day, with the Benadryl close at hand...

Elaine at Matters of the Heart) said...

Oh I do hope that tolerance and acceptance comes quicker than anything think it will. I have friends that have admitted that they were intolerant before they knew someone dealing with it. It is nice to see people talking about and starting to understand.

Anonymous said...

When I first told my grandmother about my daughter's peanut allergy, of course, she didn't get it. At 80 year-old, would not expect her to understand or learn about this "modern problem." However, as this wise woman soon tells me : " the way, in Chinese medicine, peanut is considered very toxic and my mother (well, it will be my great, long time ago.)always said to avoid them..."
Here you have it..... 5000 years of Chinese medicine, I guess they know what is good or bad for you!

Jenny said...

That is a fascinating story about your Chinese grandmother telling you that peanuts have been considered toxic.

I've always wondered how people of Asian descent deal with nut allergies, since peanuts and nuts show up in so many traditional recipes. It must be really difficult, especially at the holidays or when visiting relatives' homes. For example, I was told to complete avoid Chinese, Thai and Indian restaurants due to the high volume of nut/peanut laden foods.

Also, I have Greek in-laws and nuts show up in just about every Greek dessert and sometimes entrees. It can be tricky sometimes.

Thank you for this insight! If you wouldn't mind sharing sometime, how do you go about managing your child's food allergy while also honoring family traditions? I think a lot of us would benefit from your observations.


Anonymous said...

Hey Jenny. I have a LOT of problems with my only relatives (uncle and aunt who live around your area). They do not completely understand and think I am over of the top, way too concerned about this allergy. My uncle, who is a well respected university professor, does not believe in nut allergies... but again, he also does not believe in global warming (so here you have it!) My aunt tries, but she refuses to learn to use epi pen. Last time we visited, she used tofu that was cooked in peanut oil as I later read the package. I was EXTREMELY upset and thankful that my girl is okay. Believe it or not, I completely avoid Chinese restaurants, way too many nuts and everything is cooked in the same wok. Tai is a big no no. We have some successes in some Japanese restaurants (100% janpanese, not a mixed cultured asian restaurant)
We do not attend large gatherings, and yes, people talk...but I just have to put my daughter's safety as a priority. When she is bigger and can communicate with me freely and knowing how her body is feeling (more like how your girl is now) I might attend more traditional functions.
I found your blog to be one of the most positive blogs I have read in terms of dealing with nut allergies, this is very important to me, I appreciate it and again, hope to share more info as we continue the efforts to keep these kids safe!

Jenny said...

Thanks, Jenny for your comments! It sounds like you're doing the best job you can despite the opposition you face along the way. Even if family members are involved, I agree that it's OK to avoid gatherings where you know your child won't be safe--especially if you've done all you can to communicate and people aren't taking your concerns seriously. After all--we're the ones who have to act as our kids' advocates while they're young. When they're older, they can take more of a leading role but for now, we're the gatekeepers who need to keep them away from allergens as much as possible. We can only hope that over time, people--including those in our own families--become more accepting of food allergies.