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BellaOnline's Allergies and Colds Editor

Chocolate, carob sensitivity

Chocolate is the treat everyone reaches for on Valentine’s Day. More than 36 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate are sold for Valentine's Day, according to the National Confectioners Association. But what if you are the unlucky individual who is allergic or sensitive to chocolate or its alternative, carob?

Chocolate allergies/sensitivities are rare. Many people believe they are allergic to chocolate but many reactions can be tied to one or more of the other ingredients or food additives in the tasty treat. These include soy lecithin, milk, corn syrup, gluten, nuts, favorings, dyes, and well, cockroach parts.

You probably don’t want to hear this around Valentine’s Day but most people who are allergic to chocolate are actually reacting to ground-up cockroach parts that contaminate every batch. The average chocolate bar contains eight insect parts. The Food and Drug Administration allows anything less than 60 insect pieces per 100 grams of chocolate (two chocolate bars’ worth).

As background, most foods contain what are termed “natural contaminants.” Cockroach parts also make their way into many other foods, including peanut butter, macaroni, fruit, cheese, popcorn and wheat.

Food allergies to cocoa or other chocolate ingredients can cause a variety of different symptoms including headache, heartburn, hives, skin rashes, confusion or breathing problems. Asthmatics with chocolate allergies may experience asthma attacks because of their sensitivity to one or more chocolate ingredients.

What about carob, commonly recommended as an alternative to chocolate? Carob is not a common food allergen but it is a member of the legume family. Those with legume allergies may have a problem. Just like chocolate, carob is often mixed with other food allergens that could trigger problems. Symptoms of carob allergy include skin rashes, respiratory problems, digestive issues and cardiovascular reactions.

If you must pass on chocolate or carob for Valentine’s Day, try some grain-free sunbutter cookies.

Here's what you need for 12 small cookies:

1 cup finely ground sunflower seeds
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup unsweetened sunbutter
1/4 cup agave nectar or other sweetener
Vanilla stevia drops, to taste
2 T. melted coconut oil
2 T. ground flax in 5 T. water

Here's what you do:

•Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a large baking sheet with pan spray.
•Make it easy. Put everything in your food processor and blend on the dough cycle until well combined.
•Scoop dough one tablespoon at a time onto the baking sheet. Leave 2-3 inches between cookies.
•Flatten cookies slightly with a fork and make a criss-cross pattern.
•Bake for 8-12 minutes until golden around the edges.
•Allow to cool slightly before transferring to a cooling rack.

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