Top 20 low-histamine foods
Following a balanced, nourishing diet can seem like an impossibility when you have a histamine intolerance. Registered nutritionist Kerry Torrens sorts through the confusion and highlights 20 ‘good for you’ low-histamine ingredients and some recipes to enjoy them in
Why choose low-histamine foods?
Histamine is an important immune chemical and plays numerous other roles in the body. As well as being made in the body, we also consume histamine in our diet, with foods like fermented, aged and processed foods being particularly high.
If we over-produce histamine, consume high levels of histamine-rich foods and fail to break it down sufficiently, levels can rise and initiate symptoms.
Following a low-histamine diet and selecting foods lower in histamine and, in some cases, even having an anti-histamine action, may help alleviate some of these symptoms.
How can I manage the histamine levels in my food?
As well as opting for foods with lower histamine levels you may also want to adopt some of these practical tips:
- Select foods in their whole, unprocessed form
- Buy and eat fresh foods rather than those that have been stored or preserved
- Cook from scratch
- Freeze leftovers rather than refrigerate.
Which foods are low in histamine?
Levels of histamine in foods can be difficult to quantify, that’s because even the same food may have different levels depending on how it’s been stored and prepared. It’s also important to remember that your own tolerance to histamine will be unique to you and will vary over time.
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Foods which are reported as having lower histamine levels include most fresh produce, fresh meat, certain fresh/frozen fish, eggs including quail eggs and most fresh herbs.
Here are some of our favourites:
1. Fresh/frozen meat
The cooking method you choose can influence histamine levels with frying or grilling meat, increasing the histamine load. Choose fresh or frozen meat like beef, veal, chicken and turkey and boil or poach to keep histamine levels low – try our flavourful poached chicken breast.
2. Fresh/frozen fish
Histamine levels in fish will depend on the species and freshness of the fish you choose. That’s because histamine is produced when bacteria, found in the skin, gills and guts of the fish break down an amino acid called histidine. Some fish contain higher levels of this amino acid than others which is why mackerel, herring and tuna are generally off limits. The enzyme that does this work is called histidine decarboxylase and can keep working even after the bacteria that produced it have been killed.
Species of fish that are thought to be lower in histamine include plaice, carp, trout and hake – we’ve used hake in our ultimate fish & chips. Select the very freshest you can buy or use frozen, but be aware that histamine levels will start to increase during thawing.
Generally considered low-risk, use fresh eggs and cook them – simple is often the best policy, such as with our soft-boiled eggs.
Egg whites, especially uncooked, were originally thought to act as a histamine liberator, however more recent findings suggest this may not be the case. If in doubt always enjoy your eggs cooked.
If you’re a cheese lover, you’re in luck! There are some lower histamine options including mascarpone, mozzarella and cottage cheese, as well as some plain soft cheese – select those without additives like thickeners or stabilisers.
Cheese made from pasteurised milk is considered lower risk than that made from raw milk. We’ve used mozzarella in our minty summer rice salad, this salad includes a red pepper – opt for a sweet rather than hot pepper in this recipe.
Just like mozzarella, ricotta is an unaged cheese and, therefore, has a lower histamine content. We’ve used it in our ricotta, broccoli and lemon penne. Select a sweet red pepper for this recipe and omit the chilli if your symptoms are elevated.
Pseudo “grains” like quinoa make a useful base for a pilaf, tabbouleh or salad. Quinoa is a great choice because it’s a good source of nutrients which help lower histamine levels, such as copper, manganese and zinc. Combine with fresh vegetables and serve with chicken or eggs. Make only as much as you need to avoid the need to store leftovers.
Snacks can often be tricky, but these sweet potato and tapioca balls just might be the answer – they’re gluten-free and made with low-histamine ingredients.
If you’re experiencing symptoms, keep your meals simple. This recipe for roasted asparagus goes back to basics yet makes a tasty seasonal side dish.
Rich in the flavonoid luteolin that helps stabilise the cells that store histamine, we’ve combined artichokes with watercress and low-histamine ricotta in this tasty artichoke and watercress linguine.
Studies suggest legume sprouts like beansprouts are a good source of diamine oxidase (DAO), the enzyme involved in breaking down histamine. In fact, it’s thought that sprouted beans offer as much as a 250 times higher activity of this enzyme than non-sprouted seeds.
Often combined with high-histamine ingredients like soy sauce or miso we’ve pared back these seasoned beansprouts, yet retained a nod to their Asian origins. It’s also worth knowing that garlic (used in this recipe) when eaten in small amounts, and especially after cooking, is often well-tolerated, as are sesame seeds.
Rich in sulforaphane and a source of vitamin C, broccoli may have useful anti-histamine effects. We’ve combined broccoli with kale, ginger and turmeric in this nourishing soup.
Most soups, including this one, depend on a bouillon powder or stock to enhance flavour. Check the product you use because many have incompatible ingredients such as yeast or meat extracts, spices or additives.
Most fresh vegetables, including cauliflower, are low in histamine. This simple cauliflower rice is super speedy and makes a great base for a meal – make sure to eat it immediately.
Omit spices, like the optional cumin in this recipe, because it may trigger the release of histamine.
We’ve used lemon juice to dress our salad – although citrus is not high in histamine, it may trigger histamine release, although occasional consumption in small quantities may be tolerated.
We’ve combined anti-histamine ingredients like onion and fresh herbs with low-histamine courgette in this delicious courgette, tarragon and thyme galette – perfect for a summer lunch.
The pastry in our galette is made with butter, which may contain small amounts of histamine. If you’re concerned, swap for an equal amount of lard.
Cucumber is low in histamine and a refreshing addition to a salad. We’ve combined it with other low-histamine salad vegetables like radish, celery and anti-histamine onions in our radish and cucumber salad.
Full of flavour yet low in histamine, fennel can liven up a dish, and it does just that in our fennel spaghetti, just omit the optional parmesan.
Onions, regardless of their type, have powerful anti-histamine properties. This spring onion salad makes a perfect side for a meat dish, however, omit the chilli flakes if your symptoms are pronounced because spices like chilli may irritate the gut and make it more sensitive to histamine. Instead swap for a sprinkle of fresh herbs, such as coriander.
This perfect combo includes low-histamine squash and sweetcorn along-with the anti-histamine properties of spring onions.
Swap out high-histamine spinach and replace with peppery watercress. Studies suggest a plant compound in this leafy green may help prevent histamine release from mast cells. This tasty salad makes a delicious side dish. Replace orange for lemon juice and the pine nuts for pistachio or macadamia for lower histamine options.
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Which low histamine foods do you include in your diet? Comment below and let us know.
Kerry Torrens BSc. (Hons) PgCert MBANT is a Registered Nutritionist with a post graduate diploma in Personalised Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the last 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food.
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