Are you on a journey to lower your histamine bucket and are confused about what steps to take in your everyday food preparation process? I have been on this journey and learned some tips and tricks along the way. So I am sharing here the most basic information when it comes to low histamine cooking and food preparation.
If you want to know more about my journey to lower histamine and more about histamine intolerance in general, please check my previous article: My Experience with Histamine Intolerance, Diet and Everything Beyond.
If by any chance you think you will be miserable eating a low histamine diet, I would like to encourage you. From my experience, having this ‘problem’ to fix helped me in fact diversify my diet, discover new foods and healthier ways of preparing food and it was all delicious.
Histamine Food Lists
What you won’t find in this article is a detailed list of low and high histamine foods. The reason I don’t do that is that I came to the conclusion that we are all experiencing symptoms differently and most often than not these lists are very subjective. I don’t want to scare you away from foods that are healthy and you might tolerate very well.
There are, however, some general rules and situations where histamine level can actually be scientifically measured, especially when it comes to animal protein. From my knowledge right now we can only accurately detect high histamine levels in things like rotten foods, for example.
It’s important to understand that food affects histamine levels in different ways. According to the Swiss Interest Group Histamine Intolerance (SIGHI), there are five groups of foods that affect histamine levels:
- Histamine-containing foods – like certain types of meats, cheeses, fermented foods.
- Other biogenic amines – like some fruits and legumes, hence why you find them on high histamine lists
- Histamine liberators – like alcohol, nuts, shellfish, cacao, bananas, citrus, tomatoes
- Diamine oxidase (DAO) inhibitors – alcohol, certain medication
- Increase in intestinal permeability – like hot spices, alcohol and I would add lectins here
On the other hand, you will have foods that have anti-inflammatory and anti-histamine properties. Sometimes these properties exist in the same food that is considered high histamine. Confusing much?
IMPORTANT REMINDER: Histamines are good for us, they are important neurotransmitters that help many vital functions. It’s only excess histamine that we are looking to clear.
My favorite approach to lowering histamine
So if you really have to eliminate everything, there is not much left to eat. My favorite approach to lowering histamine from food is one I learned from Jasmina at HealingHistamine.com: prepare and combine foods smartly so you don’t end up with all five groups in the same meal. And always pair those foods with others from the anti-inflammatory, anti-histamine category.
If you are confused and want to keep it simple and feel comfortable with following a low histamine list, you can do it but make sure is just temporary. Eliminating a lot of healthy foods from your diet permanently can do more harm than good in the long run.
I personally did eliminate everything for a while, but I wouldn’t do it the same way again. I just didn’t know better and I was scared of food reactions, which didn’t exactly help me.
Low histamine cooking and food preparation: general rules
These rules apply mostly for DAO degradation disorder. For mast cell activation disorder the approach will start with these rules but will be more complex.
We are all different, and the root cause and context of our histamine intolerance is most probably different, so we will not all experience everything the same.
Stress, trauma, hormonal imbalances, nutrient deficiency have an important impact on your experience with histamine intolerance and reaction to certain foods.
Look not only to reduce histamines but to reduce inflammation in your body. When the inflammation bucket is empty, or not overflowing, histamine and other stressors are better tolerated.
The above is the reason that sometimes, instead of looking to eliminate completely high histamine foods, it’s better to look at one food in a context. For example, raspberries are considered high histamine, but they are also a source of quercetin, which has anti-inflammatory, anti-histamine properties. Personally, I actually felt really good when eating raspberries, even if they are on most high histamine lists.
Dose and context make the poison.
Sometimes is not that you can’t have certain foods, but that you should have just a small quantity, not every day, and paired with foods that have anti-inflammatory and anti-histamine properties.
Also, if you are on vacation, relaxed, or enjoying a meal with loved ones, the food will affect you differently than if you are stressed, eating on the go, or having negative thoughts about the food you are eating.
Work with a physician to correctly identify the root cause of your problem and work on it from a holistic perspective.
Low histamine cooking and food preparation: food groups
The general requirement about animal protein is FRESHNESS. Most histamine poisoning cases happen from rotten food, or from canned animal protein, especially fish.
Also, the QUALITY MATTERS. Choose producers that grow animals in humane, natural ways rather than the industrial way. For beef, we are looking for grass-fed, grass-finished, for chicken we are looking for pasture-raised. For fish, we are looking for wild-caught, however, sustainability is an issue that you need to assess before buying fish.
Choose FRESH meat from a TRUSTED producer.
FROZEN meat is ok as long as you trust the producer that FLASH-FROZE the meat and the cold chain was not interrupted.
THAWING should be made in cold water, in the original package, as it is faster. That’s why is better to get smaller pieces of meat. This applies to fish too.
SLOW COOKING should be avoided, use instead a fast COOKING method.
PRESSURE COOKING is a great way to prepare harder pieces of meat that otherwise would need a slow and long cooking method. A pressure cooker will be your best friend for low histamine cooking. An Instant Pot is great but even a manual pressure cooker works. I even cook meat and chicken straight from the freezer.
MARINATING should be avoided.
LEFTOVERS should be avoided, unless they are frozen immediately and thawed and reheated with a fast method, like straight from frozen in a pan or in the oven.
Meat (chicken, beef, lamb, pork, etc)
- Meat is generally safe to eat if very fresh or flash-frozen
- Matured, dry-aged, cured, marinated, smoked meat products are usually high in histamine (i.e. sausages, salami, smoked bacon)
- Ground / finely chopped meat is usually high-histamine unless prepared at home and cooked immediately
- Organs/offals are considered high histamine, however, they are also very nutrient-dense and might help with histamine degradation (histamine blockers are made from kidneys)
- Eggs are generally considered low risk for people with histamine intolerance if they are fresh, cooked and of good quality. Look for pasture-raised, omega-3 eggs.
- Eat only cooked eggs and make sure the egg white is always completely cooked (that’s where the protein, so the amines, are).
- Duck eggs are considered safer than chicken eggs by some groups.
While I reintroduced most of the foods in this article, I still don’t feel comfortable with eating raw eggs, like in mayonnaise. Even if I only use the yolk to make mayo at home, I still feel some of the raw egg white can contaminate the rest of the ingredients.
Fish, seafood, crustaceans, shellfish
- The only two accepted ways to eat fish safely when dealing with histamine intolerance is freshly caught (i.e. straight from the fisherman, cleaned and prepared immediately). From my experience, good restaurants next to water bodies that have the fish of the day freshly caught are safe.
- If you find a trusted supplier of wild-caught, sustainable fish that was cleaned and flash-frozen immediately, you might be able to handle it well. In this case, thawing should be done in cold water and cooking immediately. No leftovers.
- Canned fish is very high in histamine.
- Other types of processed fish like smoked, marinated or pickled are high in histamine.
- Shellfish is usually considered high histamine.
Personal note: I used to love having seafood/shellfish and a glass of red wine in restaurants, and I could feel it on the spot that something was wrong when combining the two. That’s when in fact I started to notice symptoms of histamine intolerance when eating (I didn’t know what they were at the time).
- Look for milk products that are grass-fed and organic, from cows that produce A2 casein milk, goat, sheep, buffalo milk (only those type of products considered well-tolerated, see below)
- Cream cheese, mascarpone, butter, mozzarella, are considered to be well tolerated (see the pattern, the less protein, the better, as amines form on protein)
- Raw milk is considered low risk by Swiss Interest Group Histamine Intolerance but is high in histamine as per the Spanish Society of DAO deficiency. One more reason to always experiment with how these apply to your own situation and not take any low or high histamine food list as a bible.
- Matured, aged cheeses, blue cheeses, are considered high histamine.
- Fermented cheese products such as yogurt, kefir, are moderately risky and will probably depend on your individual circumstances.
As a side note, I felt that for me it was helpful to eliminate dairy altogether. In general, that will be helpful for people who, aside from their DAO deficiency, are intolerant/sensitive to lactose or casein.
HOW, you wonder? Whatever reduces inflammation in your body, reduces the amount of stress your body has to handle. When the stress/inflammation bucket is LOW, histamines from outside sources are better tolerated.
Cereals, flour, pastry, sweet treats
Since we are on a platform here that is gluten-free, lectin-free and sugar-free, we are talking about flour, grains, and sweets that are Plant Paradox approved. Check more about the plant paradox program in this article: The Plant Paradox, How to Reduce Chronic Inflammation and Improve Your Health.
In general, nut flour is to be avoided, but cassava, tapioca, teff, sorghum, sweet potato flour, millet, are considered low histamine. Coconut and chestnut flour should be well tolerated.
Sourdough and yeast pastry and bread products can possibly be high histamine, but it still depends on the context, what they are paired with, how much etc.
Fruits, nuts and seeds
Citrus fruits are considered high in histamine, as well as raspberries, strawberries, and kiwi. Again, I think it depends a lot on the context. Fruits have to be fresh, organic, not overripe.
Coconut products – coconut flour, flakes, water and oil, are in general considered very well tolerated. My favorite snack during my total elimination diet was fresh coconut meat.
Walnuts, cashews and peanuts (the former two are not plant paradox compliant anyway) are on the high histamine list. Macadamia nuts and chestnuts are well tolerated. Some lists exclude all nuts, so it has to be tested on a personal level.
Sesame seeds are on some high histamine lists, while Nigella Sativa seeds are considered to have anti-histamine properties.
Unfortunately, fermented foods are not well tolerated when dealing with histamine intolerance. The level of intolerance will vary from case to case and you can assess that personally.
Before you eliminate everything fermented, look at how much, how often, and in what combinations you are consuming fermented foods.
Examples of fermented foods are sauerkraut or other fermented veggies, vinegar, soy or tempeh products, olives. Balsamic vinegar is especially high in histamine, while apple cider vinegar and white vinegar can be tolerated, in small quantities.
Fermented sauces, yeast extracts and probiotics are high in histamine. As a side note, there are probiotics specially formulated to help with histamine degradation.
Vegetables and fruits
Mushrooms, tomatoes, spinach, eggplant, avocado and citrus are generally considered high histamine. While these can be eliminated for a short period of time, please assess how they affect you personally. As mentioned previously, dose and context matter.
The world of spices is confusing and I think tolerance is very personal and related to context. I would start with using only fresh aromatics and herbs for a while. Then expand to dry spices and powders.
The problem with dry spices and powders is that they can contain mold which can make you react, even if the spice per se is not high in histamines. Make sure you buy from trusted sources, good quality spices.
Curry, cumin, cinnamon, are on high histamine lists. I have added all of them back into my diet, but I’m careful to not overdo it.
Alcohol and fermented drinks are high-histamine. The tea landscape is confusing. I personally don’t react well to most teas. My favorite teas are fresh ginger tea, lemon balm and tulsi and they seem to work well for me. In fact, I think all three have powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-histamine properties.
While I will not provide a list, I wanted to bring to attention a few ingredients that can help to clear excess histamine. From my knowledge and experience, these are powerful natural anti-histamine:
- Nigella seeds and oil, also called black cumin
- Rosemarinic acid
- Perilla oil (which contain rosemarinic acid)
- Pomegranate (arils and peels extract)
- Tulsi or holy basil
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Good quality salt
- Vegetables such as asparagus, fennel, cruciferous, onions, garlic, ginger, dandelion greens, fresh artichokes, root vegetables, sweet potatoes, yams, fresh herbs, and more.
Low histamine cooking, methods and tools
As mentioned above, make sure you don’t add additional stress to your body, as that can trigger more inflammation that can aggravate your histamine intolerance. This means avoiding endocrine disruptors and toxic compounds that can be released by your cooking methods and tools.
- Don’t use non-stick cooking tools
- Use stainless steel, ceramic coated and enameled pots and pans – make sure they are not scratched.
- Don’t use nonstick and aluminum baking pans, replace with glass, ceramic, cast iron or stainless steel.
- Avoid browning and burning food, use clean methods such as sauteing, braising, steaming, boiling, baking at low to medium temperatures.
- For food that usually takes time to cook, use fast cooking tools such as a pressure cooker.
- Avoid slow cooking methods and smoking.
- Remove plastic containers and replace them with glass containers.
Emergency anti-histamine help
Supplements, in general, should address your individual deficiencies and needs which you will know if you work with a doctor and get the necessary tests to identify and work on the root cause of your histamine intolerance.
Fortunately, there are also a few supplements that can help when you don’t have control over how much histamine you are getting from food. My favorites are:
- HistaAid from Quicksilver Scientific
- Histamine Block which now has a new, more complex version, Histamine Block Plus, both from Seeking Health.
My favorite histamine food compatibility list
The compatibility list compiled by the Swiss Interest Group Histamine Intolerance, which is updated regularly, is my favorite. Is very complex and can be helpful when you have a question about a particular ingredient or food item.
Take it with bio-individuality in mind though, as we all react differently to different things, at different times in our journey. Plus, the list doesn’t take into account dose, context and food combinations in real life.
Are the recipes on this website low histamine?
Some are, some aren’t. I started my low histamine journey in April 2019, so since then, I’ve been creating mainly recipes that are on the low histamine spectrum.
However, most of them are not labeled low histamine because I feel there is not a clear line when it comes to the content of histamine in foods, as mentioned in the guide above.
What is low histamine for me may not be for you and I didn’t want to confuse anyone. But I always follow the low histamine rules about purchasing, preparing, cooking and storing food.
When I’m writing this post, more than two years later after my first histamine intolerance episode, I have reintroduced most of the foods on the high histamine lists. But, I am careful with dose and context.
If I’m in a super relaxed situation, like on vacation or having a good time with friends, I let myself go more. If I feel I’m stressed, I’m more careful.
What I haven’t reintroduced is alcohol, shellfish with minor exceptions, and canned fish. I also gave up all dairy in my elimination phase and I realized I feel much better without, so now, with rare exceptions like some butter, yogurt and mascarpone, I don’t eat dairy.
And back to recipes, a lot of my recipes created in the past two years can be part of a low histamine diet, some with small modifications. Also, my book – The Living Well Without Lectins Cookbook – has quite a few low histamine recipes, plus they are all lectin-free, gluten-free and sugar-free (a few images with low histamine recipes in the book, below).
You will also find some of my low histamine recipes below:
Comments or questions
I hope this guide to low histamine cooking and food preparation was useful. Please leave a comment below if you have any questions.