June 23, 2014 10:00 pm

Safe Food Handling

The key to a successful low histamine diet lies in the quality of your nutrition. Although it’s true that histamines naturally occur in some nutritious foods, high histamine levels are typically a sign that the food’s quality has diminished.

You can significantly reduce your histamine intake—and keep a wider variety of foods in your diet—by tweaking how you purchase, store, cook, and consume your meals.

To help you get started, let’s explore six straightforward protein swaps that can profoundly impact your histamine levels and enhance your overall health.

Swap Supermarket for Farm Fresh Meat

Don’t be fooled by the “fresh” label on supermarket meats.

Often packaged in vacuum or gas packs, these meats can be up to four months old. While the packaging might keep the meat looking appealing, histamines continue to accumulate over time.

Transitioning to your local butcher, it’s common for them to buy poultry in bulk, especially when prices dip, and then freeze it for up to six months. It’s a good idea to inquire if the poultry has been previously frozen.

For the freshest option, consider buying directly from a butcher who can pinpoint the exact date the animal was processed, or even better, visit a farm or farmers’ market.

Ideally, meat should be no more than one to two weeks old from processing, and should be consumed on the day of purchase or frozen and used within a month.

Moreover, many butchers are willing to fulfill custom orders to ensure the utmost freshness, a move that can significantly lower your histamine exposure and boost the quality of your meals.

histamine intolerance protein

Swap Butchers for 'Failsafe' Sausages on a Low Histamine Diet

Sausages often carry significantly higher histamine levels than whole meats due to the processing which increases their exposure to bacteria. They also tend to include various additives that help preserve and enhance their flavors.

Even those labeled as preservative and gluten-free aren’t free from concerns; they might still contain ingredients like starch, onion powder, spices, flavorings, and yeast extract, which can be problematic for some people.

For a healthier choice, consider switching to custom-made sausages from your local butcher. You can even try making your own. Ask your butcher to freeze them immediately in portions, using the recipe provided by Sue Dengate at www.fedup.com.au.

This strategy ensures you enjoy fresher, safer sausages with controlled ingredients.

Chicken Chow Mein Low Histamine Diet

Image: Chicken Chow Mein from Flavour Ebook

Swap Butchers for Home Minced Meat

Pre-minced meat tends to have a significantly higher amine level than whole cuts, primarily because the processing increases the meat’s exposure to bacteria. To extend its shelf life, it’s often treated with sulfites, which help preserve it for sale.

However, in Australia, adding sulfites to minced meat is illegal. Despite this, a survey by www.fedup.com.au revealed that up to 50% of butchers might still use these illegal preservatives in their mince unless they are under constant supervision.

A safer and healthier alternative is to mince your meat at home. It’s a straightforward and failsafe method. The trick is to mix in some fat (about 10%) and to pulse the food processor instead of running it continuously. This approach ensures fresher, safer minced meat with fewer additives.

Swap to Steamed, Poached, or Oven-Baked Meat

Cooking meat at high temperatures can cause histamine levels to soar dramatically.

Research indicates that histamines can increase up to three times more when meat is cooked at 250 degrees Celsius compared to 200 degrees.

Additionally, prolonged cooking times moderately boost histamine levels, although other proteins like eggs and milk remain unaffected.

To minimize histamine production, consider gentler cooking methods such as steaming, boiling, poaching, or oven-baking your meats.

While meats cooked in a crockpot or pressure cooker can be included occasionally, they should be part of a rotation diet to manage histamine intake effectively.

It’s also wise to avoid blackened, well-done, or burnt meats, as these can significantly increase histamine levels.

Chicken Skewers Marinaded in Stir Fry Paste

Image: Chicken Skewers Marinaded in Stir Fry Paste From Flavour E-book

Swap Plain for Marinated Meat

Marinades, rubs, and added ingredients rich in plant-based polyphenols and antioxidants can significantly reduce histamine formation when foods are barbecued, grilled, fried, or stir-fried—by up to 70%.

Incorporating soups, stews, marinades, and rubs with histamine-lowering ingredients into your meals can help manage histamine levels effectively.

Research has identified several ingredients that prevent the increase of amines during cooking:

  • Fruits: Cherries, apples, and citrus fruits like lemons, limes, grapefruits, or oranges.
  • Vegetables: Garlic and onions are particularly effective.
  • Herbs: Include rosemary, basil, holy basil, lemon balm, oregano, sage, thyme, peppermint, and lemongrass.
  • Fats: Olive oil, especially non-virgin olive oil stored in glass bottles, is usually well-tolerated.


However, be cautious with turmeric. While it can reduce amines from cooking, turmeric also inhibits DAO, a key enzyme in biogenic amine reduction. Use turmeric sparingly, ideally only when cooking meat, and avoid it as a supplement.

Lastly, steer clear of adding sugar or using commercial marinades that contain sugar, as studies have shown that sugar can dramatically increase amine levels during cooking.

Chicken Zoodle Soup Low Histamine Diet

Image: Chicken Zoodle Soup From Nourished E-book

Swap Skin On for Skin Off Poultry on a Low Histamine Diet

Poultry is usually a good choice for those on a low histamine diet. However, it’s important to note that cooking poultry with the skin on can significantly increase histamine levels, even if the skin is removed after cooking.

To minimize histamine production, it’s best to remove the skin from poultry before cooking. This simple step can greatly reduce the histamines generated during the cooking process.

Additionally, opting for specific cuts of poultry can also make a difference. For instance, choosing chicken breasts, which typically have less skin and fat, over wings can help lower histamine exposure.

This choice is both practical and beneficial for maintaining a low histamine diet.

Persian Beetroot Salad

Image: Persian Beetroot Salad from Tossed e-Book

Swap Some Protein For More Vegetables

Many food lists categorize items as low, moderate, high, or very high in histamines within different food groups to promote a balanced diet. However, histamine levels vary significantly across these groups. Proteins, for instance, tend to be higher in histamines, while vegetables generally contain lower levels.

To optimize histamine intake, consider increasing the amount of vegetables in your diet. This doesn’t mean you should cut out proteins—maintaining a balanced diet is crucial, especially if you follow a Paleo or Carnivore diet. The goal is to be mindful of the proportion of protein and vegetables you consume.

Moreover, opting for high-quality proteins, such as organic and grass-fed options, can be more satiating, allowing you to feel fuller with smaller quantities of meat.

Always aim to buy the best quality protein you can afford, even if it means choosing less expensive cuts. This approach ensures you get the most nutritional value while managing your histamine levels effectively.

Conclusion: Emphasizing Quality Over Elimination on a Low Histamine Diet

One of the most common pitfalls in managing a low histamine diet is the premature elimination of foods without first considering their quality.

It’s crucial to recognize that histamine levels increase as foods age, rather than being inherently high in certain foods.

By focusing on the quality and freshness of your ingredients—choosing less processed meats, removing poultry skin before cooking, opting for organic proteins, and increasing vegetable intake—you can effectively manage histamine levels.

This approach allows you to maintain a more diverse and balanced diet. Remember, it’s not always about cutting foods out, but rather making smarter choices about the foods you include.

Read my post, Safe Food Handling and Histamine Intolerance to learn more about how amines build in foods.

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