Histamine is an organic compound involved in the immune system. It also acts as a neurotransmitter for the uterus and regulates physiological function in the gut. We are most familiar with the relation of histamine to the immune system. Medications for certain allergies are called “antihistamines” because histamine acts as a red flag in the immune system causing an inflammatory response, hence the allergies. There are certain foods high in histamine that should be eaten with caution. They cause the release of histamine and can trigger allergic reactions. From itching and swelling to nasal congestion and difficulty in breathing. Histamine build up can also cause headache. If the histamine is not broken down properly, we can develop histamine intolerance. Levels of histamine exceeding 50 mg/kg in foods and 2 mg/L in drinks are considered
1. Fermented Alcoholic Beverages
Alcoholic drinks which are fermented such as beer, wine and champagne are high in histamine. Red wine has up to 24 mg/L of histamine, while champagne has 670 mg/L. People, especially with histamine intolerance experience increase in heart rate, flushing when drinking these kinds of alcohol. Yeast is used in the fermentation process of these beverages to produce alcohol and carbon dioxide.
2. Fermented foods
Fermented foods such as sauerkraut (fermented cabbage), miso (fermented soybeans) and yogurt have high histamine content. Sauerkraut has a histamine content of up to 229 mg/kg, yogurt has 13 mg/kg and miso has 3 to 6 mg/kg. Turned out we should limit the amount of fermented foods we eat especially sauerkraut for it takes the trophy for having the highest histamine content among fermented foods.
What? Cheese? Yes. That’s what I thought too. Who doesn’t love cheese? Ripened cheeses have 2.21 to 2,500 mg/kg depending on what kind of cheese. Swiss cheese has the highest histamine content out of all of them which is 2,500 mg/kg. For those who love cheese, do not be dismayed. Mozzarella cheese doesn’t have histamine content.
4. Cured Meats
Cured meats such as bacon, pepperoni, salami and sausages are rich in histamine. Prosciutto has the highest histamine content among cured meats which is 1,160 mg/kg. It is an Italian dry-cured ham that is thinly sliced and served uncooked.
5. Soured Milk Foods
Sour cream, buttermilk and soured milk are products of milk acidification which gives milk a tart taste. The acid causes the milk to thicken and coagulate which inhibits the growth of bacteria and prolonging its shelf life. They have high histamine content. Sour cream has up to 7 mg/kg and buttermilk contains 87.4 mg/kg.
Eggplant is a species of nightshade. It is a fruit, not a vegetable. It contains 26 mg/kg of histamine. Though it contains histamine, the health benefits outweigh it. It has an antioxidant. it is rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals. A little caution in the consumption of this fruit for those who have histamine intolerance.
Ketchup is a savory sauce used as an ingredient or condiment. It is often partnered with french fries and used as a dipping sauce. It contains 22 mg/kg of histamine. Consuming it in small amounts is not risky. Besides, has anyone ever seen someone gulping a bottle of ketchup? Unless you are doing that, there is no need to worry about allergies.
Avocado contains 23 mg/kg of histamine. The histamine content of avocado is not risky unless you eat more than 2 kilos of avocados in one sitting which is nearly impossible. The health benefits of avocado still outweigh the possible effect of its histamine content. It has more potassium than bananas and loaded with monounsaturated fatty acids which are heart healthy.
Spinach has a high histamine content amounting to 30-60 mg/kg. Despite of its histamine content, let us not forget that spinach is also a superfood loaded with nutrients. Leafy green vegetables like spinach are good for the hair, bone health and skin. Popeye wouldn’t eat it for nothing.
Anchovy is a common salt water forage fish. It is classified as an oily fish usually. It is often fermented and used in small quantities to flavor dishes. It contains up to 1,250 mg/kg of histamine which is very high. Do not attempt to consume this in large quantities.
To End the Confusion
These are foods containing histamine. It shouldn’t be confused with “histamine-releasing” foods. Histamine releasing foods such as chocolates, citrus fruits, papaya and eggs don’t contain histamine. They trigger the release of histamine from the body which manifest allergic symptoms like histamine rich foods do. To determine if you react to a certain histamine containing food, it is recommended to list the foods that trigger an allergic reaction so you can avoid them in the future. If allergic reactions occur when eating these kinds of foods, it’s always best to consult your doctor or pharmacist.