When I sit down to create a recipe for folks with histamine intolerance or mast cell activation I ask myself what I can do to make it something that can be enjoyed by an entire family. Because really, is it fair to restrict the diet/enjoyment of others in our household? It’s certainly not fair on us if we have to prepare separate meals and then sit and cry into our bland, tasteless meal while everyone else digs into a smorgasbord of delights either though, right?
So I do my very best to come up with low histamine recipes that can either be easily modified on the fly at the stove, or are just super tasty enough to be left alone, as nature intended it.
By nature I mean totally transformed by the plethora of fresh herbs available at most supermarkets!
You’ll find the recipe below, with an explanation of how you can quickly zest it up for those not dealing with histamine intolerance or mast cell activation…all the recipes in my Anti-Cookbook contain quick fix-her-uppers. Zesty options aren’t just for others though, they’re often suitable for those who are no longer in the elimination/beginning phases, like me.
Right off you’ll notice that there’s a few higher histamine items here: a few cubes of fresh tomato, some curry, and chickpeas, which at least 10 people love pointing out to me every time I post on instagram or FB are on high histamine lists. Chickpeas high histamine? I really have no clue why lists would say that, in the same way I questioned turmeric being on those lists given that it’s a mast cell stabiliser and antihistamine. Turmeric was eventually removed from the high histamine lists years after I kept insisting it didn’t belong there, maybe we’ll see the same with chickpeas. At the end of the day, most fruits and vegetables should be waaaaaaaaay on the bottom of the scale when it comes to histamine. The first hint of this was when calling lab after lab asking if they would be willing to test histamine levels in foods for me. Many were totally up for it and I jumped for joy! Till they found out, that as I eat a mostly plant based diet, that’s what I was interested in testing.
They told me that in comparison to animal products, most vegetables and fruits have undetectable levels of histamine (to put this in perspective though they’re mostly testing for spoilage which has very high levels…high enough to be dangerous to folks who don’t have histamine issues) and as such couldn’t help me out. Now there are exceptions to this of course and some veggies and fruits may have high levels or they may cause excessive histamine release in some with allergies.
While I offer a number of substitutions for most of my recipes, this one included, regular readers of my blog will know I’m not a fan of lists. Throwing the high histamine lists away was the first, greatest leap I made towards healing. Sure, it was useful for the first few weeks or months, if I had done away with them at that point.
Even the lists of antihistamine and anti-inflammatory foods that I have compiled according to scientific research and medical studies are of limited value as most are conducted on animals or in test tubes, generally using extracts rather than the whole food. At least though, unlike with histamine food research, a number of studies can generally be found supporting the properties of the compounds.
But I didn’t do away with the lists after a few weeks, or even a few months, or years. Initially excited by the quietening of symptoms I experienced upon the removal of smoked meats, fish, yeast and colas, I kept working my way down the lists till I was eating only five foods.
If you read far back enough on this blog, you will find posts where I talk about eliminating high histamine foods – but as my research continued, my healing philosophy evolved, and I began sharing the updated information here.
You’ll find a sample from the food diary back then in my post “Once upon a time we all reacted to all foods” here. It’s a bit of a heart wrenching read, easily conveying my alarm and incredulity as I became reactive to even supposedly safe foods. And then I understood: the key to healing wasn’t in eliminating foods, it was in adding highly nutritious foods, whether they may be on high histamine lists or not! Now, this didn’t mean that I was going to go out and stuff my face with tomato paste and balsamic vinegar, though they both have important nutritional benefits, but rather that I was going to exercise some common sense, and include a little avocado, chickpeas (lists be damned!!), lentils and anything else that fights cancer, prevents neurodegenerative diseases and so on.
“But hang on,” some say, “if you have the CBS genetic variant you can’t do sulphur foods and that’s a fact! So even if we know that onions and broccoli prevent cancer, those with this issue absolutely should not, under any circumstances, consume them!”.
That’s pretty much a direct quote, with many variations, that I get regularly, only there’s about a dozen exclamation and question marks after it 😉
Ok, so explain to me then why, though I have the COMT, I am able to do quercetin without issue?
Or why though I have the MAO, that I’m totally cool with turmeric?
Or how though I have the CBS, that I’m very chill with all sulphur foods?
Don’t get me wrong though, if I go mental and use 10 heads of broc, cauli, multiple onions and garlic and eggs in one sitting, my toots might not smell so fresh you know?
The point I’m making is that our genetics are but a blueprint, and even if the hand we’re dealt is in fact what we’re currently playing with, our actions affect how the overall game unfolds. For example, recent studies have told us that the length of our telomeres determines how prone we are to disease and how long our life span may be. But even more recent research tells us that we can increase telomere length if we make certain lifestyle and dietary changes .
I believe that not starving my body of any particular set of foods by eating a balanced, anti-inflammatory diet, has helped my body heal overall, rather than trying to starve its supply of histamine alone, which is required to keep our body firing on all cylinders.
This brings us to something I recently talked about (if you’re bored skip to the bottom for the recipe) – the new inflammation bucket theory. In my first post on the topic “The inflammation bucket: or why I can now eat shrimp” I outlined how understanding that inflammation overall, rather than just histamine, was the biggest issue to address, helped me heal. In my new post “Reacting to everything? This could be why.” I share my theory on how individual buckets spilling over (salicylates, fructose, oxalates etc) can cause the big bucket to topple over, causing a reaction, though we’re not actually eating a lot of histamine.
Understanding this would have shaved a number of years off the recovery process, but hey, I got there in the end, so I’m not complaining. So finally, the recipe, a version of which appears in my on the go cookbook and Man Food.
Recipe nutrient breakdown
(includes optional items) extracted from the food lists in the Anti-Cookbook:
Antihistamine: onions, ginger, turmeric, coriander, basil, wakame seaweed,
Anti-inflammatory: onions, ginger, turmeric, coriander, basil, chickpea, zucchini, olive oil, curry/garam masala, apple cider vinegar, white beans (these also possess antihistamine qualities in some studies ), red rice (thanks to anthocyanin), daikon radish.
Gluten free vegan pakoras
You can sub the chickpea flour with lentil or rice flour, but if you want to use chestnut, sorghum or any other GF flour, you’ll have to add an egg or two for binding. Or you could check out my post on using chickpea or bean water generally as a vegan flour binding agent. Go ahead and grate any vegetable you tolerate instead of the zucchini and you can absolutely omit the onion or any of the herbs.
I served mine with an antihistamine white bean, tomato (high histamine), anti-inflammatory red rice and antihistamine quercetin rich red onion salad tossed in a little olive oil and apple cider vinegar, supposedly the lowest histamine of them all. You could try some lemon or anti-inflammatory tamarind paste instead of the vinegar, or just use the oil and a little chopped lemon or basil thyme. And also with an iodine rich wakame seaweed (antihistamine unless you’re allergic to seaweeds) , cucumber and anti-inflammatory and cancer preventing daikon radish mini salad with the same dressing.
2/3 cup chickpea flour (you can use lentil, rice, or tapioca flour instead)
1/2 cup water (or less as needed)
1 medium zucchini, grated
1/2 red onion, very finely chopped (you can use any type of onion you like, red are higher in quercetin)
handful basil and coriander, finely chopped
2 tbsp grated ginger
2 tbsp grated turmeric
2 tbsp garam masala or curry spice
Combine the chickpea flour and water. Allow to sit for at least 15 minutes if you can, which will help with digestibility. Mix in the zucchini, red onion, herbs. Eyeball what you may want to eat, overestimate if possible, because you can always freeze the leftovers for lunch, and separate yours into a smaller bowl. In the rest of the mix, add in the zesty options if using: ginger, turmeric and garam masala or curry.
Heat a little olive oil in a pan. Once warm, spoon in about a heaped tablespoon of mixture into the pan for each pakora. If you’re tight on time you can just pour it in like a frittata or pancake and then use a spatula to cut into squares, or you could just make it into a kind of pan pizza and then cut into slices on your plate.
Either way, once browned, flip over and cook through on the other side.
Use a separate pan for the two batches.
You can also just oil a baking tray and bake at 200C/380F for 15 – 20 minutes, flipping over once.
Serve with the little side salads or on its own.
Please remember, even antihistamine and anti-inflammatory foods can hurt us, please always exercise caution and consult a medical practitioner before adding new foods.
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