How to Make Home Cooking Easier

Home cooking

Home cooking

Tips for Home Cooking

We all know that we should be eating more home-cooked meals. When you prepare your own meals, you know exactly what’s gone into them. You can avoid the dubious ingredients added to many processed foods, such as monosodium glutamate, preservatives fake colors, fake flavors, extra salt and extra sugar. You can also avoid ingredients that are high in histamine or histamine liberators. Home cooking can even save you money. So what’s stopping people from cooking at home? Most people are too busy, and many lack confidence in their culinary skills.

To encourage you to use your home kitchen to produce nutritious meals we’ve rounded up some great tips on how to prepare simple meals that are enjoyable, easy and quick.

From Emma Watson at Kidspot: 6 ways to make family cooking easy.

From Weight Watchers: 6 tips for creating speedy 30 minute meals.

From the Australian Government: Quick and Easy Meals.

From Rachel Ray via “How Stuff Works”: Quick Tips for Fast Meals.

From Taylor Isaac at Cooksmarts: 12 Tips That Make Cooking Cleanup Faster & Easier.

Here are some of our favorite tips:

  • When you cook at home, double the recipe and freeze the other half for later.
  • Make use of pre-chopped snap-frozen vegetables. They save you time!
  • Keep your knives sharp.
  • Think of cooking as a relaxing and productive activity.
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Rooibos Tea

Rooibos tea

Rooibos tea

Rooibos – the delicious, caffeine-free tea that’s rich in antioxidants.

Rooibos tea is one of the beverages considered safe for people with histamine intolerance. Years ago, not many people outside of Africa had heard of it, but these days it’s available in many supermarkets and health food stores around the world.

Rooibos tea, also called “redbush tea”, is made from the leaves of a bush called Aspalathus linearis. The plant is native to the Western Cape province of South Africa.

Wikipedia tells us that, “The tea has a taste and color somewhat similar to hibiscus tea, or an earthy flavor like yerba mate.”

Rooibos tea comes in two types – red and green. They look and taste different. Both are suitable for people with histamine intolerance.  You prepare rooibos tea the same way as ordinary black tea – by infusing the leaves in hot water. You can add milk and sugar if you prefer. or a sprig of mint. It can be enjoyed hot or cold.

The Benefits of Rooibos Tea

  • Rooibos tea does not contain caffeine.
  • It has low tannin levels compared to black tea or green tea.
  • It contains health-giving polyphenols.
  • The processed leaves and stems contain benzoic and cinnamic acids.
  • It is rich in ascorbic acid (vitamin C).
  • It contains antioxidants.
  • It contains quercetin.

References:

[Food Chemistry, Volume 60, Issue 1, September 1997, Pages 73-77. Comparison of the antioxidant activity of rooibos tea (Aspalathus linearis) with green, oolong and black tea. A. Von Gadow, E. Joubert, C.F. Hansmann.]

[Economic Botany, April 1983, Volume 37, Issue 2, pp 164–173 Rooibos tea,aspalathus linearis, a caffeineless, low-tannin beverage. Julia F. Morton]

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Rice Bran Oil

rice bran oilRice Bran Oil- the “rediscovered” cooking oil with a high smoke point.

What is rice bran oil?

Imagine a grain of whole, freshly-harvested rice, sliced in half lengthwise and magnified many times. You would see a hard outer layer covering the whole rice seed, protecting it from the environment. This is called the husk, the hull, or chaff.

Inside this hard outer layer is a second layer called the bran, or inner husk. This is where rice bran oil is found. Bran represents only about 8% of the weight of the whole rice grain, but contains about 3/4 of the total oil. The bran is itself composed of four layers, and also includes the rice germ, or embryo. You’ve heard of wheat germ right? All grains have a “germ” sandwiched between the endosperm and the bran layer.

In the middle of the rice grain is the endosperm. This is the starchy part that we call “white rice” when the outer layers have been stripped off in a processing plant.

People in many Asian countries have been producing and cooking with rice bran oil for many years. The oil can be extracted from the bran either by pressing the steam-heated bran between heavy rollers or screw presses called “oil mills”, or by using solvents to chemically separate the oil from the bran. What’s left behind is a product called “defatted rice bran”. After the oil has been extracted, it must be purified.

What’s special about rice bran oil?

“Rice bran oil, not being a seed‐derived oil, has a composition qualitatively different from common vegetable oils.” [Kaimal et al., 2002]

  • High smoke point: Rice bran oil has a high smoke point of 232 °C (450 °F), which means it is appropriate for high-temperature cooking methods such as stir frying and deep frying.
  • Mild flavor: The oil has a mild to neutral taste, so it does not overpower the flavor of other foods.It is light, versatile and pleasant to use in  salad dressings, baking dips etc.
  • Balance: The oil has an ideal balance of polyunsaturated fats (PUFA) and monounsaturated fats (MUFA). In fact it contains 37% polyunsaturated fats and 45 % monounsaturated fats, almost a perfect 1:1 ratio.
  • Suitable for people with histamine intolerance: Rice bran oil is listed as a safe food for sufferers of HIT.
  • Health benefits: The oil is rich in vitamins, antioxidants and other nutrients. It contains abundant vitamin E complex, tocopherols and antioxidants known as gamma aryzanol, as well as quantities of phytosterols, polyphenols and sqnalene. It is considered to be “heart friendly” and may help to lower cholesterol.
  • Keeping qualities: Rice bran oil has a very good shelf life compared with other cooking oils.

Keep some rice bran oil in your pantry for healthier eating!


Reference: Origin of problems encountered in rice bran oil processing. Thengumpillil Narayana Balagopala Kaimal et.al. European Journal of Lipid Science and Technology. 9 April 2002. https://doi.org/10.1002/1438-9312(200204)104:4<203::AID-EJLT203>3.0.CO;2-X

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Cauliflower – the versatile vegetable

CauliflowerCauliflower – it’s better than you think

We decided to write about cauliflower in this post because:

  • it’s permitted on the Strictly Low Histamine Diet
  • it’s one of the vegetables that’s so easy to hate if it’s prepared wrongly
  • it’s good for you
  • lately, people have been coming up with inventive ways to make it actually delicious.
  • it’s very low in Calories, which is useful for people who want to lose weight

Wikipedia tells us that cauliflower (Brassica oleracea) originated in the Northeast Mediterranean. “Cauliflower is an annual plant that reproduces by seed. Typically, only the head is eaten – the edible white flesh sometimes called “curd” (similar appearance to cheese curd).”Purple cauliflower

There are four major groups of cauliflower:

  • Italian, which includes white, Romanesco, various brown, green, purple, and yellow cultivars. This type is the ancestral form from which the others were derived.
  • Northern European annuals, which include Erfurt and Snowball.
  • Northwest European biennial, which include Angers and Roscoff.
  • Asian, a tropical type used in China and India. It includes Early Benaras and Early Patna.

Fractal cauliflowerDid you know that there are hundreds of historic and current commercial varieties of cauliflower used around the world? Or that cauliflower comes in colors other than creamy white? The other colors of cauliflower include:

  • Orange, whose beautiful color is provided by beta-carotene, a provitamin A compound. Cultivars include ‘Cheddar’ and ‘Orange Bouquet’.
  • Green, which is also known as “broccoflower”. This comes in the normal cloud-shaped head (curd) or in a fractal spiral curd called “Romanesco Broccoli”. Varieties of the cloud-shaped green cauliflower include ‘Alverda’, ‘Green Goddess’ and ‘Vorda’. Romanesco varieties include ‘Minaret’ and ‘Veronica’.
  • Purple, whose stunning color is given to it by anthocyanins, plant pigments that are found in other plants, including red cabbage, red plums and red grapes. Varieties include ‘Graffiti’ and ‘Purple Cape’.

How to keep the Nutrients in Cauliflower

Cauliflower heads can be roasted, boiled, fried, steamed, pickled, or eaten raw. According to Wikipedia, “Boiling reduces the levels of cauliflower compounds, with losses of 20–30% after five minutes, 40–50% after ten minutes, and 75% after thirty minutes.” However, other preparation methods, such as steaming, microwaving, and stir frying, have no significant effect on the compounds.”

Romanesco CauliflowerWonderful Ways with Cauliflower

Maybe your Mom always used to serve up cauliflower looking like a white, watery, blob on the plate, but these days there are a lot of great ways to use this versatile food, such as

  • cauliflower “rice”
  • cauliflower”steaks”
  • vegan “cauliflower cheese”
  • creamy, savory cauliflower whip
  • cauliflower salad
  • cauliflower soup
  • roasted cauliflower
  • cauliflower dip
  • mashed cauliflower
  • white sauce made out of cauliflower
  • and even cauliflower chocolate pudding!

There are loads of ideas on the internet – just type “cauliflower recipes” into your search engine. Make sure you check the other ingredients and if there’s anything histamine-unfriendly in there, either leave it out or substitute a similar, histamine-friendly ingredient.

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Zucchinis (courgettes) – A vegetable that’s really a fruit.

zucchini courgetteEnjoy zucchinis in a variety of dishes

Zucchinis, otherwise knows as courgettes, are considered to be a safe food for people with histamine intolerance. They can be incorporated into a huge variety of dishes, including:

  • slices and cobblers
  • pizza crust
  • soups
  • breads
  • salads
  • sweet cakes and muffins
  • cookies and biscuits

Zucchinis are a type of summer squash. The zucchinis we see in the shops have been harvested while young. In Britain, Ireland and Australia, a fully grown zucchini is called a marrow.

Their botanical name is Cucurbita pepo, and they can be dark green, pale green, golden-orange, or striped. Everyone thinks of zucchinis as vegetables, but botanically speaking they are fruits – “…a type of botanical berry called a “pepo”, being the swollen ovary of the zucchini flower.” [Wikipedia]Golden_zucchinis

A Brief History of Zucchinis

Like so many delicious food plants, zucchinis originated in South America. In the early 16th century the explorer Christopher Columbus brought seeds of zucchini’s cucurbit ancestors to the Mediterranean and Africa. However it was not until the second half of the 19th century that the zucchinis we know today were bred, in northern Italy. That’s why we tend to think of zucchinis as a “Mediterranean vegetable” – when they are really a South American fruit!

To make a rectangular zucchini-based pizza:

Ingredients

1 large zucchini
1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh parsley
1 pastured egg, beaten
3 Tbsp. water
2 cups spelt flour
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
½ tsp. sea salt
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Your favorite low histamine pizza toppings.

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350 °F (180 °C)
Chop zucchini into small chunks.
Place raw zucchini into a food processor and process 3 – 4 minutes until it becomes smooth and gloopy.
Add, flour, beaten egg, olive oil and parsley to the zucchini in food processor and mix until it forms a smooth dough. Add a little water if needed to achieve dough consistency.
Scoop out the dough onto a baking sheet (baking tray) lined with parchment (baking paper). Pat it out into a pizza shape.
Allow dough to sit on the kitchen counter (benchtop) for 20 minutes before baking.
Slide baking sheet into the preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes.
Remove from oven and top with your favorite low histamine pizza toppings.
Return pizza to the oven, making sure to swivel the baking sheet 180 degrees (to allow for even cooking).
Bake for another 15 minutes or until the edges turn golden brown.
Take it out of the oven and slice into rectangular pieces.

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Are your antihistamine meds making you fat?

antihistamine medsAntihistamine meds and weight gain

Here’s another good reason to treat Histamine Intolerance with diet rather than with drugs: Many antihistamine meds can increase your appetite and cause unwanted weight gain.

In fact, an antihistamine medication called cyproheptadine is actually prescribed by doctors as an appetite stimulant.

Other antihistamines, such as fexofenadine and cetirizine can also stimulate the appetite. These drugs are prescribed for allergies, but one of their side effects can be weight gain.

“Histamine-1 (H1) receptor blockers commonly used to alleviate allergy symptoms are known to report weight gain as a possible side effect,” according to a report from the Obesity Society. [1]

H1 blockers (also known as H1 antagonists), are a class of medications that block the action of histamine at the body’s H1 receptor. This provides relief from allergic reactions such as hayfever, insect bites, allergic conjunctivitis and contact dermatitis.

Antihistamines are useful medications, and you should follow your doctor’s advice. However, many “allergic reactions” are exacerbated by Histamine Intolerance , a condition that can be treated naturally with diet instead of drugs.

Some common H1 blocker antihistamine meds and their brand names include:

  • Cetirizine (Zyrtec)
  • Loratadine (Claritin)
  • Acrivastine (Benadryl Allergy Relief (UK), Semprex (US)
  • Terfenadine (Seldane (US), Triludan (UK), and Teldane (Australia))
  • Fexofenadine (Allegra)

If you suffer from allergic reactions and depend on antihistamine meds for relief, consider following the Strictly Low Histamine Diet to lower your histamine levels.

 


References:

[1] Ratliff, J. C., Barber, J. A., Palmese, L. B., Reutenauer, E. L. and Tek, C. (2010), Association of Prescription H1 Antihistamine Use With Obesity: Results From the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Obesity, 18: 2398–2400. doi:10.1038/oby.2010.176

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Expressive writing can aid healing

expressive wriringThe Benefits of Writing

Happy New Year! May 2018 bring you health and happiness.

Who would have thought that the process of writing could actually help to heal our bodies, as well as our minds?

It’s well known that keeping a private daily diary/journal can be very therapeutic for the mind. Writing down your thoughts and feelings helps you to to understand them more clearly. A private  journal is for your eyes alone, so you can write in it without fear of judgement. Simply keeping a journal can help you deal with stress, depression, or anxiety.

Journaling has wonderful benefits for mental health, but in 1986, psychology professor James Pennebaker discovered that a particular kind of writing, which he called “expressive writing”, can have a measurable and significant effect on our bodies. Since then, further research has shown that it can:

  • make wounds heal faster
  • boost immune function
  • improve the health of asthma sufferers
  • improve the health of rheumatoid arthritis patients
  • significantly decrease the number of visits to the doctor
  • decrease troublesome symptoms of breast cancer

There may be other benefits of expressive writing that are, as yet undiscovered. It could even have a beneficial effect on histamine intolerance.  But what exactly is it?

Expressive Writing

“Expressive writing is personal and emotional writing without regard to form or other writing conventions, like spelling, punctuation, and verb agreement… Expressive writing pays no attention to propriety: it simply expresses what is on your mind and in your heart… Expressive writing is not so much what happened as it is how you feel about what happened or is happening.”

[Reference: “Write Yourself Well: Expressive Writing“, by John F Evans Ed. D. Psychology Today. Posted Aug 15, 2012]

Claudia Hammond, in her BBC Future article “The Puzzling Way That Writing Heals the Body” (2 June 2017) describes studies in which “…volunteers typically do some expressive writing, then some days later they are given a local anaesthetic and then a punch biopsy at the top of their inner arm. The wound is typically 4mm across and heals within a couple of weeks. This healing is monitored and again and again, and it happens faster if people have spent time beforehand writing down their secret thoughts.”

Expressive writing works just as well if people use it *after* they are wounded.

How to Use Expressive Writing

So how is expressive writing performed? John F Evans in his article “Write Yourself Well” suggests the following general instructions for expressive writing:

 1. Time: Write a minimum of 20 minutes per day for four consecutive days.

2. Topic: What you choose to write about should be extremely personal and important to you.

3. Write continuously: Do not worry about punctuation, spelling, and grammar. If you run out of things to say, draw a line or repeat what you have already written. Keep pen on paper.

4. Write only for yourself: You may plan to destroy or hide what you are writing. Do not turn this exercise into a letter. This exercise is for your eyes only.

5. Observe the Flip-out Rule: If you get into the writing, and you feel that you cannot write about a certain event because it will push you over the edge, STOP writing!

6. Expect heavy boots: Many people briefly feel a bit saddened or down after expressive writing, especially on the first day or so. Usually this feeling goes away completely in an hour or two.

Expressive writing costs nothing, it’s easy to do, it doesn’t take much time, it has no harmful side-effects and it has been scientifically proven to have health benefits. So no matter whether you wish to boost the healing of your mind or your body, it’s worth trying!

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Stress and Histamine Part 6: Sleep

Good sleep is essential for stress reliefGood sleep is essential for stress relief

Getting a good night’s sleep is an essential factor in stress relief. It’s especially beneficial for people who suffer from histamine intolerance.

Cortisol is the “stress hormone”. When we are sleep-deprived our cortisol levels rise. [Leproult et al]

Nutritional biochemist Shawn Talbott, author of “The Cortisol Connection”, says that when we sleep for only six hours per night instead of the recommended eight, our cortisol levels rise by a whopping fifty percent!

While we sleep, our bodies cease producing cortisol, because sleep is meant for healing and regenerating. [Weitzman et al]

Stress can cause poor sleep, and poor sleep can cause stress.

If you’re sleep deprived, due to stress or some other cause, your mind does not function as well as it should. It’s harder to concentrate and to think rationally. This, in turn, can exacerbate stress.

Stress and anxiety can contribute to insomnia and restless sleep. Even when we are asleep, anxiety can permeate our dreams and disrupt our quality of slumber. It’s important to curb anxiety before you lie down to sleep at night.

Some Tips for Good Sleep

Sleep on your side

An Australian survey found that people who slept on their side reported better sleep and fewer aches and pains.  Lying on your stomach gives you the worst sleep. [Gordon SJ. et al]

Don’t hit the snooze button in the morning.

Robert S. Rosenberg, the medical director of the Sleep Disorders Center of Prescott Valley and Flagstaff, Arizona says that after you hit the snooze button on your alarm clock, your sleep will be of poor quality. You’d be better off simply continuing to sleep for that extra 10 minutes. To make matters worse, by waking up enough to hit the button then falling back asleep for a very short time, you’re interfering with your body’s natural sleep patterns.

Do not use the bedroom for work

We subconsciously associate places with activities. For example if we use our bedroom as a study or office, the brain will associate that space with working, thinking, being alert, and solving problems. Whereas your place of repose should be associated with relaxing and unwinding.
Set aside a dedicated space for work and a dedicated space for sleep.

Teenagers should be allowed to sleep in when practicable!

Teenagers need 9 – 10 hours of sleep every night, yet most adolescents only average about seven or eight hours. Some sleep even less. The hormones swirling throughout the body during puberty shift teenagers’ body clocks forward by one or two hours. This means they are naturally inclined to stay up late at nights, and then sleep in when morning arrives. (Sound familiar to you?)
Early school starts prevent teenagers from sleeping in. Over time, they build up a  ‘sleep debt’ of chronic sleep deprivation, which can adversely affect their health and studies.

Other strategies

Meditation, a warm bath, soothing music – these are some other useful tools for pre-sleep relaxation.

Good sleep is a top priority for management of histamine intolerance.


References:

[Rachel Leproult, Georges Copinschi, Orfeu Buxton and Eve Van Cauter.  Sleep Loss Results in an Elevation of Cortisol Levels the Next Evening. Sleep, 1997. Researchgate.net.]

[Elliot D. Weitzman, Janet C. Zimmerman, Charles A. Czeisler, Joseph Ronda; Cortisol Secretion Is Inhibited during Sleep in Normal Man. 1983; 56 (2): 352-358. doi: 10.1210/jcem-56-2-352]

[Gordon SJ, Grimmer KA, Trott P. Sleep Position, Age, Gender, Sleep Quality and Waking Cervico-Thoracic Symptoms. The Internet Journal of Allied Health Sciences and Practice. 2007 Jan 01;5(1), Article 6. ]

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Asafoetida: the delicious spice with the weird name

Asafoetida powder

Image credit: NYPhotographic.com

Asafoetida

Asafoetida – have you ever heard of it? We discussed it briefly in one of our earlier posts (July 2016) but perhaps it deserves a post of its own. It’s a powder made from the dried parts of a plant in the Ferula genus, which  also includes the herb fennel.  Ferula assa-foetida is the scientific name of this spice. Asafoetida is part of the larger botanical “Carrot, Celery or Parsley Family”.

This spice has many names in many languages. This, in itself, indicates how well-loved it is across the world. It’s known as A Wei, Asafétida, Ase Fétide, Assant, Crotte du Diable, Devil’s Dung, Férule, Férule Persique, Food of the Gods, Fum, Giant Fennel, Heeng, and Hing.

You may ask, why do its names range from the scrumptious-sounding “Food of the Gods” to the off-putting “Devil’s Dung?” Asafoetida is truly delicious, but like garlic, it can (in certain circumstances) smell overpowering to some people. Don’t let this deter you!

This pale yellow powder is a valuable addition to a low histamine diet. It is thought to possesses anti-inflammatory, antihistamine and anti-viral properties, and to be able to combat intestinal parasites. Some studies have found that certain substances in asafoetida could help treat irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and may help protect against high levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood.

In particular, asafoetida is a boon to people who suffer from fructose intolerance. It is an excellent low-FODMAP substitute for onions and garlic.

You can use it in any savory recipe, especially any that call for onions or garlic. It blends well with stews, soups, risottos and casseroles.

You might be able to find asafoetida in the specialty or health food section of your local supermarket. If not, try a health food store.

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Stress and Histamine Part 5

exercise relieves stressExercise relieves stress

Physical activity plays a vital part in relieving stress and protecting us from its harmful effects, such as problems with histamine. Use movement to relieve stress, instead of junk food.
As a bonus, exercise promotes muscles growth. The benefits are many, whether your exercise is intense or moderate.

Vigorous exercise

When you exercise vigorously your cortisol levels rise temporarily. (Your body is primed with cortisol to help you – for example, in case the reason you’re running is because you’re escaping from danger or chasing food.)
Despite this natural rise in cortisol, vigorous physical activity can protect the body from the harmful effects of chronic psychological and physical stress.

Intense exercise like running, fast bicycling or swimming, boxing, aerobics or vigorous dancing releases tension and stimulates the release of those “feel-good” chemicals in the body that not only lower stress levels but also help to curb excessive appetite.

Moderate exercise

When you exercise moderately, on the other hand, your cortisol levels drop.  Some examples of low-intensity exercise include gardening, walking, slow bicycling, housework, tai chi and yoga. Experts say we should aim to walk 10,000 steps per day. These days we can buy step-counting devices to wear on the body.

“Physical exercise is beneficial to mental health,” concluded the authors of a 2011 study involving more than 7,000 people. [J Psychosom Res. 2011 Nov;71(5):342-8. doi:  10.1016/j.jpsychores.2011.04.001. Epub 2011 May 18. Physical exercise in adults and mental health status findings from the Netherlands mental health survey and incidence study (NEMESIS). Ten Have M1, de Graaf R, Monshouwer K.]

What’s the best exercise?

There are many different kinds of exercise to choose from, but by far the best are those that you ENJOY. If you don’t enjoy it, you are unlikely to keep doing it. Some people say there is no exercise they enjoy doing. Here are some tips:

  • join a group or exercise with a friend. Socializing makes exercising more fun.
  • Dance to music. Think you can’t dance? Who cares! Find yourself a private space and dance alone, where no-one else can see you. Play your favorite music. Turn up the volume and go wild. Dance is exercise that’s usually accompanied by music, so it combines the stress-relieving benefits of movement with the stress-relieving benefits of melody and rhythm.

What does exercising cost?

You don’t have to spend a lot of money on gym memberships to get exercise – your body is right with you all the time, and all you need to do is get up and move it. Exercise is free.

How often should I exercise?

We recommend that you move your body for at least 30 minutes, three times per week.

 

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