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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Low-histamine foods are science-based

The List of Low-histamine Foods is Scientifically Researched.

Maybe you’re on a low-carb diet. Maybe you’re on a sugar-free diet, or an anti-inflammatory diet, or a fruitarian diet, or some other popular eating regime. That is your choice, but if you are histamine intolerant, your symptoms are not likely to subside unless you choose low-histamine foods and avoid foods (and external factors such as stress and pollution) that raise your body’s histamine levels.

Some popular diets are negotiable. Take the Paleo diet, for example – there is debate about whether Stone Age humans ate grains. Paleontologists have found traces of grains on ancient stone cooking tools dating back 105,000 years.

[Science. 2009 Dec 18;326(5960):1680-3. doi: 10.1126/science.1173966. Mozambican grass seed consumption during the Middle Stone Age. Mercader J1.]

Some people say that grains can be eaten on a Paleo Diet, while others insist that grains are forbidden. In other words, the foods included in this diet can be considered “negotiable”.

The foods in a gluten-free diet, on the other hand, are non-negotiable. Either there’s gluten in the food or there isn’t. Your body  certainly knows the difference! Scientists have tested foods to reveal their gluten content.

Don’t mix your diets!

The same applies to low-histamine foods. For his book “Is Food Making You Sick?” James L Gibb did not “invent” the low-histamine food list. The foods on the list have been selected because they have been scientifically proven to be low in histamine or low in factors that cause histamine release. These foods do not necessarily conform to the pattern of other diets. However this is due to sheer necessity!

As one Amazon commenter said in reply to a reviewer who complained about the book’s food list:

“Go ahead and follow your “anti-inflammatory” diet but it’s not the same as a low histamine diet. Choose which diet you need to follow, you can’t be on both. If you’re not histamine intolerant, then don’t follow a low histamine diet. The low histamine foods in the book were not selected on the basis of the latest food fads and crazes. They were selected on the scientific basis of how they affect people’s histamine levels. This is a fixed property of foods and cannot be changed according to people’s whims. Just because you don’t like to eat a certain food does not mean it is not low in histamine.”

Of course you can select your favorite foods from within the low-histamine food list, although we do encourage you to eat as wide a range of foods as possible from within the list, to maximize nutrition. If the range of foods seems very different from whatever diet you’ve previously been following, maybe that’s the reason why your symptoms are continuing. The Strictly Low Histamine Diet does not necessarily resemble any other diet. People who are NOT histamine-intolerant can go ahead and choose some popular diet craze to follow, but many of us do not have that luxury. As soon as our histamine levels rise, we suffer.

As mentioned before in this blog, following too many diets at the same time is not a good idea. It can overly-restrict your food choices. Find out if you’re histamine-intolerant (it’s easy to do, as the book describes). If you are, then there’s an excellent chance that going low-histamine will help you return to good health.

Bon appetit!

 

 

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Marvelous Mangoes

mangoesMangoes: “The King of Fruits”

Mangoes (Mangifera indica) are an amazing fruit. They are delicious and full of nutrients and fiber, colorful, and versatile. Frozen or fresh, mangoes can be eaten in sweet or savory dishes. Best of all, they are on the list of suitable foods for people who suffer from histamine intolerance. Here are some more facts about mangoes you might not be aware of:

There are more than 400 varieties of mangoes. Each has its own characteristics – differing in flavor, texture, sweetness, size, color etc.

One of the most popular varieties is “Kensington pride”, otherwise known as KP, Bowen or Bowen special. Some rate this as the most delicious mango in the world. Other popular varieties include Calypso, Haven, Palmer, Keitt and Kesar.

New research suggests that eating mangoes may help protect against cancer and obesity related diseases. According to some studies, compounds in mangoes can:

  • reduce the ill-effects of eating junk food
  • destroy fat cells
  • boost the metabolism of fats
  • slow down the growth-rate of cancer tumors in mice.
  • help regulate bowel movements
  • lower cholesterol
  • clear the skin
  • improve eye health
  • improve digestion

Mango is native to India and Southeast Asia. Watch fruit hunters Richard Campbell and Noris Ledesma of the Rare Fruit Council search for the rare white mango on the island of Borneo.

 

 

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Chia seeds

chia seedsWhat’s Good About Chia Seeds?

Chia seeds (Salvia hispanica) are rich in Omega-3 ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, one ounce of these amazing seeds contains about 5 grams of Omega-3 ALA, which has numerous health benefits.

Chia seeds are packed with fiber and protein and they are also gluten-free. Their ability to absorb water makes them useful as a thickener in stews, soups and casseroles. They come in three colors –  black, white and red.

According to the SIGHI list of “Histamine Potential of Foods and Additives”, which is one of the authorities on which our own food list is based, chia seeds are compatible with a low histamine diet.

How to Make “Chia Eggs”

You can use chia seeds as a vegan egg replacement in cooking. To prepare a chia egg, begin by grinding some chia seeds in a food processor such as a coffee grinder. It’s best to freshly grind your own seeds rather than to buy pre-ground seeds from a store.

To make the equivalent of one hen’s egg, whisk 1 tablespoon of ground chia seed into 3 tablespoons of water in a small bowl.

Thoroughly combine the water and ground chia seeds, then place them in the refrigerator for 15 minutes to set.  When that time has elapsed, the seeds should look like a sticky, eggy mass. Use them as you would use eggs, in baking.

Never eat dry chia seeds, because they naturally absorb water. Eating them dry is dangerous – that may absorb water in the esophagus and swell, causing an obstruction.

How to Make “Chia Pudding”

 Soak chia seeds overnight in your favorite low-histamine milk or brewed rooibos tea.  (Keep the mixture refrigerated). In the morning the seeds will have absorbed some of the liquid and swelled to become a delicious, creamy dessert. Add chopped mangoes, figs, a sprinkle of sugar, a dash of allspice or any other tasty low-histamine ingredients of your choice and voila, you have a delicious, nutritious pudding!

 

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The Strictly Low Histamine Diet: a tool, not a lifestyle

A tool, not a lifestyle

Strictly low histamine - a powerful toolIs the Strictly Low Histamine Diet ‘too limited’?
In answer to this question – no. The diet contains all the macronutrients and micronutrients needed for good health.
But of course the diet is limited to some extent! It is limited to foods that have been scientifically proven to be low in histamine, or histamine-triggering substances, or DAO-blocking biochemicals.

We didn’t invent the list, simply pulling it out of thin air – it is Mother Nature who has devised this list, not human beings. Furthermore, it is clearly stated in the book – the Strictly Low Histamine Diet is not meant to be followed in the long-term. It was never intended to be a life-long diet. It should be used as a tool to help lower your histamine to safe levels, after which other foods can be gradually reintroduced.

On the other hand, we occasionally receive messages from readers who say they think there are too many foods included on the Strictly Low Histamine Diet. They are worried about eating sugar, or carbs in general, or other foodstuffs and food groups that are permitted on the low histamine diet.

Everyone who seeks better health through diet must be applauded. Remember, however – James Gibb did not invent the list of low histamine foods; he merely catalogued it. Sugar does not trigger a histamine response, not does it contain high levels of histamine or DAO-blockers. Whether or not it is desirable to eat sugar at all is another question entirely. The purpose of “Is Food Making You Sick? The Strictly Low Histamine Diet” is to focus on histamine.

Low-histamine ingredients such as sugar, maple syrup and pasteurized honey, are unlikely to trigger your symptoms, but if you prefer to avoid sugar while on the Strictly Low Histamine Diet, do so by all means; it’s your choice.

Just remember that the Strictly Low Histamine Diet is not intended to be followed unremittingly for the rest of your life. It is a powerful and helpful tool, to be used when needed.

Wishing you good health!

 

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Why most low histamine food lists are so confusing.

Low histamine food listsLow Histamine Food Lists

The Internet offers many ‘low histamine’ food lists. Reading them all can be confusing, because they often contradict each other. Low histamine food lists are not as simple as, say, gluten-free or lactose-free food lists, because gluten and lactose are either found in a food or they are not. Their existence is independent of storage conditions and freshness.

Histamine levels, by contrast, fluctuate. A food might be low in histamine to begin with, yet high in histamine as it ages. Histamine levels in food also vary depending on the storage methods (e.g. freezing halts histamine development).

Furthermore, some of these published lists include foods that may not have high histamine levels, but which contain compounds that provoke histamine release. Others do not.

Many low histamine food lists do not take into account foods that may be DAO blockers. Moreover, they may not include mention of oxalate (oxalic acid), an irritant that can trigger histamine release, thereby causing the same symptoms as histamine. Oxalates can also contribute to the distress and debility of chronic fatigue syndrome and myalgic encephalomyelitis, because they damage and destroy mitochondria. High levels of oxalate in the intestines also hinder beneficial bacteria from colonizing the gut.
Nor do many food histamine lists consider foods that release other biogenic amines, those which may contribute to HIT and which certain foods may release in some individuals, despite the fact that the foods themselves may not contain any biogenic amines.

To add to the confusion, some individuals have published  lists of foods which are tailored to their own unique body chemistry. That is, they themselves might be able to tolerate the foods on their list, but most other people cannot. One “low histamine” recipe-writer, for example, recommends using lentils, cocoa, berries and thyme, despite the fact that SIGHI (Swiss Interest Group Histamine Intolerance) describes lentils as “incompatible.”  Histamine expert Dr Janice Joneja says, “Berries tend to be high in benzoates. Benzoates release histamine.” And, “There are certain herbs which release histamine. Thyme, for example, releases histamine.” Cocoa contains compounds that are known histamine liberators.

Another person who blogs about mast cells has published “low histamine” recipes that include ingredients such as mushrooms, split peas, squash and quorn, all of which are described as “to be avoided” in numerous authoritative low histamine food lists from around the world.

Even the most authoritative lists, compiled by medical researchers, can have disparities. There is disagreement about a wide range of fruits, vegetables and spices including cherries, grapes, cranberries, blackberries, peaches, apricots, nectarines, pears, black-currants and red-currants, blueberries, kiwi-fruit, pineapple, plums, papaya, mushrooms, broad beans, pumpkin, anise, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.
Legumes and pulses are also debatable. Some lists include non-soy legumes such as dried beans and peas and lentils. All lists ban soy and red beans.
Again, some lists ban all nuts, while others forbid only walnuts, pecans and cashews.

This is why “Is Food Making You Sick? The Strictly Low Histamine Diet” recommends only those foods which have been agreed upon by every genuine, science-backed and meticulously researched source. The low histamine food list in this book is strictly low histamine, as are the recipes.

 

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