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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What’s the deal with cashews and histamine?

cashews and histamineCashews and Histamine

Cashews. They’re delicious, nutritious and versatile. But can they be eaten by people with histamine intolerance (HIT)?

Opinions are divided. One blogger, who says she is a “holistic health coach”, actively encourages people with HIT to eat cashews. On the other hand, Dr. Amy Myers, writing for Mindbodygreen, lists cashews under “Histamine-Rich Foods”, as does the website for Histamine Intolerance Awareness UK.

Histamine intolerance specialist Dr Janice Joneja says: “Unless the person is allergic to them, the following are generally safe on the histamine-restricted diet as long as they are free from any additional ingredients – Pure nuts and seeds, which includes sunflower seeds, cashew nuts and coconut and their derivatives such as coconut or cashew milk. The only seeds restricted are pumpkin seeds.”

Other histamine experts insist that coconut and all nuts and seeds should be avoided. Indeed, the world of histamine intolerance can be confusing!

Which is exactly why “Is Food Making You Sick” is all about the “STRICTLY Low Histamine Diet”. According to the old saying, “It is better to be safe than sorry”, this book lists as “safe” only the foods upon which all reputable authorities agree. Not everyone agrees that cashews can be included in a low histamine diet so we recommend that people with HIT should avoid them.

Of course, the low histamine diet is not a life-long diet. It is a diet to lower your histamine to safe levels. When you’ve been on the diet for long enough to feel better, you can gradually and slowly re-introduce small quantities of additive-free cashews (or other histamine-rich foods) into your diet, while carefully monitoring your health.

Wishing you health and happiness!

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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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Sugar and a Low Histamine Diet

sugar in a low histamine dietSugary or Sugar-free?

“SUGAR IS THE NEW FAT!”

This is the latest slogan popular in the wonderful and sometimes weird (not to mention confusing) world of food fads and fashions.

Fat used to be “bad” and then it  became “good”. Carbohydrates used to be “good” until they did a 180 degree turn and became viewed as “bad”. Evil, fattening coconuts were completely out of the question for dieters until they too turned to the Good Side, gaining a halo and angel wings. Hardly anybody used to even know what gluten was until it, too, joined the ranks of the Foods of Darkness. Wine keeps switching sides, so that it’s sometimes hard to know what to believe.

Not only can food fashions be confusing, they can also be dangerous. “Orthorexia” is defined as “an obsession with eating foods that one considers healthy,” and “a medical condition in which the sufferer systematically avoids specific foods that they believe to be harmful.” {Google definitions]

The danger with following too many food-exclusion diets simultaneously, is that people can become orthorexic.

Recently a reader wrote to us saying that the recipes in “Is Food Making You Sick?” contained too much sugar for their liking.

The book is about Histamine Intolerance. It is not about a sugar free diet. It is not about a low-carb, gluten-free, low-FODMAP, lactose-free, vegan, vegetarian, fruitarian, specific carbohydrate, ketogenic, diabetic, detox, low-fat or any other kind of diet.

It is virtually impossible to cater for the entire range of popular diets, all in one book whose purpose is to focus on histamine intolerance. We have done our best, however! Many of our recipes are gluten-free, dairy-free vegetarian or vegan.

Besides, the fact is that sugar is not a food that is high in histamine, or that provokes a histamine reaction in the body, or that blocks the breakdown of histamine.

Having said that, it is important to note that Dr Alison Vickery states that histamine tolerance can be improved through the stabilization of blood sugar levels. She writes, “… unstable blood sugar can increase histamine levels, and histamine levels can progress the development of diabetes or insulin resistance.”

So, while sugar as a food in itself is not directly a problem for people with histamine intolerance, eating too much of it can cause a “spike” in your blood sugar levels. A spike is generally followed by a sharp drop in blood sugar levels as the body releases insulin to cope with your sugar intake. These zig-zagging spikes and sharp drops are what is meant by “unstable blood sugar”.

To stabilize your blood sugar levels:

  • Avoid eating large quantities of sugar and foods containing refined carbohydrates (such as sodas, candy, cakes etc.)
  • Choose foods that are low on the glycemic index.
  • Avoid artificial sweeteners altogether.
  • If you want extra low-calorie sweetness, choose stevia.

Stevia sugar alternativeAlternatives to Table Sugar

People who prefer to eat less sugar can easily adapt the Strictly Low Histamine Diet to their needs. Here are some suggestions:

  • Choose, from the book, recipes that contain no sugar.
  • For recipes containing sugar, substitute rice malt syrup. Anti-sugar advocates say that the main problem with sugar is its fructose content. Rice malt syrup (also known as brown rice syrup) is fructose-free.
  • Alternatively, substitute stevia for sugar. Stevia is a natural sweetener derived from the “sweet-leaf” plant, and it does not cause a spike in blood sugars when consumed.

We hope this post has been helpful!

 

 

 

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Hemp seed

hemp seedHemp seed: a nutritious, high protein food

Hemp seed has been given the green light for inclusion in a low histamine diet by the Swiss Interest Group Histamine Intolerance (SIGHI).

According to the official SIGHI list of “Histamine Potential of Foods and Additives”, hemp seed is “Compatible [with a low histamine diet]. No symptoms [have been observed] after consumption of an[sic] usual quantity.”

The book “Is Food Making You Sick?” lists hemp seed as being fine for histamine intolerance sufferers to eat when they wish to lower their histamine levels.

However, as with all foods, there may be some people who have an adverse reaction to hemp seed. This is uncommon, but if you believe you’ve reacted badly to any food, it’s wise to avoid it altogether for a week or more, then gradually re-introduce small quantities into your diet to see whether you can tolerate it. Every body is different!

In some cases it might not be the food itself that’s causing problems, but the way it has been processed. Choose to eat whole foods, which are either unprocessed or lightly processed, with as few additives as possible.

Hemp seeds are highly nutritious. They are rich in healthful fats, protein and  minerals. They also taste delicious, with a pleasant, nutty flavor.

Nutritional Benefits of Hemp Seed

These seeds are a source of the essential fatty acids, linoleic acid (omega-6),  alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3) and gamma-linolenic acid, all of which benefit human health.

They are also a good source of high quality protein. In fact, they are considered to contain “complete protein”, which means that they provide all the essential amino acids needed as the body’s building blocks.

Hemp seeds also contain vitamin E and they are rich in minerals such as  sodium, magnesium, sulfur, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, iron and zinc.

Whole hemp seeds are rich in both soluble (20%) and insoluble (80%) fiber. This does not hold true, however, for “de-hulled” or “shelled” hemp seeds (also known as hemp hearts), from which the fiber-rich outer casing has been removed.

Edible hemp seeds belong to the cannabis (marijuana) plant family. Marijuana and THC are far from being benign substances; habitual use of this drug can lead to permanent brain damage and psychosis. Hemp, on the other hand, is a useful plant. The seeds contain only trace amounts of THC, the compound that causes the psychoactive effects of marijuana.

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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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How to make vegetables taste better

Vegetable quicheVegetables: they can be delicious!

We all know we need to eat more vegetables. They are good for us, and if we are trying to lose weight, they can help. But a lot of us don’t like them. How can we change this?

Tip #1: Choose baby vegetables. The flavor of baby ones is less intense and often they are sweeter.

Tip #2: Drizzle a little ‘extra virgin’ olive oil on your veggies.

Tip #3: Blanch your vegetables to prevent over-strong flavors from developing.  Steam them for 30 to 60 seconds, then take them off the heat and plunge them into cold water.

Tip #4 Buy fresh from farmers’ markets – or grow your own

Tip #5  Disguise them in breads, quiches, even cakes.

Tip #6: Think about veggies doing you good. It becomes easier for people to tolerate foods that are good for them but whose flavour they don’t like, if they understand why the foods are good for them. For best results, this should be combined with repeated, regular exposure to those foods.  [Source: Leslie J. Stein, PhD, Science Communications, Monell Chemical Senses Center, Philadelphia.]

Tip #7: Stir-frying vegetables preserves their fresh flavors and crispy textures.

Check out our book “Is Food Making You Sick?” for low-histamine vegetable recipes.

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Vitamin K2

Leafy vegetablesWhat’s the buzz about Vitamin K2?

One reader recently wrote in to say,

“Thank you for all of your work and sharing it with us on your website. I think I have a histamine allergy. How can I be sure this is the cause of my health problems and not something else? Also, how can I be sure to get enough Vitamin K-2 when I can’t eat cultured foods? Thank you!”

Our replies might help others with the same questions, so here they are:

Self diagnosis

One way of finding out whether you are histamine intolerant is to take antihistamines (follow the manufacturer’s directions) and see if they decrease your symptoms. If symptoms are severe you may need to take them for a few days or even weeks before you nitice an improvement. You might also have to take an H1 and an H2 receptor antagonist simultaneously.

Read more about antihistamines on our blog, here.

Getting enough Vitamin K2

Egg yolks are rich in Vitamin K2. Make sure you eat eggs that are very fresh and preferably pastured or free-range.

Good Health to All!

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High Protein, Gluten-Free, Nutritious Teff

teffDelicious Ways to Increase Your Protein Intake

Protein is an important building block for our bodies.
People with histamine intolerance need to get the best possible nutrition while simultaneously avoiding foods rich in histamine, histamine-forming compounds and DAO-suppressing compounds. Many people with histamine intolerance prefer to avoid gluten.

Some excellent gluten-free low-histamine sources of protein include some of the ‘ancient’ cereals and pseudo-cereals that have become popular in the western world, including:

  • Teff
  • Chia seeds
  • Hemp seeds
  • Wild rice
  • Millet

The excellent website Skip The Pie gives a nutritional analysis for each of these foods and more. For example, teff, cooked, contains 15% high quality protein.

Teff

Teff is native to Ethiopia and according to Wikipedia, “Eragrostis tef has an attractive nutrition profile, being high in dietary fiber and iron and providing protein and calcium. It is similar to millet and quinoa in cooking, but the seed is much smaller and cooks faster, thus using less fuel.

” Teff is gluten-free (and therefore can be consumed by celiacs) and has a high concentration of different nutrients, a very high calcium content, and significant levels of the minerals phosphorus, magnesium, aluminum, iron, copper, zinc, boron and barium, and also of thiamine. Teff is high in protein. It is considered to have an excellent amino acid composition, including all 8 essential amino acids for humans, and is higher in lysine than wheat or barley.”

It also tastes good , with a mild, slightly nutty flavor, and it can be used in a multitude of recipes. A national dish in Ethiopia and Eritrea is “Injera”, a sourdough-risen flatbread made from teff flour. It has a unique, slightly spongy texture, and it is generally eaten with vegetable stews. The process of making injera involves fermentation and is thus unsuitable for people with histamine intolerance; however delicious high-protein gluten-free porridges, pancakes and breads can be made with teff flour or the tiny, fine teff grains. The porridge can be flavoured with coconut, honey, fresh or frozen figs, apples or any low-histamine foods you prefer.

Experiment with unusual foods and a whole world of flavor and nutrition can open up to you!

 

 

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Fresh Figs – a low histamine fruit

FigsFresh Figs: delicious and low-histamine

Figs are one of the fruits to be enjoyed on a low histamine diet.

There are hundreds of fig varieties, but only a few are usually found in farms and markets.  Figs come in a range of colors from pale yellow, yellowish-green or brown to red or purple or even almost black. They may be striped or speckled, and their pulp varies widely in colour, too.

“The taste of a good fig, a tree-ripened, freshly-picked fig, is sublime. Many people these days have only ever tried figs bought from a supermarket, and finding the flavour and texture unpleasant, have believed thereafter that they don’t like figs. Do not judge figs on the frequently poor quality ones available commercially.

“A ripe, fresh fig should be tender and slightly soft. When you bite into it, a surge of silky, juicy, sweet, rich flavour fills your mouth. It is like jam eaten straight out of the jar, only infinitely more subtle and complex, with overtones of honey and flowers. When you look at the interior of the fruit from which you have taken a bite, you’ll see dense fringes of flowerlets lapped in a luscious, glistening syrup.”

Source: Figs: Rare and Heritage Fruit Cultivars #13

People who suffer from histamine intolerance should eat only fresh figs recently picked, or figs which have been frozen and recently defrosted in the refrigerator. (Dried figs are not part of the Strictly Low Histamine diet).

The National Center for Home Food Preservation at the University of Georgia and Pick Your Own advise on how to freeze fresh figs:

How to ‘Wet Freeze’ Figs

Freeze within 12 hours of picking time, if possible.  Prepare and freeze figs only about 1 1/2 litres (3 pints) at one time. Then repeat the process until all figs are frozen.

  1. Make a medium sweetness syrup by mixing 3 cups sugar with 4 cups water. Simply stir the sugar into the water to dissolve. No heating is necessary.
  2. Optional step: To the sugar syrup, add an citric/ascorbic add mixture bought at the grocery store (for example, “Fruit Fresh”) and follow the directions on the package, generally adding about 1 teaspoon per batch.  This helps preserve colour and flavour.
  3. Wash the figs. remove the stems and any soft spots. Slice the figs about 1/2 cm (¼-inch) thick.
  4. Pack the sliced figs into polyethylene containers, ziploc bags, or vacuum freezer bags, allowing room to add about 1/2 cup of sugar syrup, and allowing about 1/2 inch per pint expansion room. More room will be needed for larger containers. Pack the containers to force out as much air as possible since air dries out the figs when they freeze. Be sure to label and date containers.
  5. Place containers as quickly as possible into the coldest part of your freezer, allowing room around the containers to promote fast freezing. Containers can be packed more economically after they are frozen solid, usually 24 hours.

When you are ready to eat them, thaw the frozen figs in the refrigerator in the container.

How to ‘Dry Freeze’ Figs

To prevent darkening of light colored figs, dissolve 3/4 teaspoon (2250 mg) of ascorbic acid in 3 tablespoons cold water and sprinkle over 1 quart of fruit. Pack figs into containers, leaving some ‘headspace’.

These nutritious fruits (which are really flowers turned inside out) can be enjoyed in both sweet and savory recipes.

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