Easy Protein Swaps : That Lower Amines Without Cutting Foods

June 21, 2014  |  Blog, Histamine Intolerance

The secret to a low histamine diet is simple. Its is high quality nutrition.

Whilst it is true that some nutritious foods contain amines naturally, the majority of high amine foods, are often an indication that the otherwise nutritious food has deteriorated in quality. This deterioration is from age, temperature, fermentation, and the PH levels of that food.

It is possible to dramatically lower your amine levels (and keep more foods in your diet) simply by the way you buy, store, cook, and eat that food. Here are six easy swaps that you can make with protein that can have a profound difference on your amine levels.

SWAP 1. Meat from the Supermarket FOR Farm Fresh Meat

“Fresh” supermarket meat may be packaged in vacuum or gas packs and maybe up to 4 months old. Studies show that amines continue to build during this time.

Butchers may also purchase poultry in bulk (particularly when prices are low) and freeze it for up to 6 months. Always ask if poultry has been frozen.

Swap to fresh meat from a butcher who can tell you exactly when the animal was processed. Alternatively, go direct to the farm, or farmers market.

Meat should be no older than 1 – 2 weeks from the time of processing. It should be used on the day or frozen and eaten within 1 month. Many butchers will also do a custom order to guarantee freshness.

SWAP 2. Butchers Sausages FOR ‘Failsafe’ Sausages

Sausages have a significantly higher amine level than whole meats because the meat has been processed to expose a greater surface area to bacteria.

Sausages also contain a lot of other additives to assist with preservation and enhance flavour. Even preservative and gluten free sausages may still contain problematic ingredients such as starch, onion powder, spice, flavour, and yeast extract.

Swap to custom butcher sausages (or make your own) and ask your butcher to immediately freeze them in portions. Here is a recipe to give to your butcher that has kindly been provided by Sue Dengate at www.fedup.com.au.

A recipe for your butcher for 10 kg of sausages:

650 g rice flour (2 kg for 30 kg)
3 leeks (10 leeks for 30 kg)
1 clove garlic (3 for 30 kg) or more to taste
½ cup salt (1½ cups for 30 kg)

Warning: NO other ingredients – ask your butcher to NOT add MSG, pepper, spices or flavours. Make up to 10 kg with fresh minced beef or chicken.

Source: Sue Dengate: www.fedup.com.au

SWAP 3. Butchers Minced Meat FOR Home Minced Meat

Pre-minced meat also has a significantly higher amine level than whole meats because the meat has been processed to expose a greater surface area to bacteria. For this reason it is also often treated usually by sulphites to preserve it for sale. In Australia it is illegal to do this but a survey undertaken by www.fedup.com.au found that up to 50% of butchers will add illegal sulphite preservatives to mince if they are not constantly monitored.

Swap to mincing your own meat at home which is simple and failsafe. There are simple instructions here. The secret is to include fat (around 10%) with the meat, and to pulse (not run) the food processor.

SWAP 4. Barbecued, Grilled, Fried or Stir-Fried meat FOR Steamed or Poached, or Oven Baked Meat

Amines increase dramatically when meat is cooked at high temperatures. One study found that amines increased by up to three times more when meat was cooked at 250 degrees Celsius (rather than 200 degrees). Amines also increase moderately when cooked for long periods. Other forms of protein, such as eggs and milk, are not affected.

Swap to steamed, boiled, poached, or oven-baked, as the primary cooking method for meat. Crockpot, and pressure-cooked, meat may be tolerated intermittently as part of a rotation diet. Do not eat blackened, well-done, or burnt meat.

SWAP 5. Plain Meat FOR Marinated Meat

Marinades, rubs, or added ingredients of plant-based polyphenol and anti-oxidants have been shown to lower amines formed in cooking, including when barbecued, grilled, fried, or stir-fried, by up to 70%.

Swap some meals to soups, stews, marinades, and rubs with tolerated amine reducing ingredients. The following ingredients have been studied and found to stop amines from building during cooking:

Fruit: cherries, apples, lemon, lime, grapefruit and/or orange juice,
Vegetables: garlic, and/or onion,
Herbs: rosemary, basil, holy basil, lemon balm, oregano, sage, thyme, peppermint, onions, and/or lemongrass, and/or
Fats: Olive oil (but not other oils). Non-virgin olive oil (in a glass bottle) is usually best tolerated.
The data on turmeric is contradictory. Whilst turmeric may reduce amines from cooking, it was found that curcumin inhibits DAO, which may inhibit biogenic amine reduction. This may mean that it should be used in moderation preferably when cooking meat but not as a supplement.

Do not add sugar or purchase commercial marinades with sugar. Studies show that sugar may double or even triple the levels of amines formed in cooking.

SWAP 6. Poultry with skin FOR Poultry without skin

Poultry is generally well tolerated on a low amine diet. However, studies show that when poultry is cooked with the skin intact, even it if is removed after cooking, it has significantly higher amines from the cooking process.

Swap to remove the skin from poultry before cooking to reduce the amines produced in cooking. Alternatively, choose cuts, such as chicken breasts, over cuts such as chicken wings.

SWAP 7. Some Protein FOR More Vegetables

Most food lists rank foods into low, moderate, high, and very high foods within food categories to encourage a balanced diet. However, not all levels of amines between the food groups are actually the same.

Most protein is relatively high in amines whilst most vegetables are relatively low. Vegetables should be at least half if not more of your diet. This also affects the PH of your body, which also affects the overall amine level.

Swap to include more vegetables in your diet. Protein and a balanced diet is still incredibly important, so the point is to be conscious of how much protein and vegetables you truly are eating. This is especially important on a Paleo diet.

Also good quality protein (preferably organic and grass fed) is often more satiating allowing you to feel satisfied on less meat. Buy the best quality you can afford, even if you have to eat the cheaper cuts of meat.

Please stay tuned for further swaps that can lower your amine levels without cutting out more foods. If you would like further information regarding a low amine diet consider enrolling in one of my workshops or contact me for one-on-one coaching to develop a customised approach.

Additional Reading:

www.choice.com.au, Fresh Food Tricks, November 2010.
Aishath Naila, Steve Flint, Graham Fletcher, Phil Bremer, Gerrit Meerdink, Control of Biogenic Amines in Food—Existing and Emerging Approaches, J Food Sci. 2010 September; 75(7): R139–R150.
The effects of food processing on biogenic amines formation.
Chong, C. Y. and Abu Bakar, Fatimah and Abdul Rahman, Russly and Bakar, Jamilah and N.A. , Mahyudin (2011) The effects of food processing on biogenic amines formation. International Food Research Journal , 3 (18). pp. 867-876.
Food Composition and Nutrition Tables, 7th revised and completed edition Siegfried W. Souci (Author), W Fachmann (Author), Heinrich Kraut (Author).

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  • Diane McInnes

    Thank you for this info. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while. I do notice if I buy frozen lamb or beef mince from my local supermarket that has it’s own butchery dept, I don’t have a problem, but fresh mince is often problematic. I read somewhere that if fish is frozen for more than 2 weeks this gets rid of the histadine and no further histamine is then produced. do you know if there is a similar reaction in frozen meat? I’m posting from the UK by the way.

    • Hi Diane thankyou. This made a significant difference to me and I hope it does to you. The research shows that freezing does not eliminate histamine even in fish. The issue with frozen meat is whether they freeze it straight away and how old it is after that. Fish builds histamines extremely quickly and so it is important to find a quality source. “The flash frozen” white (not coloured) fish on ships may be suitable. The basic rule is become friends with the butcher and ask questions and fortunately they are very friendly! Enjoy!

      • chrissy

        I checked with youngs frozen department. White fish is frozen at sea, but back on land is defrosted to gut and package, although kept on ice, so theoretically even this is not truely safe. But for us it is the best we can hope for.

        • No; I have never managed to do the frozen fish (snap frozen at sea). It is really a question of what is caught locally. Even then you have to ask questions.

          • Charlotte Geniez

            Hello Alison, thank you so much for your blog and advice. I don’t do well on vegetarian diets so I would like to eat some meat as soon as possible. I have found a farmer who has beef that was frozen after 6 days on hanging (I am not sure what hanging entails. I am assuming it is in a fridge, I don’t see any other way.) They usually do two weeks for flavor so that is the best I can find for now. Does that seem reasonable to you? I too can not do fish.

          • Yes hanging is for eatability. Under 2 weeks from processing is the rule. On that basis you sound like your good to go!

          • Charlotte Geniez

            I am so sensitive right now, everything is triggered. Not sure what I can tolerate. I was looking into pre-booking a chat with you but the page does not seem to work at least on my computer and I can not start the registration.

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  • Ally

    Hi Alison,

    I think I have histamine intolerance and SIBO. I’m interested in paleo and have found a few recipes on offal – but if I can’t use fermented foods such as apple cider vinegar to get rid of the smell (to use as an overnight marinade) – what should I do?

    I’m also based in the UK – in the North East to be exact. Are there any companies here that you would recommend getting meat from (I.e. flash frozen after slaughter) – or do you any companies around where you’re based, that might do nationwide deliveries that I can enquire about? I was really hoping to get some marrow bones aswell to use as cooking oil… also to make beef tendon soup, chicken stock.. and lambs heart and liver, and beef heart 🙁

    I have been confused about nutrition for a very long time and my health is failing….hoping that I be able to try some of these offal recipes!

    Hope to hear from you soon!

    • HI Ally
      I would be very careful with using offal (at least to begin with) if you have histamine intolerance. I would also be very careful of having any protein out over night. Protein needs to be purchased, cooked, and eaten fresh. This is because it builds histamines quickly (unlike most other food groups). The aim is to purchase protein within 2 weeks of processing (so poultry, lamb, veal as most other forms are hung for over 2 weeks) and then freeze it and defrost and cook immediately. Leftovers are also not ok and should be frozen or eaten by others in the household.
      I dont have a list of suppliers in the UK. The best way to find one is to find a local supplier. Unfortunately it will take a bit of investigative work. Either a very good butcher, who deals direct with suppliers, and then ask him to place a special order, freeze on arrival/call you. Many will portion it for you before freezing. Alternatively, farmers markets, or local farmers, will often supply direct. Be clear that you need meat within 2 weeks of processing, as in their world, aged meat is better. Hope that helps!
      Sorting protein is really the key thing on a histamine intolerance diet.

      • chrissy

        I am histamine intolerant and possibly mcad too. I sourced a local farm who only grass fed their animals no additives or preservatives etc and had their animals slaughtered locally. BUT even they hang their meat 28 days and says almost all meat production in UK goes through this process. They do not know of anywhere that sells meat immediately after slaughter. This is the closest I can get to fresh.

  • Edd

    what’s the difference between and amine intolerance and a histamine intolerance please?

    • Amines are the grouping which includes a large range of chemicals including for example histamine, tyramine etc. They are cleared by the same pathway so if you have an intolerance to histamines you may need to also reduce your amine intake. By the way this does not really mean that you need to get a whole new food list as they tend to be in the same foods and I have covered them in the same list.

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  • Nicky Moore

    Is there a “safe” protein powder that could be taken that is SIBO friendly and low histamine out there? I live in the U.S. and there is this company that sells a product called Pure Paleo IgG powder that is bovine serum made by Designs for Health. I know the other protein powders they use won’t work as they are going to be high histamine since they are made from collagen (super high histamine) or pea protein (major no-no for SIBO). Are you familiar with Designs for Health products?

    • Hi Nicky. I am familiar with designs for health products. I rarely use protein powders as they are not absorbed efficiently. I am also not quite sure of your situation. When people have an extremely restricted diet (SIBO) or otherwise I find that Moringa Powder (which is extremely nutritious) and Hemp Powder are often well tolerated. I do hope that helps.

  • HI nicky – here is some information about working with me http://alisonvickery.com.au/work-with-me/ and some answers to common questions I get asked about working with me http://alisonvickery.com.au/common-questions/.

  • Carolyn Lowe

    Hi Alison,
    I was just wondering if you knew about the histamine content in bone marrow, cartilage etc – as in when cooking chicken (without skin) and the joints and bones and also small fish bones – would this be the same high histamine as organ meats for example? Thank you,
    Warm regards,

    • Hi carolyn I dont specifically know but falling back onto basic principles the issue with protein is bacteria. The larger the animal the longer it needs to be cured and so the more histamines accumulated. The exception to this is fish where the bacteria in the fish intestines is the culprit. Fish needs to be gutted. The issue then is that the carcass needs to be within 2 weeks of processing and this includes the whole animal. I see no reason to believe that the bone marrow would be different.