10 Foods That Are High in Histamine

Histamine is a chemical in the body that acts as a messenger in the immune system. If you have allergies, an allergen triggers histamine production. When this happens, histamine over activates, producing allergy symptoms like sneezing, itchy and watery eyes, and rashes.  

Histamine is also present in some foods. Histamine intolerance has never been proven to be a true medical disorder, but some people think that they feel better when they avoid some of these foods. As long as you are able to continue eating a well-balanced diet, it may be okay to avoid these histamine-containing foods, but most people do not need to.

This article explains foods with high levels of histamines and how to eat a low-histamine diet.

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High Histamine Foods

High histamine foods are often aged, fermented, or soured. They include dairy products, specific fruits and vegetables, processed meats, and alcohol.

Fermented Food

Fermented foods are foods made through the action of bacteria, yeast, fungi, and their enzymes, which oxidize carbohydrates and release energy. These microorganisms may be naturally present in foods.

Fermentation requires the correct amount of microorganisms, proper temperature, pH level (the balance of acid and alkaline), and moisture content.

Examples of fermented foods include:

  • Kefir
  • Yogurt
  • Kombucha
  • Kimchi
  • Sauerkraut
  • Tempe
  • Miso
  • Sourdough bread

Alcohol

Alcohol is a high histamine beverage. While some alcohols are a bigger culprit than others (red wine, for example), some people who are concerned about histamine ingestion will avoid all of them.

Examples of alcoholic beverages include:

  • Wine
  • Beer
  • Hard cider
  • Liquor

Processed Meat

Processed meats have been salted, fermented, cured, smoked, or otherwise processed to improve the length of preservation. These kinds of meats are high in histamines.

In addition, they are also a Group 1 carcinogen, which means there is evidence they can cause cancer. So, there is more than one reason to limit them in your diet. 

Examples of processed meat include:

  • Hot dogs
  • Ham
  • Sausages
  • Beef jerky
  • Canned meat

Aged Cheese

Research has found that certain factors can influence the amount of histamine in cheese, including:

  • Bacterial starter culture
  • pH level
  • Salt level
  • Storage temperature
  • Ripening time

Aged cheeses have the highest levels of histamine. That’s because, during the aging process, proteins break down into histamine. These kinds of cheeses include:

  • Hard cheese like parmesan, cheddar, romano
  • Blue cheeses aged with bacteria, like gorgonzola
  • Stinky cheeses ripened with bacteria, like Limburger

Dried Fruit

While dried fruits are packed with nutrients, they are also high in histamine. Common dried fruits include:

  • Raisins
  • Cherries
  • Mangoes
  • Apricots
  • Pineapple
  • Apples
  • Bananas

Eggplant

Eggplants are a nightshade food that some people are sensitive to. Nightshades have high alkaloids (a phytochemical produced by plants for protection). 

Avocado

Avocado is a fruit that is high in healthy fats. For those choosing to avoid histamines in their diet, avocado is one of the foods that they choose to avoid. Guacamole is a common food that contains avocado.

Legumes

Legumes are different than tree nuts. Instead of growing from trees, they grow in pods as edible seeds. Some, but not all, are high in histamines. Legumes include:

  • Peanuts
  • Soybeans
  • Peas
  • Kidney beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Green beans

Citrus Fruit

Citrus fruits are those that include the molecule citric acid. While not necessarily high in histamine, some people choosing a low histamine diet also choose to avoid them.

Citrus fruits include:

  • Oranges
  • Lemons
  • Limes

Spoiled Fish 

Histamine toxicity is a form of food poisoning called scombroid poisoning that occurs from eating spoiled fish. Some fish like mackerel and tuna have high levels of the amino acid histidine, which bacteria can convert to histamine.

Certain spoiled fish are more prone to causing histamine toxicity, including:

  • Tuna
  • Mackerel
  • Mahi-mahi
  • Anchovy
  • Herring
  • Bluefish
  • Amberjack
  • Marlin 

Histamine Intolerance

Histamine intolerance is also called food histaminosis and hypersensitivity to food histamine, but it has not been verified as a true medical disorder. Some people think they feel better when avoiding certain high-histamine foods. Still, when healthcare providers tried to verify this disorder with double-blind, placebo-controlled challenges, they could not tell the difference.

While there are a variety of theories on who may be affected and how this may work in the body, none of it has been proven. Unlike lactose intolerance, which is known and proven to be caused by lactase deficiency, no verifiable disorder has been identified for the processing of histamine in the human body. More research is needed.

The symptoms that some people attribute to histamine intolerance, an entity that is not medically proven to exist, include:

There are many reasons that people may have these symptoms, and if bothersome, it is important to seek medical advice rather than trying to self-diagnose with a disorder that has not been medically proven to exist.

Low-Histamine Diet

Some people choose a low-histamine diet. This diet reduces the amount of high-histamine foods and those foods that can trigger a buildup of histamine in the body. 

You limit or avoid high-histamine foods on a low-histamine diet, including those listed above. In addition, you incorporate whole, nutritious foods, including:

  • Fruits except for citrus, strawberries, and avocados
  • Vegetables except for spinach, tomatoes, and eggplant
  • Herbs
  • Rice
  • Quinoa
  • Unprocessed meat
  • Nut-based milk
  • Healthy oils, like olive and coconut
  • Egg yolks

In addition, there is evidence that how you cook your food can affect the histamine levels in foods. For example, frying and grilling tend to increase histamine levels, while boiling tends to maintain or decrease levels.

Summary

High histamine foods are those that have high levels of histamines. These chemicals may be naturally present, or they may occur during processing. In addition, some foods are not high in histamines, but may affect histamine levels in the body. Histamine intolerance is not a verifiable medical disorder, but some people choose to avoid high histamine foods anyway. Most others are likely better off eating a non-restricted balanced diet.

A Word From Verywell

You probably don't need to be worried about the histamine found in some foods, but if you are, talk to a healthcare provider. Your symptoms are likely caused by another trigger and should be diagnosed and treated accordingly.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Does water flush out histamine?

    Probably not, though it doesn't hurt to increase hydration since it helps your body function properly.

  • What foods are highest in histamine?

    High histamine foods include fermented foods, alcohol, aged cheeses, eggplant, avocado, citrus foods, dried fruit, legumes, and processed meats.

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6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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