Histidine is an amino acid that is readily converted into histamine by the histidine carboxylase (HDC) enzyme. Foods higher in histidine content may pose a greater risk to those with conditions such as histamine intolerance, mast cell activation syndrome, or allergies.
Health conditions involving histamine issues often focus on the therapeutic use of low-histamine diets to lower overall histamine levels. Research has shown such diets to be effective at managing certain histamine-related health conditions (1).
Not all these diets take into consideration the level of histidine found in foods. In some cases, low-histamine foods contain high levels of histidine that may still pose a threat to those with histamine issues. High levels of histidine, or even genetic mutations affecting the expression of the HDC gene, are integral considerations for any low-histamine diet.
High Histidine Foods
Below you’ll find a series of tables listing a selection of foods and their respective histidine content. Some general rules:
- Meats & high-protein foods contain higher levels of histamine and histidine
- Cooking food increases histamine and histidine (2)
- Aged and/or fermented foods may have lower histidine levels but will almost always have high histamine levels.
With these rules in mind, the following tables list high histidine foods, by category, in descending order. In each case, measurements are in milligrams (mg) per 100 grams (g) of food samples.
Meat, as with many high-protein foods, is rich in histamine. Many wild game types of meat like deer and boar have higher measurable levels. As a general rule, fattier meats have less histidine, and cooking meats increase levels (cooking also increases histamine).
Fish are relatively high in histidine and, worth noting, also generally high in histamine as well. For those seeking low-histamine/histidine options here its essential to purchase from sources that flash-freeze fish directly after catching the fish.
Nuts & Seeds
Nuts and seeds are generally high in histidine with a few notable exceptions like pine nuts, walnuts, and macadamia nuts.
Fats & Oils
Fats & oils have little to no histidine. The table below has been included mostly to illustrate this point as it relates to common fats and oils. Note that some oils like olive and avocado may temporarily lower DAO before increasing it.
|Cod Liver Oil||0|
There are a handful of spices that contain large amounts of histidine that may be surprising to some. These measures are still in mg/100g amounts and, in the case of spices, likely outside the normal amount being used.
Most beans, with the exception of Soybeans, have a similar amount of histidine. Oddities like peanuts have been omitted from this section and included in the nuts & seeds.
Dairy & Eggs
Dried forms of eggs seem to have copious amounts of histidine compared to fresh or freshly cooked forms. Most all cheeses have a high level of histidine, though many have been omitted from this table for brevity.
|Dried Egg White||1830|
|Egg, Whole, Fresh||309|
|Egg, White, Fresh||290|
For vegetables, most are considered as the fresh, mature form, cooked by boiling without added salt.
Fruits are generally low in histidine. The ones listed below are cherry-picked mostly to show how little histidine is present in those with the highest histidine measures. It is worth noting is that dried fruits typically have high levels of histamine.
Sources: US Food Data Central
Navigating conditions such as histamine intolerance or mast cell activation syndrome is complex in the best of cases. A deeper awareness of histamine-influencing nutrition can help chart a better nutritional path forward. Levels of histidine may play a critical role in raising levels of histamine—especially when mutations in genes like the HDC are involved.
In the case of the foods listed above, I’ve made many selections based on criteria not too far from personal preference. I selected what I thought was encompassing of popular foods, those perceived as high histidine, and some just for fun.
In most cases, food data includes dozens of options, varieties, and preparations methods. In some cases, the range of measured histidine are great. I urge anyone with serious histamine/histidine issues to consult a nutritional professional before altering their diet. Certainly—don’t make changes based on this article alone!
- Son, Jee Hee et al. “A Histamine-Free Diet Is Helpful for Treatment of Adult Patients with Chronic Spontaneous Urticaria.” Annals of dermatology vol. 30,2 (2018): 164-172.
- Chung, Bo Young et al. “Effect of Different Cooking Methods on Histamine Levels in Selected Foods.” Annals of dermatology vol. 29,6 (2017): 706-714.