4 Tips for Low Histamine Meal Prep
If you want to keep your low histamine diet in check, one of the best ways is through meal prep.
Unfortunately, meal prep may not be so easy if you're histamine intolerant and you're likely making a few common meal prep mistakes that could be both increasing histamine levels of your food while also reducing the nutritional content.
Today, I’m going to tell you how to fix them!
The Meal Prep Routine
We all know why we meal prep – we’re busy, we’re rushed, we’re tired – and, most importantly, we want to live our lives while respecting our low histamine routine.
Meal prep can be a great way to stick to your diet and avoid being caught in a situation where you're navigating a restaurant menu and trying to balance your hunger with the possibility of experiencing symptoms from poorly tolerated ingredients.
However, it's well known in science that leftover food doesn't keep its nutritional content and studies have demonstrated increases in histamine levels of your food over time. These reasons explain why, depending on the extent of your intolerance, you may eat a meal one day without symptoms while eating leftovers of that very same meal may elicit a histamine reaction.
So, let's discuss why this is and what we can do create a nutrient-dense, low histamine meal prep routine.
Where Oh Where Have My Nutrients Gone!?
So I’m sure you’re all wondering how could a leftover version of the exact same meal become so nutritionally different.
The obvious way to consider this is to think of food spoilage – you wouldn’t eat food left in your fridge for weeks or months, and you’d probably get sick if you did. But this spoilage doesn’t happen overnight, and there’s actually a load of scientific reactions occurring in the shorter term that result in reduced nutrient content and increased histamine levels. So let’s take a look at what’s going on.
Oxidation is a reaction that occurs when oxygen is able to access foods, and is often responsible for producing funky odours, flavours and colours1. Think of a sliced apple that turns brown – this is oxidation! Unfortunately, when foods oxidise, certain nutrients can lose their activity and, although this doesn’t necessarily mean the food is unsafe for consumption, it does mean that you may have lost a lot of the goodness that made your meal nutritious in the first place.
Histamines are compounds which can produce inflammatory reactions and are behind the reactions in histamine intolerant individuals. Additionally, histamine plays a role in several other disorders, with many people suffering with issues such as eczema, IBS, urticaria, and even fibromyalgia showing to possess histamine sensitivities. Studies have shown histamine content to increase in foods over time. This increase is due to the fact that histamine-producing bacteria proliferate overtime, thus increasing in numbers and producing more histamine which you consume2,3. Consuming leftover versions of the same food can therefore actually make the difference between feeling fine and having mild or even severe symptomatic reactions in histamine intolerant individuals.
Microbes like food. Just as it does for us, food provides microbes with nutritional requirements necessary for growth and proliferation4,5,6. These microbes can be harmful themselves, or can participate in reactions that produce compounds which are unsafe for consumption. These factors begin proliferating before we can visibly notice and, if consumed, could contribute to negatively impacting your digestive processes by messing up the body’s natural bacterial balance, increasing your toxic load, or producing unwanted inflammatory responses. Through these methods, your histamine intolerance status can actually worsen by frequently consuming leftover foods.
Nutrient degradation occurs over time, and is influenced by various factors, notably including the time and temperature of storage. Several studies have shown that heating and storage methods influence nutrient contents including phytonutrients such as flavonoids and carotenoids, vitamins, minerals, etc.7,8,9 To exemplify this, just think of how much longer food stays fresh in the fridge. Luckily, this is one of the simplest factors for you to control.
All of the processes above are naturally occurring, so are not easy to put to a complete stop. However, if you're a busy bee aiming to ease your dietary routine through meal prep, there are a few easy things you can do at home to minimise the negative impacts on your food.
Low Histamine Meal Prep Routine
In a perfect world, I would of course tell you the solution is to go pick fresh vegetables from your garden and make a home-grown summer salad while slow-cooking a salmon that you caught fresh from the river - but let’s get real. You’re busy and you need to balance your histamine intolerance with your daily life, so I’m not going to take your meal prepping ways away from you.
What you can and should be doing however, is using a few simple meal prep techniques which will retain nutrient content and reduce histamine levels. This method will allow you to optimise the balance between juggling your jam-packed life, minimising your kitchen commitments and, maximising your overall health and fitness.
1. Freeze Your Meals
One of the best ways to cut corners while maximising nutritional preservation and preventing histamine increases is by preparing chopped, ready-to-cook raw meals and freezing them. Once you arrive home, throw your bagged stir-fry in a pan, or add your chicken and veggies to a slow-cooker before you head off for work. This way, by the time you’ve had a chance to change your clothes and wind down, dinner’s already ready. This technique is comprehensive enough to prevent microbial growths, oxidation and sharp histamine increases, while retaining way more nutrients than pre-cooked, stored food.
2. Invest In Good Storage Containers
Investing in sturdy, air-tight containers can help to prevent oxidation and microbial growths, maintain the appearance and taste of your meal and protect your nutrients. Additionally, it’s important to consider that common food storage supplies, especially plastics and cling films, actually contain chemicals that can get absorbed by the foods you’re eating. Investing in high quality containers which are free of soluble chemicals (such as these) therefore also contributes to a strategy for reducing your body’s toxic load.
3. Minimise Transport Stressors
As discussed above, temperature storage has a significant impact on nutrient degradation. Keeping your meals stored at a consistent temperature during transport, especially if you have a long commute, can significantly preserve nutrient content and keep food fresh. Easy ways to minimise transport stressors include investing in a small cooler bag or thermal lunch box.
4. Reheat Appropriately
It’s widely known that heating food destroys certain nutrients10,11,12 – and doing it multiple times at high temperatures can destroy even more. Try to ensure you’re sticking to reheating your food as minimally as possible, only once and not too hot, or even adding in the vegetables raw and heating them for the first time when you consume the meal. This will decrease thermal stressors to optimise nutrient preservation.
So there you have it – 4 super simple tips to meal prep for a histamine intolerance routine. How easy was that!? Try some of these tips for this week’s meal prep, and let me know how it goes in the comments below!
Life's too short to let symptoms control you,
Anita Tee, Nutritional Scientist
1. Löliger J. Headspace gas analysis of volatile hydrocarbons as a tool for the determination of the state of oxidation of foods stored in sealed containers. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. 1990;52(1):119-128.
2. Rice S, Eitenmiller R, Koehler P. Biologically Active Amines in Food: A Review. Journal of Milk and Food Technology. 1976;5:322-375.
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8. Achir N, Pénicaud C, Bechoff A, Boulanger R, Dornier M, Dhuique-Mayer C. Use of Multi-response Modelling to Investigate Mechanisms of β-Carotene Degradation in Dried Orange-Fleshed Sweet Potato During Storage: from Carotenoids to Aroma Compounds. Food Bioprocess Technol. 2013;7(6):1656-1669.
9. Ebner J, Baum F, Pischetsrieder M. Identification of sixteen peptides reflecting heat and/or storage induced processes by profiling of commercial milk samples. Journal of Proteomics. 2016;.
10. Campo M, Muela E, Olleta J, Moreno L, Santaliestra-Pasías A, Mesana M et al. Influence of cooking method on the nutrient composition of Spanish light lamb. Journal of Food Composition and Analysis. 2013;31(2):185-190.
11. Zhang J, Chen J, Ye X. Effect of three cooking methods on nutrient components and antioxidant capacities of bamboo shoot (Phyllostachys praecox C.D. Chu et C.S. Chao). Journal of Zhejiang University SCIENCE B. 2011;12(752).
12. Gerber N, Scheeder M, Wenk C. The influence of cooking and fat trimming on the actual nutrient intake from meat. Meat Science. 2009;81(1):148-154.
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