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Depending on individual sensitivity, some or all of these cooking tips may be decisive for the success of a diet low in histamine.
Not only in the kitchen there is a lot to consider when dealing with food. Even during shopping, transport, storage, preparation and, finally, when storing and processing food leftovers, many things can go wrong. The advice on this page helps people who are particularly sensitive to histamine to keep the histamine content in food as low as possible.
Never allow perishable products (meat, fish, etc.) to heat up. It must always be either cold (slows down bacterial activity) or hot (kills bacteria). The temperature transition in between (from 5°C to approx. 85°C) must be kept as short as possible both during heating and cooling.
Take along a list of tolerable food products when you go for shopping as long as you do not know everything by heart. Either as a hard copy or as an electronic Histamine-App (application for smartphones and tablet pc, e.g. iPhone, iPod, iPad, Android).
At the supermarket shelf always check the expiry date. Always choose the freshest fresh products whose storage life should still be as long as possible. Normally you will find the freshest products in the back part of the shelf whereas the older ones are placed in the front. Ask the shop assistants on which days of the week they normally receive new deliveries. If you want to purchase a certain product but there are only a few left with a best-before date coming soon, it could be better to postpone your shopping until the next fresh delivery arrives.
Don't choose products from the chiller cabinet which lie directly under the warm fluorescent tube.
Preferably choose meat that is vacuum-sealed instead of being packaged in a protective atmosphere or sold in bulk. The package protects the meat against contamination by germs and the vacuum reduces the growth of many types of bacteria. The protective atmosphere is an oxygen atmosphere which only protects the red colour of the meat in order to make it look fresher to the consumer than it actually is. The oxygen even accelerates deterioration and rancidification of the meat.
First buy everything else and then put the perishable chilled and frozen products in the shopping basket. Then immediately go to the checkout.
Immediately transport perishable fresh products home in a cool bag, cool box or wrapped in a blanket or sweater. If the transport takes longer, take a frozen cooling element out of the freezer and place it on top.
Once at home, the first thing to do is to put the refrigerated products in the fridge.
Storage of foodstuff
In most of the refrigerators the coldest place is at the back and at the bottom (but above the vegetable cooler). Put the most perishable products there, the less sensitive ones can be stored in the warmer areas. Check the temperature in the fridge with a thermometer. It might be good to adjust a slightly lower temperature than usual (3º–5º C).
[Disadvantage: The lower the temperature the higher the energy consumption! Refrigerators belong to the biggest electricity guzzlers in the household. Replacing the old fridge by a new one of the highest energy efficiency grade quickly pays off financially, even if only adjusting the usual temperatures. Defrost regularly according to the manufacturer's instructions. The air circulation on the back of the fridge should not be obstructed by dust, cobwebs or objects.]
Most refrigerator freezer compartments are not suitable for long-term storage of frozen food. Only if it is marked with three or more stars (-18°C) may food be stored in it for longer than 1-2 weeks. See also Wikipedia: Star rating for freezer compartments.
Microorganisms (bacteria, yeast) are basically present everywhere, on surfaces and in the air. The more germs are present on a food, the faster the histamine formation will take place. Especially in the case of protein-rich and perishable foods, the freshness and an uninterrupted cold chain must be strictly adhered to. Good cooling at 0º to 5º C slows down the growth of microorganisms. Freezing at –18º C slows down these processes even more strongly but still cannot stop them entirely. Therefore even frozen food should not be stored longer than necessary.
Preparation and cooking of food
Meat and fish should not be left outside the fridge before landing in the pan. Under no circumstances should perishables become warm, not even for a few minutes, because then the bacteria present everywhere begin to form histamines immediately.
Defrost deep-frozen food quickly (in a cold water bath or in the microwave using the defrost setting). Heat it quickly after thawing and consume it immediately after cooking. In particular, fish should never defrost slowly in the fridge or at room temperature. Do not refreeze food that has been defrosted.
The expiry date is not always a reliable indicator for the freshness of a food product. Due to malfunction or negligence it can happen in rare cases that the spoilage of food may cause the spoilage process to be more advanced than is normally the case. For example because the content was not pasteurized thoroughly enough, the package was not sealed properly or the cold chain was not maintained completely and the products have nevertheless been sold. Unfortunately there are also black sheep among food manufacturers and sellers who deliberately redate the expiry date or repack the product or offer it unpacked for open sale. Here one can only hope that one does not become too often victim of such machinations. Therefore one should not rely implicitly on the expiry date but also check all products sensorily. Rely on your senses! This is especially true for perishable fresh products. Does it look the way it should? Does it smell the way it should? Is its consistency still unchanged? Does it taste good? Histamine may not be perceptible in taste, but our senses can give us other indications concerning the freshness and quality of our food.
Don't eat too big portions but only as much as necessary to appease your hunger. The more you eat, the higher is your histamine uptake. It is no good to be hungry, either. The basic supply of nutrients has to be ensured in order to keep the organism healthy and functional. Not least the enzymes responsible for the breakdown of histamine also depend on a constant supply of certain vitamins and mineral nutrients. The food intake should better be spread over several small meals instead of having just a few large main meals per day. In this way you can prevent the body from receiving too much histamine at once and exceeding its degradation capacity.
Cook only small portions in order to avoid leftovers. Allow any leftovers to cool quickly and freeze or store in the refrigerator for a maximum of 12 to 24 hours. In multi-person households, food leftovers that have been stored for a longer period of time can be left with people who are not affected by histamine sensitivity.
In the cold season, let the food cool off on the balcony, covered, and only then put it in the refrigerator. This is faster at low outside temperatures and saves energy. If it is too warm outdoors, hot food can first be allowed to cool down briefly in the kitchen at room temperature and only later placed in the refrigerator. Shortly after cooking, well-done food contains only very few active germs if it is handled under hygienical conditions.
Good hygiene should keep the number of germs on food low. Cover or wrap in cling film / plastic wrap to prevent germs from entering the food from the air. In addition, many germs do not thrive in the absence of air. (However, there are also anaerobic germs for which oxygen deficiency does not matter.)
Large quantities cool down faster if they are divided into small, flat portions. In particular, the highly perishable components of a meal (pieces of fish or meat) should not be mixed in a large bowl with other still warm food leftovers such as rice, potatoes, pasta or vegetables in the refrigerator, but placed separately in a smaller container to cool, because otherwise they can remain lukewarm for hours.
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