Are there low histamine nuts and seeds? It's a frequent question in forums and amongst the MCAS and histamine intolerance community, as well as those with conditions such as urticaria*. Is there such a thing? Are all off limits on a low histamine diet? Or are some of them well tolerated?
Nuts and seeds are quite debated in terms of histamine, as are many foods, both by scientists and persons following a low histamine diet themselves (Sanchez-Perez et al., 2021). Some histamine lists state that many are well tolerated, others that we should always avoid nuts, and some that we should also avoid all seeds. It's definitely confusing!
This post gives an overview of the Swiss Interest Group Histamine Intolerance (SIGHI) list, and their 'scoring' of nuts and seeds in terms of histamine, including whether they are considered to be liberators also. I'll set out those scoring '0' then those scoring '1' on their list, and provide some recipe ideas too! Of course, if you have a nut and/or seed allergy, then you should not consume any at all.
I'll say from the outset though that some disagree with the 'scoring' set out in the SIGHI list. Histamine levels are often debated and there is not one definitive 'master list' to follow (don't we wish there was!). As always, the best advice is from your doctor and dietician as to which foods are suitable for you as an individual. This post only refers to histamine levels, and not other factors such as oxalates.
This post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical or dietetic advice in any way. It does not encourage the consumption of nuts or seeds. Always consult a medical professional for your medical and dietary needs.
- How to purchase nuts and seeds
- How to enjoy nuts and seeds
- Nuts and seeds scoring 0 on the SIGHI list
- Brazil nut
- Macadamia nuts
- Tiger nuts
- Chia seeds
- Hemp seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Nuts and seeds scoring 1 on the SIGHI list
- Sesame seeds
- Pine nuts
- Higher histamine nuts and seeds
- Cashew and Hazelnuts
- Sunflower seeds
- To sum up
- Related posts
How to purchase nuts and seeds
Before we run through how SIGHI scores nuts and seeds, it is important to note that they likely are referring to these foods in as natural state as possible. That is, nuts and seeds that have not been flavoured or salted, or have other ingredients added to them.
If we think about macadamia nuts for example, they are likely referring to just that, macadamia nuts. Not salted or covered in chocolate as you often find at the store. Fresh whole foods are always better than processed.
Nuts and seeds are often in two places in the store (at least the ones near me!). The first is in the baking aisle, where they tend to be packages of 'plain' nuts and seeds. This is usually where I shop! The other is in the snacks aisle where they tend to be flavoured, salted or heavily roasted. Best to skip this aisle!
How to enjoy nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are a healthy snack to enjoy on their own as a mid-afternoon pick-me-up.
They are also so good as a topping for sweet recipes, such as on oatmeal, chia pudding or dessert, or for more savoury dishes such as salads or pasta.
For each nut or seed below I'll give some recipes that focus more on that particular food, but some ideas for more 'mixed' nut and seed recipes include my low histamine nut and seed muesli and apple pie trail mix.
Nuts and seeds scoring 0 on the SIGHI list
The SIGHI list 'scores' or rates foods on a scale of 0-3, with 0 being low histamine and 3 being high histamine. It also includes whether a food is considered to be a liberator, and some foods have a note next to them (such as whether they are debated, or if small amounts are tolerated).
The following nuts and seeds score 0 on the SIGHI list:
Brazil nuts have a creamy taste, and work so well in breakfast foods or if you are making cookies. Or simply enjoy as a snack by themselves!
Brazil nuts are well known for being a good source of selenium, and 'contain more of this mineral than any other nut' (Healthline). They are also a good source of healthy fats, magnesium copper and zinc.
One proviso with brazil nuts is that you want to stick to 1-3 a day. This is because you want to 'avoid consuming too much selenium' (Healthline).
Brazil nut recipe:
Creamy and delicious, macadamia nuts are very versatile and work equally well for savoury and sweet dishes. They are often used as a swap for almonds, for those who are not able to consume them.
Macadamia nuts typically come as either whole or in halves, and either 'raw' or salted. I would suggest using the former and checking labels for any other ingredients that you may not tolerate. Sadly, they tend to be more expensive than other nuts.
This nut is also somewhat debated in terms of health benefits due to their high fat content. I suggest seeking the opinion of a dietician in this regard. BBC Good Food states that 'they're the richest of nuts for heart-friendly mono-unsaturated fats and, as such, they help manage cholesterol and modulate our risk of heart disease'.
Macadamia nut recipes:
Pistachios nuts more typically come roasted and salted, which isn't likely to be the best on a low histamine diet. But if you seek them out, you can find plain pistachio nuts too. They have a unique flavour that makes them perfect for both sweet and savoury dishes.
Healthline states that pistachios are 'a great source of healthy fats, fiber, protein, antioxidants, and various nutrients, including vitamin B6 and thiamine'.
Tiger nuts aren't actually a nut at all, but a tuber. I'm including them here because they can be used in similar ways to nuts and are a low histamine food that I know many of my Low Histamine Kitchen Instagram friends love!
You can purchase whole tiger nuts and consume as a crunchy snack, but they seem to be used more as an ingredient where they are dried (such as tiger nut flour) or blended (such as in a smoothie or for tiger nut milk).
Tiger nuts are stated to be 'rich in many nutrients, contribute to good digestion, and may protect against infections and health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease' (Healthline).
Tiger nut recipe:
Chia seeds are often described as 'little powerhouses' in terms of their nutrient content. A good source of plant-based protein, healthy fats and fibre, they also contain quercetin (Web MD) which some people with MCAS find to be helpful (check with your doctor).
There are a few ways to enjoy chia seeds, and they can be eaten whole or you can use milled chia. Chia can be sprinkled onto salads, oatmeal or you can make a tasty chia pudding or chia jam. And don't forget drinks, by making a chia fresca!
Some chia seed recipes:
Hemp seeds have a mild nutty taste and can be used for both sweet and savoury dishes. Using shelled hemp seeds (sometimes called hulled hemp or hemp hearts) is usually the easiest way to consume them.
As well as being a source of essential fatty acids, fibre, vitamins and minerals, they are also a complete protein, meaning they contain all 9 essential amino acids (MedicalNewsToday).
Some hemp seed recipes:
Are pumpkin seeds low histamine? Thankfully they are on the SIGHI list and it's such a go-to for many people. Pumpkin seeds come from pumpkins (as the name suggests!) and can be roasted to enjoy with both sweet and savoury foods, or enjoyed as they are. They can often be used as a swap for nuts in recipes such as pesto.
Bursting with health benefits, pumpkin seeds are a good source of unsaturated fats, antioxidants and magnesium (BBC Good Food).
Some pumpkin seed recipes:
Pumpkin seed butter (make your own!).
Nuts and seeds scoring 1 on the SIGHI list
There are a few nuts and seeds that score 1 on the SIGHI list, so are slightly higher histamine than those rated above. I would suggest speaking with a dietician to determine whether these are suitable for you.
Are almonds high in histamine? Almonds seem very debated in terms of histamine, and can be quite divisive! No other food has so many questions when I post a recipe on my Instagram . . .
On the SIGHI list almonds score as '1' with a note stating, 'small amounts are well tolerated. May cause e.g. sleep problems'. They are noted to be low histamine by MastCell360.
Saying that, they seem to be either very well tolerated or not at all by those I have spoken to. So if you have any doubt, then speak to a dietician.
If you are able to tolerate almonds, then you want to buy whole almonds without any flavouring. Definitely not the yogurt coated ones!
Almonds are a good source of magnesium, vitamin E and dietary fibre (Healthline). Interestingly, Healthline states that almonds are 'as close to perfect as a food can get!'
Some almond recipes:
Sesame also feels quite divisive on a low histamine diet, and it is important to note that it is identified as the ninth most common food allergy among children and adults in the U.S. (FARE). Extra care should be taken when using sesame, and I suggest only on the advice of a dietician if you are in any doubt as to whether you can tolerate it.
Interestingly, I've found that of my low histamine readers who do tolerate sesame, it is used quite a bit. Many have said they use sesame in the form of tahini for salad dressings, dips and as a topping for oatmeal or chia pudding.
Sesame is a good source of fibre, may lower cholesterol, is a source of plant-based protein and B vitamins, amongst other benefits (Healthline).
Some sesame (and tahini) recipes:
I was on the fence as to which section to include pine nuts in for this post. Pine nuts score 1 on the SIGHI list, but they do have a ? as a liberator. There is a note, 'Several species. Maybe not all of them with the same compatibility?'.
This would be a food to discuss with your doctor or dietician before trying, unless you already know that you tolerate well.
Higher histamine nuts and seeds
In this section I detail those nuts and seeds that are given as higher histamine by the SIGHI list, as well as those that are considered to be liberators. A liberator is typically defined as a food that could 'trigger the release of endogenous histamine' (Sanchez-Perez et al., 2021). However, it should be noted that this is also a debated concept and 'there are no clinical studies in humans supporting the widely held belief that foods could have the ability to release histamine' (Sanchez-Perez et al., 2021).
While histamine liberators are debated, I have included them here with foods scoring '1' or above on the SIGHI list for informational purposes.
Cashew and Hazelnuts
Both these nuts score 1 on the SIGHI list, and are identified by SIGHI as liberators.
Peanuts score 2 on the SIGHI list. They are also a common food allergy, affecting 'around 2% (1 in 50) children in the UK' (Allergy UK).
Sunflower seeds score 2 on the SIGHI list, and are also noted to be a liberator.
Walnuts score 3 on the SIGHI list, and are also noted to be a liberator. They are rated as the highest histamine nut on the list.
To sum up
The subject of nuts and seeds in relation to a low histamine diet is debated, and there is not a clear consensus amongst all histamine lists. This is particularly the case for tree nuts.
The above information gives an an overview of the SIGHI list, and their 'scoring' of nuts and seeds in terms of histamine. However, it is important to follow the advice of your doctor or dietician in relation to all foods in relation to a low histamine diet, and perhaps nuts in particular.
*One study showed that 75% of study participants with urticaria had a benefit from following a low histamine diet (Wagner, et al., 2016).
Sanchez-Perez, S. et al. (2021) 'Low-Histamine Diets: Is the Exclusion of Foods Justified by their Histamine Content?', Nutrients, 13(5): 1395.
Wagner, N. et al. (2016) 'A Popular Myth - Low-Histamine Diet Improves Chronic Spontaneous Urticaria - Fact of Fiction?', JEADV, 31(4): 650.
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