Almonds have earned a fond place in my heart and on my dining room table. They were a staple food for me before I developed histamine issues, but once I started exploring the low histamine diet, I started worrying that almonds were making me sick. Almonds are often demonized in my low histamine Facebook groups, and I read so many warnings about them that I waited several weeks before trying to reintroduce them into my own diet. But are almonds high in histamine, all by themselves? The answer is no.
But are almonds low histamine? Also a complicated sort of.
This is because almonds are not inherently high in histamine, as alcohol and spinach are. However they do contain several chemicals which many histamine intolerant folks have trouble with, namely lectins, oxalates, salicylates, phytic acid, and digestion-lowering enzymes. I’ll go more in-depth into these below, but I’ll also share that I have had zero issues with almonds and histamines, and currently I eat them almost every day. In fact, they feature prominently in my various low histamine recipes.
Between almond flour and raw almonds (which I also toast & use to make my own almond butter), I have several ounces a week, and they’ve never worsened my HIT symptoms. Now that we’ve established that almonds are low histamine, let’s look at how to consume them safely. For those looking to re-introduce almonds and other nuts, below are some considerations to think about beforehand.
Potential Histamine-Adjacent Issues With Almonds
Almonds are generally a very nutritious food, with balanced proteins and healthy fats, plus fiber and some complex carbs. They’re a great source of vitamin E and magnesium, but they’re also high in phytic acid, oxalates, and salicylates. The skins and outsides of the nuts are also high in digestion-inhibiting enzymes and lectins. But what are each of those substances, and how can they affect your ability to process almonds?
Phytic Acid: a fiber-associated form of phosphorous which impairs the absorption of iron, zinc and calcium from food. Some people have said that it’s decayed the enamel on their teeth, due to impairing the minerals needed to maintain healthy tooth enamel, but soaking and baking phytic acid-rich foods (like almonds) breaks down most of it, making it safe to consume. Soaking & then dehydrating almonds breaks down both phytic acid and the digestion-inhibiting enzyme which lowers the nutrition of almonds. Other low histamine foods high in phytic acid include lentils, chickpeas, and pistachios.
Oxalate: a protective compound produced by both plants & animals in order to regulate calcium levels. Too much oxalate can lead to kidney stones, which form when your urine has too much calcium, oxalate, and uric acid, causing solid build-up. Some people are very sensitive to the presence of oxalates, and should avoid foods rich in it, like almonds. Other low histamine foods rich in oxalate include sweet potatoes, beans, and raspberries.
Salicylate: a plant-derived salt of salicylic acid, formed to protect the plants from predators and prevent rotting. Large amounts of salicylate is lethal for any being, although most people can handle dietary levels with no issues at all. But for those with a sensitivity, salicylates can cause bodily reactions such as eczema, asthma, and stomachaches. Other low histamine foods rich in salicylate include cherries, bell peppers, and spices like rosemary.
Lectin: a potentially inflammatory type of carb-binding protein which can— in very large amounts— cause damage to the gut wall and lower nutrient absorption. Research has show that cooking or sprouting high-lectin foods can drastically reduce their impact, an easy fix which also applies here to almonds. Other low histamine foods high in lectin include squash, corn, and potatoes.
As you can see, there are several reasons why almonds may cause you trouble, completely unrelated to histamine content. If you have issues with any of the foods above, take great caution in adding back in almonds, following all the steps below for a safer reintroduction. To read my nut-free recipes & tips, click here.
How to Reintroduce Almonds
You can safely reintroduce almonds on a low histamine diet in the same way as you would any other food— slowly and in small amounts over the course of several days. Start with raw organic almonds, soaked overnight and then dehydrated in the oven on a low temperature. Just like with pecans and other tree nuts, almonds can be contaminated with mold.
Soaking and then dehydrating them will reduce the risk of concurrent mold toxicity (which could trigger a reaction, even if you otherwise would have no issues with nuts), as well as decreasing phytic acid & enhancing nutritional absorption. This soaking process is also called activating nuts, and these activated nuts should be stored in the freezer once they’re dry. To sum up:
- Wait to reintroduce almonds if you have reactions to other foods containing oxalate, salicylate, and/or lectins
- Buy organic blanched almonds, or remove the almond skins yourself (to limit lectins)
- Soak & dehydrate your almonds before trying them (and then store them in the freezer)
- Eat just 1 or 2 almonds with a safe meal, and if you don’t react, then try 7 or 8 the next day and so on
- Once you can have regular almonds, try homemade almond butter, and finally almond flour (these are listed in order of likelihood of a reaction)
- Enjoy a nutty recipe, like these vanilla almond cookies!