If you have histamine intolerance, will consuming carob powder aggravate your symptoms? When you have histamine intolerance, what you eat and don’t eat matters.
Making smart dietary choices lowers your body’s histamine burden, so you have fewer symptoms. So, choosing what you eat carefully is a must.
As a reminder, histamine intolerance is caused by an overload of histamine in the body and an inability to clear it adequately.
When histamine builds up, it leads to symptoms similar to an allergic reaction. (1)
Here’s an article that goes more in-depth on the causes of histamine sensitivity or intolerance.
Histamine sensitivity symptoms can be quite diverse, depending on what parts of the body have the most histamine receptors.
Some people experience asthma-like symptoms or a stuffy nose while others complain of digestive upset, abdominal pain, or diarrhea because they have more histamine receptors in their gut.
Histamine intolerance can also cause mood disturbances, particularly anxiety, and headache. (2)
Diet and Histamine Intolerance
Histamine is naturally found at higher levels in certain foods including older fish, shellfish, aged cheese, fermented foods, and even some fruit and vegetables.
Therefore, dietary changes and avoiding high histamine foods are one way to control the symptoms of histamine intolerance.
Some foods contain pre-formed histamine while others stimulate your body’s own histamine production and release.
It’s common for people to ask about how certain foods affect the symptoms of histamine intolerance and it’s important to be aware of what foods can trigger symptoms.
If you eat a vegan diet, you might substitute carob powder for cocoa and wonder whether carob is a high-histamine food.
Let’s look at this issue and whether carob is a better alternative for histamine sensitivity than cocoa powder, the active ingredient in dark chocolate.
Cocoa, Carob, and Histamine Intolerance
Is carob low in histamine? There is a misconception about the amount of histamine in cocoa and dark chocolate.
Neither contains significant histamine BUT cocoa powder and dark chocolate contain other biogenic amines that cause some of the same problems as histamine.
The two biogenic amines in chocolate and cocoa are phenylethylamine and tyramine.
Physicians believe that biogenic amines can trigger migraine headaches too, although some studies call this idea into question. (3)
Still, cocoa and chocolate may not be the best option if you have histamine intolerance or suffer from migraine headaches.
Is Carob Powder Safe if You Have Histamine Sensitivity?
But what if you don’t have migraine headaches and you crave something “chocolatey?”
You can still make a decent hot cocoa substitute with carob powder. But will that hot carob beverage aggravate your symptoms?
Carob is low in histamine AND biogenic amines, so it’s a good substitute for cocoa.
In fact, you can find recipes online on how to make carob “chocolate” sauce as a substitute for a standard chocolate sauce that contains biogenic amines.
Carob Powder is Nutritious Too
Beyond being a good substitute for cocoa powder, carob powder has nutritional benefits too.
For example, only 2 tablespoons of carob powder contains minerals, including potassium, magnesium, calcium, and iron, and B-vitamins.
Plus, it has around 5 grams of fiber per serving. (4)
Carob powder also contains polyphenols, a type of antioxidant with anti-inflammatory activity.
One study found that the combination of polyphenols and fiber in carob reduced total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, and triglycerides. (5)
The group who consumed carob powder also experienced an improvement in their LDL to HDL ratio that was favorable for heart health.
The Bottom Line
Carob is a good substitute for chocolate if you have histamine intolerance.
Neither cocoa nor carob powder contains histamine, but cocoa powder contains other biogenic amines, including phenylethylamine and tyramine. (6)
Therefore, you could experience symptoms if you consume a substantial quantity of cocoa powder or dark chocolate and have histamine sensitivity.
So, don’t go overboard with the cocoa.
One reason people consume dark chocolate, other than the taste, is it’s a heart-healthy snack because of the antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds it contains.
But based on the study above, carb powder, like cocoa powder, may also have heart-health benefits by lowering LDL-cholesterol and improving your LDL to HDL ratio.
All good things for the health of your heart!
So, the next time you’re craving something “chocolatey,” reach for the carob powder instead.
It’s a good source of nutrients and isn’t a significant source of biogenic amines.
- Laura Maintz, Natalija Novak, Histamine and histamine intolerance, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 85, Issue 5, May 2007, Pages 1185–1196, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/85.5.1185.
- Hannuksela M, Haahtela T. Histamiini-intoleranssi ja pseudoallergia–onko niitä? [Histamine intolerance and pseudoallergy–do they exist?]. Duodecim. 2012;128(9):952-7. Finnish. PMID: 22667048.
- Jansen SC, van Dusseldorp M, Bottema KC, Dubois AE. Intolerance to dietary biogenic amines: a review. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2003 Sep;91(3):233-40; quiz 241-2, 296. doi: 10.1016/S1081-1206(10)63523-5. PMID: 14533654.
- Food and Public Health 2013, 3(6): 304-308. DOI: 10.5923/j.fph.20130306.06
- Ruiz-Roso, B., Quintela, J.C., de la Fuente, E. et al. Insoluble Carob Fiber Rich in Polyphenols Lowers Total and LDL Cholesterol in Hypercholesterolemic Subjects. Plant Foods Hum Nutr 65, 50–56 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11130-009-0153-9.
- J. Agric. Food Chem. 2000, 48, 10, 4900–4904. Publication Date:September 15, 2000. https://doi.org/10.1021/jf000508l