Is popcorn low histamine? If you have histamine intolerance, you might wonder whether popcorn is a safe and healthy snack that won’t trigger histamine intolerance symptoms.
Histamine is a chemical naturally produced by the body that helps fight infections. When levels become too high, it can lead to various symptoms, including headaches, hives, and stomach upset.
Histamine intolerance occurs when the body can’t properly break down histamine, leading to an accumulation of this chemical in the body. There’s some evidence that histamine intolerance originates in the gut. (4)
Histamine intolerance can trigger a range of uncomfortable symptoms that can be difficult to manage. Unfortunately, it’s underdiagnosed too! Along with leading a healthy lifestyle, eating a low-histamine diet is the best way to manage histamine intolerance.
Some foods are naturally high in histamine, while others may cause the body to release more histamine, known as histamine liberators. But what about popcorn? Is popcorn low histamine?
What Is Popcorn?
Popcorn is a popular snack food made from dried corn kernels, making it a whole grain. When you heat it on a stove or in the microwave, the kernels expand and burst, creating the fluffy popcorn people know and love.
Popcorn is a favorite among moviegoers and snackers alike, thanks to its delicious taste and satisfying crunch. But you have to look at popcorn, and all foods, with a critical eye, if you have histamine intolerance.
On the plus side, popcorn is a low-calorie snack that is also high in fiber, making it a delightful snacking option for those looking to maintain a healthy diet. It is also a good source of vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc.
Plus, it’s gluten-free, making it a safe snack option if you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. And you might not realize that popcorn is a good source of antioxidants (in the form of polyphenols) and heat and popping doesn’t inactivate the antioxidants.(5)
Is Popcorn Low Histamine?
Now that we know a little more about popcorn, let’s take a closer look at its histamine content. While popcorn itself is not inherently high in histamine, there are a few factors that can affect its histamine levels.
Firstly, the age of the popcorn kernels can impact its histamine content. Older kernels may have higher levels of histamine, while fresher kernels have lower levels. Plus, the method of preparation can also impact histamine levels. With any type of food, age increases bacteria in the food, and that includes histamine-producing bacteria. So, you want to eat the freshest of food.
Despite these factors, freshly popped popcorn is generally a low histamine food, and most people can tolerate popcorn without triggering histamine intolerance symptoms, although people have varying responses to foods. For example, popcorn is high in lectins, which may be a problem for some people. (1)
Why are lectins a problem? There’s evidence that lectins can disrupt the delicate intestinal lining and predispose to leaky gut, although this is unproven at this point. (1) If you have gut issues, it would be wise to limit high-lectin foods, including popcorn.
Popcorn and Histamine Intolerance: What You Put on Your Popcorn Matters
Most people sprinkle a little salt and butter on their popcorn. While that combination isn’t necessarily the healthiest for your heart, butter and salt are low histamine and shouldn’t aggravate histamine intolerance. Where you could get into problems is if you sprinkle powdered cheese on your popcorn, since some dairy foods are high in histamine.
Although powdered cheese can be made from various cheeses, the most common are cheddar and Swiss. Cheese, especially aged cheese, contains high levels of histamine. Cheddar cheese is known to be high in histamine. Swiss cheese is lower, but powdered cheese may contain a variety of cheese types and is likely to contain cheddar cheese.
Also avoid sprinkling high-histamine spices or herbs on your popcorn. Here’s an article on high-histamine spices to avoid.
Avoid Popcorn That Contains Preservatives
Unpackaged popcorn doesn’t contain preservatives, but if you buy microwave popcorn, it will likely contain one or more additives or preservatives that you could be sensitive to. (2) One in some microwave popcorn is tertiary butylhydroquinone (TBHQ), a preservative that needs further study to ensure it’s not harmful to immune health. (6) Avoid buying or eating microwave popcorn for this reason.
Instead, buy your own popcorn kernels and pop them yourself with a healthy, low-histamine oil, like olive oil, an oil with healthy fats and antioxidants that also has anti-inflammatory activity. (3) For each half cup of popcorn kernels, you’ll need 3 tablespoons of olive oil. You can also toss popcorn with extra-virgin olive oil as a healthier replacement for butter.
A Low Histamine Alternative to Popcorn
Despite its low histamine content, you might find your body doesn’t respond well to popcorn. Be sure to keep a food diary, so you’ll know. If that’s the case, popped sorghum, a low-histamine grain, is an alternative. It has a nutty flavor and contains no gluten either. It’s also not high in lectins, as popcorn can be.
Popping sorghum can be trickier than popping popcorn, as the kernels are much smaller and can burn easily. It may take some trial and error to find the perfect heat and oil amount for your stove and pan. Here are some guidelines:
Start by heating a heavy-bottomed pot or pan over medium-high heat. It’s important to use a heavy-bottomed pot or pan to prevent the sorghum from burning.
- Add a small amount of oil to the pot or pan. You can use any oil you like, but coconut oil or vegetable oil work well.
- Once the oil is hot, add a small amount of sorghum to the pot or pan. You don’t want to add too much at once, as the sorghum will expand as it pops.
- Cover the pot or pan with a lid and shake it gently to evenly distribute the sorghum.
- Wait for the sorghum to start popping. This can take anywhere from 2 to 5 minutes.
- Once the popping slows down, remove the pot or pan from the heat.
- Transfer the popped sorghum to a bowl and repeat the process with the remaining sorghum.
- Season the popped sorghum with your favorite spices or enjoy it plain.
- Popped sorghum is a nutrient-dense snack to enjoy while watching television. 😊
Popcorn Is an Acceptable Snack for Many with Histamine Intolerance
Is popcorn low histamine? Although there may be some variation in histamine levels in popcorn depending on various factors, it is generally considered a low histamine food. However, remember that histamine intolerance is a highly individualized condition, and what works for one person may not work for another.
If you suspect you may have histamine intolerance, it’s important to work with a healthcare provider to develop a personalized dietary plan that works for you. And who knows – popcorn may just be one snack option that works for you! Now, find out whether corn is low histamine.
- Vojdani A. Lectins, agglutinins, and their roles in autoimmune reactivities. Altern Ther Health Med. 2015;21 Suppl 1:46-51. PMID: 25599185.
- Worm, Margitta. 2011. “Q&A: Food Additive Intolerance.” BMC Medicine 9 (1). https://doi.org/10.1186/1741-7015-9-115.
- Santangelo C, Vari R, Scazzocchio B, De Sanctis P, Giovannini C, D’Archivio M, Masella R. Anti-inflammatory Activity of Extra Virgin Olive Oil Polyphenols: Which Role in the Prevention and Treatment of Immune-Mediated Inflammatory Diseases? Endocr Metab Immune Disord Drug Targets. 2018;18(1):36-50. doi: 10.2174/1871530317666171114114321. PMID: 29141574.
- Schnedl WJ, Enko D. Histamine Intolerance Originates in the Gut. Nutrients. 2021 Apr 12;13(4):1262. doi: 10.3390/nu13041262. PMID: 33921522; PMCID: PMC8069563.
- Coco MG Jr, Vinson JA. Analysis of Popcorn (Zea mays L. var. everta) for Antioxidant Capacity and Total Phenolic Content. Antioxidants (Basel). 2019 Jan 14;8(1):22. doi: 10.3390/antiox8010022. PMID: 30646597; PMCID: PMC6356482. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30646597/
- Leonard ER, Marques ES, Roy MA, Conlin SM, Ranjan R, Timme-Laragy AR. Dietary exposure to the food preservative tert-Butylhydroquinone (tBHQ) impairs zebrafish (Danio rerio) survival, growth, organ development, and gene expression in Nrf2a-dependent and independent ways. Food Chem Toxicol. 2023 Apr 17:113788. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2023.113788. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 37075880. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/37075880/