Category Archives: Food & Recipes

The truth about healthy eating

There was a programme on BBC1 last night called ‘The Truth About Healthy Eating’ (which was a repeat from 2016 but still interesting).  While some of the information was laughably basic there were still some surprising things to come out of experiments that were done on supposedly extra healthy foods (anyone who’s read my blog for a while knows that I think all this ‘super food’ malarky is shite and I’m incredibly skeptical about food claims in general).

One of the very interesting items to be covered in the programme was hydration.  We’re told to drink 2 litres of water per day, but actually research has shown that 1litre is optimum.  So they looked at whether that should just be water or whether all liquids counted.  Tuns out cow’s milk is more hydrating than water, and that fruit juice and coffee hydrated the people taking part in the experiment just as well as water.

In fact, as I’ve personally always thought, cow’s milk/dairy is super good for you.  It’s higher in absorbable B12 than meat and contains brilliant amounts of iodine, in comparison to almond and soya milk which contain hardly any.  We also think of dairy as high in saturated fat, but research shows the fat isn’t absorbed by the body like it is with meat.  In fact, consuming dairy with a fatty meal has been shown to help decrease fat absorption from other foods.

There was an interesting section on multi-vitamins.  Research shows they are basically useless  so long as you already have normal levels of vitamins in your blood and they don’t raise our vitamin levels one iota.  If we take in more Vitamin C, for example, than we need we just produce very expensive wee.  Our bodies are very good at maintaining an even level of vitamins & minerals, so consuming large amounts is next to useless.  In fact, research has shown that for people with certain types of cancer, skin and lung for example, those taking high doses of vitamins had a worse outcome than those who didn’t!

They carried out an experiment with blueberries which are high in anti-oxidants.  The anti-oxidants survived digestion but struggled to remain stable within the intestines and only 1% of them actually entered the blood stream.  This caused a spike in anti-oxidant activity so the body simply got rid of them in order to maintain the status quo.  After consuming a high anti-oxidant smoothie there were actually less anti-oxidants in the blood stream 4 hours later compared to before drinking the smoothie as the body tried to adjust, and the level was still lower than normal 8 hours after consuming the drink – this blew my mind.

There was also an experiment with tap water, putting it in expensive bottles with pretty labels and all sorts of advertising jargon the front, taking it to a work-out class and telling them it was a new mineral water.  The ladies thought it was 20% healthier than their usual water, 12% found it more refreshing than their usual water and 6% said it made them feel more hydrated.  Of course, it was only tap water – just goes to show how powerful marketing is and how we can be fooled into thinking a food with a label on tastes superior when it’s actually identical to the food without the label we’re measuring it against.  It also proves just how much of the hype we hear and read we believe, even though it has no basis in fact whatsoever.

The last experiment was to do with detoxing.  One set of students followed a ‘detox’ diet consisting of raw and steamed veg, 1 portion daily of wholegrain rice or quinoa, steamed fish, coconut water and a daily drink of hot water, lemon juice, maple syrup & cayenne pepper which is supposed to cleanse the digestive system, and the other set of students ate normally but healthily.  The normal healthy diet came out on top, with the detox diet showing no health benefits whatsoever – in fact, the students felt rubbish on it, pooped twice as much as normal and were lacking in energy.

We can’t look at food in isolation.  Eating is an incredibly complex bodily function and, as can be seen from the anti-oxidant research, what looks like a brilliant food on first inspection may turn out to be no better for us than any other food when we’ve actually eaten and digested it.   We also need to remember that much of the research done on food is funded by food manufacturers who have a vested financial interest in finding new and positive things to say about the food we consume.

For me, as long as I’m eating a healthy balanced diet I’m doing the best I can but even that is fraught with confusion because a normal balanced diet in the UK is going to be nothing like a normal balanced diet in Japan or Iceland!  Our genes play a huge part in what is healthy for us and what isn’t.  Some populations such as the Japanese, for example, have high rates of lactose intolerance whereas other populations such as the UK have very low rates.  Evolution also changes things dramatically.   In research, Neolithic DNA from Sweden showed 95% of those studied were lactose intolerant whereas only 25% of modern Swedes are lactose intolerance.  We’re all individual and what’s good for one person may be bad for another which is why I don’t give advice here on my blog or try to tell other people what to eat.

 

 

 

 

 

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Daily Menu

Having said in my weekly roundup that I’m totally over talking about food I thought I’d totally contradict myself and do a post about what I currently eat in a day as I know that problems with histamine are the main reason people visit my blog.  As I say quite clearly in the food section, this diet works for me but may not work for you – we’re all very different in the way our bodies react and I know I’m lucky in that I’m still able to eat a fairly wide variety of foods.

I haven’t eaten meat for 25 years but occasionally eat frozen fish having checked that the Salmon I use is gutted and frozen on board the ship which reduces histamine formation.  I do still drink black tea which may, or may not, be high in histamine.  I have had so much taken from me that I am willing to add to my histamine bucket by having my favourite brew and make no apologies for that.  There is no proof that black tea is high in histamine as it’s never been tested as far as I’m aware.  There is a theory that all fermented foods (and black tea is fermented) are high in histamine but this hasn’t so far been born out by the limited research available.  Yes, some fermented foods such as sauerkraut, when tested, are high in histamine but Kefir which is also fermented tested low in research so the honest answer about tea is that no-one knows.  If you want to drink white tea, which isn’t fermented, be my guest  – I can’t stand it.  I do drink herbal teas such as ginger and peppermint but for me they will never take the place of a decent builder’s brew!  I eat Quorn because I’ve never had any issues with it.  Again, it’s never been tested so I’ve no clue as to its histamine content.

Here is a typical daily menu:

Breakfast
Toast made from organic, yeast free bread plus organic Yeo Valley spread and Bonne Maman blueberry conserve or home-made rhubarb jam.  There is no research to back up the assumption that baker’s yeast is high in histamine but I prefer this bread to regular yeasted bread when toasted.  If I have a sandwich I eat regular yeasted bread.
Tea, either peppermint with honey or black with milk.
Gaviscon liquid for my rampant GERD.

Mid morning snack
Herbal tea with home-made ginger biscuits if I’m hormonal and cashew nuts if I’m not 😉

Late morning
Pear juice with Spatone iron water as I tested low for ferritin.

Lunch
Many of the main course meals listed here on my blog, most of which I make in bulk then freeze.  I have my main meal at lunchtime as not eating a large meal in the evening helps with my reflux.
Yesterday I had frozen Salmon, noodles tossed in home-made chilli dipping sauce and stir-fried veg.  Today I’m having a home-made Quorn shepherd’s pie.
Home-made smoothie of coconut milk, mango, passion fruit, blueberries and cantaloupe melon.  I make 7 smoothies at the start of the week and freeze them, defrosting one each day.
Gaviscon liquid.

Supper
As it’s currently hot and sunny I’m having a salad of raw cauliflower, raw broccoli, cooked beetroot, freshly shelled peas, black beans (tinned) & cooked cooled quinoa tossed in Mary Berry’s salad dressing.  I’ve no idea the histamine content of the dressing but I can’t eat a plain raw salad with no dressing so I’m happy to take the risk.  I’ve also no idea of the histamine content of tinned black beans, but they are supposed to be a good source of quercetin which is supposed to help block histamine – all I know is I don’t have the energy to soak and cook beans from scratch!
Peppermint or ginger tea.
2 x Rennie tablets.

Bed-time
Since I’m now in the late stages of peri-menopause my blood sugar and appetite are all over the place, so I sometimes have a cup of warm milk and a biscuit before bed which I feel helps.

I have had to cut out many favourite foods from my diet, such as cheddar cheese, parmesan and aubergienes as they are high in histamine but I substituted them with foods of similar nutritional value – this, if you can do it, is hugely important.  So, for example, I no longer each hard cheeses but I still eat mozzarella and ricotta.  I have to be honest and say I still feel deprived because I loved cheese on toast and Aubergine Parmigiano (I swear I salivate just thinking about it!) but nutritionally I’m no worse off so that’s the main thing, along with not passing out every time I eat obviously 😀

For the most part I have zero reactions after food these days, however when my hormones are playing up, or I’m really stressed, or I’m injured, or it’s birch pollen season, or my M.E. is bad, or I’m over-tired I will still react after I’ve eaten even if the food is low in histamine.  That’s because for people with mast cell issues it’s not just food that causes mediator release and when my mast cells are twitchy I will react to the very act of eating and digesting food (which necessitates histamine release from stomach mast cells) regardless of the type of food.   It’s a sod but it’s just one of those things – you can’t control every aspect of your environment and all sorts of triggers can cause my mast cells to have a hissy fit, overburdening my body with histamine and other chemicals.

I do ‘cheat’ on the diet and eat things I know are high in histamine.  Chocolate is a prime example.  It gives me migraine but when I’m hormonal I would offer a kidney for a chocolate biscuit so I eat one and suffer the consequences.  For me high histamine foods are a bucket effect, so if I know my overall histamine levels are low I can eat something naughty now and again and it won’t cause my bucket to over-flow into a reaction.  At other times, however, when my bucket is already full I know cheating would not be wise!

 

No time to cook

It’s been some considerable time since I wrote anything diet/food related on my blog, so I thought I should explain why.  When my MCAD finally exploded back in 2012 I was having anaphylaxis every time I ate anything and sometimes after just drinking water.  I have never been so terrified in all my life and honestly thought I would die, especially as the Doctors I saw just looked at me like I was nuts and told me it wasn’t possible.  I was given diagnoses like gastritis and IBS, which I knew were absolute bullshit but I was told “it’s not cancer” and I should be grateful, then just left to get on with it.  Thank God for the internet and eventually receiving my MCAD and HIT diagnoses from Dr Seneviratne.

For the first two years following my diagnoses I was naturally obsessed with food.  I spent months wading my way through the information online on low histamine diets, adapting recipes to be low in histamine, experimenting and finally finding a plan I could stick to and which (on the whole) controls my symptoms.  I am so grateful to no longer pass out after I have a meal I can’t even tell you, though I’m not always symptom free.  That’s because my mast cells react to a whole host of things other than food, so it depends on any one day how full my histamine bucket is as to whether the mere act of digestion (which produces histamine!) sets off a reaction or not regardless of which food I’m eating.  But the symptoms aren’t anywhere near as extreme as they used to be and, although still not pleasant, are liveable with.

After my condition stabilized I really began investigating low histamine foods and made the shocking discovery that hardly any foods have been tested for their histamine content and every diet online is based, for the most part, on guesswork.  It rocked my world really because my life depends on keeping histamine at bay, yet the information on which I was basing my diet couldn’t be trusted.  I could still be eating ‘safe’ foods which are nothing of the sort and may have been cutting out foods, like egg whites, for absolutely no good reason!  What a bloody nightmare.  So I began experimenting again and discovered I don’t react to baker’s yeast, small amounts of lemon juice, vinegar, stone fruits or fresh berries though chocolate is still off the menu *sob*.

By now it’s 2016, I’m in peri-menopause and am having to contend with extra symptoms on top of the dozens I already have.  My Mum has been diagnosed with severe COPD and Emphysemia, is in heart and kidney failure and has become an alcoholic, while my Dad is in the early stages of Dementia.  They both need help with daily living and the job has fallen to me (quite why it hasn’t fallen to my 3 healthy brothers, their wives or adult children, three of whom ironically work for Home Care Agencies, is another story).  It’s hard enough keeping my own life and home going and I’m finding keeping two homes and three lives going tough.  I’m so busy I meet myself coming back, then am so exhausted from all the extra work and my rampant hormones I literally can’t think straight.

These days I no longer have the time or energy to spend hours in my kitchen thinking up and experimenting with new recipes.  In fact, I spend one day a week cooking then shove what I’ve made in the freezer as I don’t have the time or energy to cook myself dinner every day, let alone anything extra.  In any event, I’ve become quite disillusioned with ‘low histamine’ diets because neither I, nor anyone else, have any idea of the histamine content of individual food items and I now use all sorts of ingredients in my dinners which would cause outrage if I were to put them online.  For example, this week I happened to be in Sainsburys and bought 2 jars of pre-made sauces – don’t fall off your chair in shock 😉  One contained concentrated lemons and the other contained additives!  I know for a fact I won’t react to either, yet if I put them on my low histamine shopping list I’d be crucified, because according to the lists online they contain things I shouldn’t be eating.  Only of course no-one knows if I should be eating them or not because they haven’t been tested for histamine – try telling the low histamine zealots that though!  Obviously my ‘low histamine’ diet has helped my symptoms enormously so obviously some foods are higher in histamine than others, but whether I needed to have cut out all the foods I have is anyone’s guess.  My reduction in symptoms might literally be down to cutting out spinach, cheddar cheese and fish and I’ve been unnecessarily cutting out 30 other foods for no good reason.  Or it might be that I absolutely have to cut out 30 foods in order for my diet to be low in histamine.  I have no idea and neither does anyone else.

According to people like the Low Histamine Chef and others I shouldn’t be eating low histamine anyway, but I should be eating anti-inflammatory.  Only there’s about as much robust evidence for anti-inflammatory diets as there is for low histamine diets.  Point me to the research on people, not rats, that measures inflammation after ingesting a particular food and I might change my mind.  Only of course it doesn’t exist.  It’s as impossible to measure inflammation in our bodies after we’ve eaten a specific food as it is to measure histamine in our bodies after we’ve eaten a specific food.  It’s all such bullshit yet is talked about by these self-proclaimed ‘experts’ as fact.  And just because they include research references at the end of their articles doesn’t make it fact either.  Does anyone actually read the research?  Is it a properly conducted, double blind, randomized, controlled trial which has been peer reviewed and published in a nutritional journal?  Because if it’s not it’s not worth the paper it’s written on.  When I was investigating low histamine foods, I discovered that the only reason egg whites were included in low histamine food lists is because of a tiddly trial done on mice in the 1950s, which was never reviewed or published.  The way food was made and stored in the 1950s bears no resemblance to the way food is made and stored in 2017, so quite why this pseudo half-experiment is quoted as fact in the low histamine world astounds me.  All this stuff plays on the absolute desperation of very sick people and it makes me furious.

It extends beyond the world of histamine though.  For years saturated fats were ‘bad’ for us as they raised cholesterol and gave us heart attacks, until it was discovered that actually heart disease is a much more complex issue, trans fats were much more unhealthy than saturated fats and the jury is still out on how big a role saturates play in plaque formation.  Then salt was bad for us, until it was discovered that eating too little might be as bad as eating too much, though again the debate rages on.  Now it’s sugar that’s the demon, until in 30 years time it will be discovered that without sugar our energy levels are half what they used to be or some other such nonsense.  If we’re honest, we know very little about digestion, diet and the impact what we eat has on our health, and I suspect genes and how we as individuals process food will turn out to be the determining factor for health, rather than the foods we eat per se.

I admit I’m no expert on food and the information here on my blog is simply based on my own thoughts and experience.  And my experience is that I am currently managing my symptoms OK with the diet I choose to follow and, due to changing circumstances in my life, I no longer have the time or energy to experiment with new recipes particularly when I’m not even convinced they are low histamine as I have no evidence to back that theory up.  So apologies to anyone reading my blog and hoping for loads of inspiring recipes and foodie facts.  Having said all that, I hope the information and recipes listed in the menus at the top of my site are useful in your own journey through the histamine maize and at least it’s all free and I’m not making money off the back of other people’s suffering.

Food Fads

I very rarely have the time, or more importantly mental energy, to visit and read other blogs much as I would love to (and I do genuinely mean I would love to) but every now and again I’ll click on the link of an article I’m interested in which takes me to someone’s blog.  I’m always gobsmacked (and a little jealous 😉 ) to see how many ‘likes’ some blog posts get and they’re nearly always food related.  The more deprived the diet, the more earth shatteringly boring, the more ‘clean’ (whatever the hell that is supposed to mean), the more lacking in any taste or more importantly fun, the more ‘likes’ it seems to get.  I find it fascinating.  And, if I’m honest, fucking nuts.

My best friend has Coeliac disease and can’t eat gluten.  It could give her stomach cancer and the last time she inadvertently ate something with gluten in she threw up for six hours straight.  Eating out is a bloody nightmare.  Even though cafes and restaurants have to legally declare the most common allergens in their foods you still can’t trust that they’re going to be gluten free – in fact, the meal which caused her to throw up for six hours was from a cafe which specializes in gluten-free food!  My mate would like nothing more than to be able to eat regular bread, pasta, porridge oats and proper doughnuts and not have to examine every label in the supermarket like some kind of obsessive stalker, and thinks people who don’t have Coaeliac disease but who still don’t eat gluten need to be sectioned.

I myself would kill to be able to eat whatever I like.  You have no idea how much I miss chocolate, tinned tuna, chopped tomatoes/passata, aubergines, orange juice, baby spinach and most of all creamy, melted, cheddar cheese (I swear I’m drooling just thinking about it).  But if I do I’m liable to have anaphylaxis and pass out before coming to and puking my guts up.

My friend and I are totally and utterly baffled by the current fad of cutting out major food groups like gluten/grains and dairy for no bloody good reason.  It’s one thing if you have lactose intolerance or Coeliac Disease and quite another to deprive yourself of these wonderful, filling, nutritious foods if you do not.  And don’t get me started on ridiculous fads like medjool dates, chia seeds and raw cacao.  If you’re going to have a dessert have a goddamn dessert – one that makes you feel warm and satiated and adds 2lbs to your hips 😉

I mean, who in their right mind would choose ice cream made from mashed up coconut when you can have delicious jersey cow ice cream, preferably laden with mint choc chips?
Who would choose pretend couscous made from cauliflower when you can have lovely soft, doughy, pasta instead?
And who, pray tell me, would choose to eat a cacao protein ball when you can have chocolate fudge cake with lashings of double cream?!

Life is too fucking short my friends.  Way, way too short.

If I had a tenner for every time someone’s written in to my blog and told me to cut out gluten and dairy I’d be rich.  Quite how cutting out these 2 important food groups is going to help my incurable, genetic diseases, or my brain injury, I’m not sure but there seems to be a ludicrous myth going around that diet is the cause and cure of all disease.  Got a brain tumour, eat these 3 foods and watch it disappear!  Got bowel cancer – well, you shouldn’t have eaten that doughnut back in 1992!  It’s so unbelievably stupid I have no idea why it’s so popular.  Actually, I think I do know.  It has nothing to do with food and everything to do with control.

We control very little in our lives these days.  Jobs are scarce and no longer for life.  Nearly half of marriages end in divorce.  Many of us can’t afford our own homes so have to rent, meaning we can be kicked out at any time.  Cancer affects 1 in 3 of us yet no-one knows the cause.  The world can be a chaotic and scary place and one over which we appear to have very little control.  Is it any wonder, then, that we are obsessed by the one thing we can control – the food we put in our mouths.

I can only write from my own experience and my own experience is that life is a game of Russian Roulette.  My mum started smoking aged 14, made an art form out of eating processed foods and is now a raging alcoholic.  We were told 5 years ago she was terminally ill yet she is still here.  Her sister never smoked, didn’t drink and made every single thing she ate from scratch (her seeded bread was ridiculously good), yet she died of ovarian cancer five years ago.  One of my good friends didn’t smoke, practiced yoga, rarely drank, was slim, fit……and died from Colitis at the age of 60.  My next door neighbour smokes like a chimney, eats sweets all day and is 90 this month.  My Nanna hasn’t exercised a day in her life for over 40 years, has been diabetic for 20 years yet eats cakes and biscuits like they’re going out of fashion…….and she’s just turned 104 and aside from being confused.com doesn’t ail a thing.  I haven’t eaten meat since 1991, don’t drink, have eaten organic foods for over two decades…….yet I’m as sick as a dog.  There’s no rhyme or reason to any of it, and if I had a choice I’d eat whatever the hell I fancied.  I’d drink cider.  Stuff my face with sour cream ‘n chive Pringles and binge on Jelly Babies and white Toblerone.  Ahhhh, the good old days 😉

I know nearly all the people who read my blog have either HIT, MCAD, ME or EDS all of which can mean a restricted diet with no choice in the matter, so please don’t think I’m aiming my blog post at you all.  It’s everyone else!  Annoying people like Gwyneth bloody Paltrow who should be shot at dawn, and all the other money making food bloggers, usually under 35, female, slim and pretty who are making a small fortune out of not having a single nutritional qualification (Gwyneth’s only qualification for writing books on food, for example, is that she’s eaten since the day she was born).

I’m not alone in my cynicism either as this brilliant post demonstrates.  Obviously eating a healthy, *balanced*, diet is good for you and eating too much crap makes you overweight and prone to diabetes but as for food causing or curing disease it’s nonsense.   For a start people in different countries eat very different diets, yet we all get the same diseases – how does that work if food is the cause or the cure? I do wish people weren’t quite so gullible and happy to believe everything they read on t’internet like it’s some kind of fact, when it’s nothing of the kind.   Whatever happened to common sense?

I’m ill and I do understand the need to be in control of something, anything but I swear to God if I could still eat Aubergine Parmigiano washed down with a cold glass of Australian Chardonnay I bloody well would and I’d cherish every mouthful 🙂  I hate every second of being on a restricted diet and it baffles me why anyone would choose it if they didn’t have to.

 

 

Iron in Foods

I’ve been a non-meat eater for nearly 30 years and have never before had low iron levels.   That’s because I eat a wide range of foods and always have a vitamin C drink (smoothie, cordial, fruit juice) with my main meals which helps iron absorption.  I suspect my current low iron status is down to the drugs I need for my GERD, the bleeding in my pelvis due to my endometriosis or possibly some kind of bleeding going on in my stomach (it’s certainly painful enough).  However, because I’ve changed my diet and gone “low histamine” in the last 4 years I wanted to take a closer look at the foods I’m now eating, just to make sure I was still getting enough iron in my diet.

Menstruating women need approx 14-15mg of iron daily.  Men and post-menopausal women need 8-10mg.  However it’s impossible to know how much iron our bodies are taking in because:

  • iron content isn’t listed on food labels.
  • iron absorption can be affected by drugs, stomach issues, illnesses etc.
  • iron absorption depends on your existing iron stores.
  • some foods help iron absorption, eg Vitamin C, acids and sugars, and some foods hinder iron absorption, eg tanins (in tea) and phytates (found in whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes).
  • iron is absorbed by the body differently depending on whether the food comes from a plant or an animal.  Plant sources (non-heme iron) make up around 90% of the iron most people eat and animal sources (heme iron) make up around 10% of the iron most people eat.  However, the body absorbs heme iron much better than non-heme iron.

In reality, the process by which the body utilizes iron is complex and it’s just not as simple as “oh for heavens sake eat a steak!”

I did a bit of Googling and found sensational headlines like “pistachio nuts contain 4 times the level of iron than other nuts”.  Excellent, I love pistachios!  However it wasn’t actually true.  I sourced the iron content of foods from the United States Dept of Agriculture’s Food Composition Database (which is excellent) and discovered that Pistachio nuts actually have less iron than, for example, Cashew nuts so I’ve no idea where these headlines have come from.

Meat is widely touted as being the best source of iron.  However, a skinless cooked chicken breast contains 1mg iron whereas 2 slices of unfortified white bread contains 2mg iron!  It’s then you have to bear in mind that the bread is less easily absorbed than the chicken, but by how much no-one knows.  Dairy is also widely purported to be high in iron, but according to the Database a ½pint (275ml, 1 cup) serving of milk has hardly any iron in at all and a large 100g serving of grated mozzarella cheese only 0.44mg.  Balance that against a 2 tblsp serving of sunflower seeds which contain 1.57mg iron and I know which I’ll be eating more of in future.

I wrote down everything I ate over a few days and added up the total iron content, which came to between 18-20mg of iron per day.  As mentioned, though, nearly all of my iron comes from non-animal sources so I’ve no idea how much iron I’m actually absorbing but I think on balance I’m consuming enough for my diet to not be the cause of my iron deficiency.

There were shock findings in my little research project which I wanted to share with you:

  • Treacle is high in iron.  I use treacle when making my gingerbread and according to the Database 1 slice of home-made gingerbread contains over 2mg iron.  Way-heyyy!
  • Puff pastry is high in iron.  Who knew!  A 150g slab of cooked puff pastry contains nearly 4mg iron, which is huge.  I’ve always felt guilty about eating puff pastry because of its high butter/fat content but it’s a positive health food 😉
  • I’d read that seeds are high in iron and this turned out to be correct. Dried chia seeds are top with a 1oz (30g, 2tblsp) serving containing 2.19mg.  A 1oz (30g) serving of Sunflower seeds has 1.57mg and a 2 tsp (10g) serving of Sesame seeds has 1.31mg.  An easy way of eating more seeds is to buy seeded bread, or to crush the seeds and add them to smoothies.
  • There isn’t as much iron in meat as I’d been led to believe unless you regularly eat wild bear or bison.  A restaurant style sirloin steak has 4.27mg iron but a pork chop only 1.67mg and a skinless chicken breast a mere 1mg.  A salmon fillet has 1.59mg.  Bear in mind though that more of the iron from meat is absorbed by the body than iron from other sources.
  • I worked out my home-made tomato-less baked beans contain a whopping 5mg iron per serving!  That’s because beans are high in iron but more importantly I make them with treacle.

It’s been interesting, if a bit confusing, looking at iron in foods and I realize that much of the information widely given is either incorrect or at the very least a bit misleading.  The fact that milk is so low in iron I found shocking, especially when we’re told dairy is a good source of the mineral, and most meat isn’t as high in iron as we’re lead to believe.  My confusion came when looking at foods such as beans, nuts, seeds and lentils, which are good sources of iron but also contain phytates which hinder iron absorption, so we have no idea how much of the iron is actually being utilized.  Taking Vitamin C with a meal, eg. fruit juice, to help iron absorption still seems like good advice but I discovered you have to be careful which fruit you squeeze.  A small study found that dark juices such as prune and red grape may actually hinder iron absorption, so are best avoided.

If you want to check your own diet for iron content I found these sites helpful:

Re-introducing foods

I was doing so well on my ‘low histamine’ diet that last year I decided to re-introduce some foods I’d been avoiding – you can read all about it here.  Initially they seemed to be having no effect on my histamine load whatsoever and I was all smug, but as time went on my histamine bucket began to fill up.  After about 5 months my body was definitely not happy and I was having some symptoms I’d forgotten existed, like pins and needles in my bowel after eating, having to get up in the night to pee, insomnia and hay fever symptoms.

Here’s the thing about Mast Cell Disease though – it’s easy to say “it’s my MCAD playing up because I’m eating x, y or z again” and in some respects this turned out to be the case, but in others not.  My best mate doesn’t have MCAD but she does get hay fever really badly and at Christmas she told me her hay fever had gone berserk, as had a friend of hers.  December is the middle of winter here in the UK and it’s been freezing.  There’s no way on earth there should be any pollen around, but our symptoms seem to say otherwise!  I live surrounded by woodland and am truly allergic to some tree pollens, so we can only assume spring will come early this year.

My hormones have also been seriously out of whack in recent months and from reading menopause forums even healthy women can develop allergy symptoms during this time in their lives along with pain and insomnia.  So how much of my symptoms are down to my hormones, rather than what I’m eating, is impossible to tell.

My EDS has also gone absolutely nuts and the inflammation from that isn’t doing my body any favours.

Having said all that I just had a sneaking suspicion that all the chocolate I was eating wasn’t helping the situation so I cut it out.  And I definitely feel my histamine levels have dropped as a result.  I still have no reaction at all to baker’s yeast in normal bread, lemon juice and store bought mayonnaise so am continuing to include those in my diet which makes eating lunch out a shed load easier.

If I could re-introduce one food it would be tinned chopped tomatoes.  As a vegetarian tomatoes are in everything and, dammit, they taste good!  I substitute tomatoes for my home made red pepper sauce in recipes and this has worked great, but I spend an awful lot of my time and energy making the sauce and it would revolutionize my life to not have to do that.  So I’m toying with the idea of re-introducing tomatoes and seeing how I get on.  I’m not sure now is the best time, however, with hay fever season approaching and my hormones so out of whack, so I’ll let you know what I decide.

I forgot to tell you all that over Christmas I found some delicious mints with allowed ingredients.  Bassetts Mint Creams contain sugar, glucose syrup, water and mint flavouring and are available from Sainsburys, Morrisons, ASDA and Ocado and are suitable for vegetarians.  No more having to faff about making my own mint fondants when I fancy a special treat 🙂

Food Skeptic

As anyone reading my blog regularly will know, I’m skeptical.  About lots of things, but in particular about all the information we read online about food. One week we should all be eating Goji berries and the next week Kale.  The only thing people in my neck of the woods have ever used Kale for is to feed sheep and I don’t even know what a Goji berry looks like.  I’m fairly sure none of my ancestors did either, yet I can trace my family back to the Viking invasion in the 700s AD so they managed to live long and healthily enough to produce 1500 years of ancestors despite having the same genetic diseases as me (my Mum’s Dupytrens Contracture has been traced back to the Nordic invasion through a study she took part in).

There was a recent article in the Daily Mirror by Dr Miriam Stoppard about supplements and how our bodies aren’t designed to utilize them.  If you take too much Vitamin C for example you just end up with very expensive pee.  There’s a lot of medical talk these days that we should ingest so many ugs of this vitamin and so many nanols of that mineral, forgetting that our ancestors lived on a massively restricted diet compared to us and yet worked physically harder than our generation ever have, producing up to 12 children per family along the way and not a vitamin supplement in sight!

There’s a big hoo ha about Vitamin D at the moment and how we northerners in particular don’t get enough sunlight in the winter.  And it has to be said that I’ve had my Vit D levels checked in winter and they’ve been lowish, as against very high levels in summer (despite our lack of sunshine!).  But hasn’t that always been the case?  It wasn’t any sunnier in northern England in the 700s AD yet we’re all still here and functioning.  In fact, people who live in hot climates seem to sleep a damned sight more than people living in cold climates – you try getting food at 2pm on a Greek island and you’ll struggle, cos they’re all knackered and having a siesta 😉  And as far as I know, people living in Scandinavian countries are healthy enough despite their lack of sunshine.  The lack of vitamin D might have a lot more to do with the fact that none of us go outside in winter these days – we don’t walk to school, we don’t work outdoors not even to hang washing and we travel everywhere in our cars.  As a baby I was placed in my pram, even in the depth of winter, every afternoon for a sleep outside – it was considered healthy, and probably was.

IMHO we absolutely do not need the massive range of foods we have available in Western countries.  Yes it’s important to eat a balanced diet, but that basically means eat some protein, carbs and fat each day not to eat a huge variety of foods.  If my ancestors have lived in northern England for 1500 years surely I’d do better to eat whatever they’ve eaten for the last millennia, not imported foods like medjool dates or coconuts?  If the theory of evolution is correct my ancestors have naturally evolved to live on the foods available to us here in England which is lamb not buffalo, pears not mangos, wheat not rice.

Of course, the way we produce our food has radically altered for the worse in the last 60 years which is why I try to buy organic produce whenever possible.  Organic soil is so much richer in minerals than none-organic and organic farmers still tend to use natural methods of crop rotation.  Organic animals are reared in a more natural way, ie on grass in the open air, and aren’t given anywhere near the same levels of drugs that none-organic animals are pumped full of.  Their food is also not laden with chemicals and fertilizers.

None of us cook from scratch anymore either, which has a massive impact on our health.  I was absolutely shocked when I wrote this blog post, detailing the chemicals in a modern convenience diet rather than a similar home-cooked diet.  I am absolutely convinced that our current obesity crisis, and many of our health issues, are more to do with the chemicals and drugs in our foods than anything else.  Our bodies aren’t designed to handle 50 different chemicals (additives, fertilizers, supplements, drugs, hormones) a day, it’s just that simple.

I’m not saying that our ancestor’s lives were all rose tinted, but their health issues and early deaths were more to do with over-work, poverty (and resulting lack of food of any description, let alone a balanced diet) and the inability to treat disease (no penicillin for example) than not having access to supplements or enough sunshine.

I always read with a wry smile that we should be following a “mediterranean diet”.  Why’s that then?  Do people in the Med not have heart attacks or get cancer?  Do they all live 20 years longer than the rest of us?  Actually I know the answer to that – the average life expectancy in Spain is 82, as against 81 in England.  Do people living in California, or South Africa, not get cancer being as though it’s so sunny there?

I’m not suggesting chucking the baby out with the bath water.  Some supplements are absolutely necessary, eg folic acid before pregnancy, B12 for anaemia, but unless there is some fundamental underlying health issue I wholeheartedly belive supplements are a waste of money.  Getting out in the winter sun will do you more good than fortifying cardboard breakfast cereal with vitamin D (does anyone really eat breakfast cereals?  They’re not food!).  And I believe a simple, local, organic diet and cooking foods yourself are a million times better for you than eating imported foods which have been picked before they are ripe, washed with bleach, irradiated to keep them looking fresh, and transported for several weeks before they reach your plate especially if you’re on a low histamine diet.

I’m sure some people will argue with me, but the food industry is just that………..an industry.  An industry which needs to make you buy their shit, whether or not you need it or it’s good for you.