Suffer from allergies? Eat these foods!

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This year was a fairly unique allergy season. According to experts, the rise in overall temperatures earlier in the fall and winter caused trees and plants to start producing pollen sooner than in typical cycles, so while allergies may not be more intense this year, we have had pollens in the environment for a longer period of time.

This has been so bothersome that, according to recent reports, a staggering 34% of allergy suffers are opting to stay indoors. Additionally, over half of allergy suffers are reportedly taking antihistamines; 46% take oral drugs like Claritin-D or decongestants, 35% use nasal sprays, and 30% use eye drops.

Foods as Allergy Medicine

Doctors warn that overuse of certain nasal sprays can cause dependency and other reports suggest that high doses of Benadryl, commonly used to treat allergies, can lead to severe health issues. The list of warnings goes on. But what if we could make small changes in our diet that could impact how our body responds to allergens, and lessen the reaction and our discomfort?

The studies mentioned below show specific compounds and its quantities in foods can reliably reduce histamine reactions. Here are foods that have been shown to contain these anti-inflammatory and antihistamine properties to help alleviate pesky allergy symptoms.


The first compound is Quercetin. It is a flavonoid best known for its antihistamine properties.

Histamine is a naturally occurring compound involved in various physiological processes and is also released during allergic reactions.

Some individuals may experience histamine intolerance or sensitivity, where they have difficulty breaking down histamine an excessive response to it. These reactions lead to symptoms such as headaches, nasal congestion, skin rashes, digestive issues, and more.

Anti-histamine foods are low in histamine content or have properties that can help regulate histamine levels in your body to minimize histamine-related symptoms.

Quercetin is found primarily in apples, onions, berries, citrus fruits, leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables.

It has been shown to inhibit the release of histamine from immune cells, such as mast cells and basophils, which may help reduce histamine-induced allergic responses.

Another major component of quercetin is its anti-inflammatory properties. Quercitin inhibits various inflammatory pathways and mediators, including those involved in histamine release.

By reducing inflammation, quercetin may indirectly contribute to a decrease in histamine reactions.

It also possesses potent antioxidant properties, which can help neutralize harmful free radicals and reduce oxidative stress. Oxidative stress can promote inflammation and potentially exacerbate histamine-related symptoms (like sneezing, coughing, runny nose, swollen eyes, etc.).


Ever heard of Bromelain? Well, we promise you it is not a word you’ll soon forget, as it might just be your best friend next allergy season.

Bromelain is a mixture of enzymes found in pineapple stems. Yes, pineapple stems. Really the only way to naturally get bromelain is through fresh pineapple juice. However, bromelain supplements can provide concentrated doses of the enzyme.

Bromelain is another great anti-inflammatory compound. It can help reduce the production of pro-inflammatory substances like cytokines and prostaglandins, which are involved in allergic reactions.

It can also help the reduction of mucus and nasal congestion caused by irritants. Bromelain may help thin and break down mucus, making it easier to clear the airways and reduce congestion.

Bromelain can also help reduce a hyper-immune response and help reduce hypersensitivity to allergens as it regulates the brain’s signaling pathways.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, has various properties that may help combat allergies. While it may not directly target histamine reactions like quercetin, vitamin C can support overall immune function and have indirect effects on allergic responses.

Citrus fruits are dense in potent antioxidants that help neutralize harmful free radicals. By reducing oxidative stress, vitamin C can help alleviate inflammation, which is often associated with annoying allergy symptoms.

It also plays a crucial role in supporting the immune system as it enhances the function of immune cells, such as neutrophils and natural killer cells. These are involved in the body’s defense against allergens. A well-functioning immune system can better manage allergic responses.

Vitamin C has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties which can inhibit the production of pro-inflammatory substances and restraining inflammatory pathways.

By reducing inflammation, vitamin C may help alleviate allergic symptoms caused by inflammation, such as joint and muscle aches.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

We hear all about “good fats” as they relate to hormone production and regulation of critical bodily functions, but these powerful nutrients can fight histamine-related allergy symptoms and help reduce inflammation caused by allergy irritation.

Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, particularly eicosatetraenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), are polyunsaturated fats found in fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines), flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts are great options to incorporate into a diet with varied protein sources!

While omega 3s can positively impact immune response and inflammation, they are unique in that they help to modulate lipid mediators. This means that omega 3s have the ability to alter their synthesis, breakdown, or interaction with cellular receptors. This modulation can have effects on the overall inflammatory response, immune regulation, and resolution of inflammation.

Omega 3s can also be converted into specialized pro-resolving lipid mediators, such as resolvins and protectins, which have anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory effects. This directly helps to regulate immune responses and dampen histamine-related allergic reactions.

Grocery Store Cheat Sheet

Here is a helpful guide to sneak in these recommended nutrients into your diet! While this list is not exhaustive, it is a good jumping off point to help you this allergy season. Try to purchase these fresh and unprocessed foods as much as possible.

Digging into Heavy Metals with Isabel Smith, R.D.

Isabel Smith, MS RD CDN, is a nationally recognized Registered Dietitian and founder of Isabel Smith Nutrition in New York City.

Isabel received her Bachelor’s of Health and Exercise Sciences from Gettysburg College, and her Master’s of Science in Nutrition Communications from Tufts University. Isabel was trained in all areas of clinical nutrition at New York Presbyterian Hospital and has worked with patients at other esteemed academic medical centers, such as Dana Farber Cancer Institute and Hospital for Special Surgery.

In her private functional and integrative wellness practice, Isabel works with clients on hormonal balance, weight loss and intuitive eating, allergies, immune health, digestive health, athletic performance, blood sugar control, and more. You can find out more about Isabel on her website.

A Guide to Time-Restricted Eating

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Time Restricted Eating (TRE) has been around for a while, but many of the earlier studies kept suggesting that “more research was needed” to fully understand the benefits of this type of time-based dieting. Well, here it is: a hub for all the recent studies about the topic that build on prior research and speak to how beneficial TRE can be. Of course, each individual is unique and some benefits might be more evident based on individual diets and overall lifestyles.

Time-restricted eating is a form of intermittent fasting that limits what time of day you can eat. TRE has gained popularity as a weight loss strategy, but recent research has also suggested that it has benefits for overall health and longevity. One popular form of TRE is the 16:8 method, where an individual fasts for 16 hours and eats during an 8-hour window, though many other variations exist (e.g., fasting for 14, 16, or 18 hours).

Interested in different benefits of TRE? Jump to the health benefit most relevant to your needs:

SLEEP & CIRCADIAN RHYTHMInsulin Sensitivity & Metabolism, Hormonal Regulation, Melatonin Production, Improved Sleep Quality

BRAIN HEALTHMemory Improvement, Anti-inflammatory, Anxiety and Depression

CHRONIC ILLNESS REDUCTIONType 2 Diabetes, Cardiovascular Health, Metabolic Disease, Oxidative Stress

WEIGHT LOSSWeight Regulation, Fat Burn, Improved Insulin Sensitivity, Improved Energy Metabolism


Need Help Resetting Your Circadian Rhythm?

Circadian rhythm is the internal biological process that regulates the sleep-wake cycle and other physiological processes in the body, including hormone production and metabolism.

Recent studies have shown a strong link between circadian rhythm and metabolism. Disruptions to the circadian rhythm can lead to metabolic disorders such as obesity and diabetes. One of the key ways in which time-restricted eating may benefit the circadian rhythm is by synchronizing the timing of food intake with the body’s natural rhythms.

  • INSULIN SENSITIVITY & METABOLISM: Research has shown that when food intake is aligned with the natural rhythm of the body, it can lead to improved insulin sensitivity, glucose metabolism, and also lipid, or fat, metabolism.
  • APPETITE REGULATION: Additionally, time-restricted eating may help to regulate appetite by synchronizing the release of hunger-regulating hormones with the body’s natural rhythm.
  • MELATONIN PRODUCTION: Another potential benefit of time-restricted eating is that it helps to regulate the body’s levels of melatonin, a hormone that plays a key role in regulating the sleep-wake cycle. Melatonin is produced by the pineal gland in response to darkness and is responsible for signaling the body to prepare for sleep.
  • IMPROVED SLEEP QUALITY: Research has shown that eating late at night can disrupt melatonin production and lead to insomnia and other sleep disorders. By limiting food intake to earlier in the day, time-restricted eating may help to promote healthy melatonin levels and improve sleep quality.


Want to Improve Brain Health?

Time-restricted eating is not only beneficial for supporting sleep patterns, but it may also have positive effects on cognitive function.

  • MEMORY IMPROVEMENT: Studies have shown that TRE can improve memory, attention, and learning abilities in both animals and humans. This is likely because fasting can stimulate the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that plays a key role in neuroplasticity and the growth of new neurons.
  • ANTI-INFLAMMATORY: Additionally, BDNFs derived from fasting also have anti-inflammatory effects that can protect the brain from damage and disease. A study published in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience in 2019, found that time-restricted feeding improved cognitive function in mice.
  • ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION: TRE not only offers physical brain benefits, but also psychological benefits. It has been shown that time-restricted eating can improve mood and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. This may be because it can help regulate the body’s stress response and improve the overall sense of well-being.


Want to Reduce Likelihood of Chronic Illness?

Another potential benefit of time-restricted eating is that it may reduce the risk of certain chronic diseases. Studies have shown that TRE can improve markers of metabolic health, including reducing blood pressure, cholesterol, and inflammation.

  • TYPE 2 DIABETES: TRE may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, a growing public health concern affecting over 3 million people in the U.S. A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2019 found that time-restricted eating improved markers of diabetes in obese men.
  • CARDIOVASCULAR HEALTH: TRE also benefits cardiovascular health, as it can improve endothelial function and reduce the risk of heart disease by helping to regulate blood clotting, aiding in the body’s immune response, controlling substances like electrolytes that pass from the blood into tissues, and appropriately dilate and constrict blood vessels.

  • METABOLIC DISEASE: In 2020, a study titled Time-restricted Eating for the Prevention and Management of Metabolic Diseases was published in the journal, Endocrine Reviews. The meta study reviewed TRE’s effects on metabolic health with a focus on its potential to prevent and manage metabolic diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. The study found that TRE leads to weight loss, improved insulin sensitivity, and improved markers of cardiovascular health, such as blood pressure and cholesterol levels. These findings are consistent with other studies that have shown that time-restricted eating can promote weight loss and improve overall metabolic health.
  • OXIDATIVE STRESS: The study also found that time-restricted eating leads to improvements in markers of inflammation and oxidative stress, which may help to reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. This is supported by the Salk Institute study which found that time-restricted eating led to a decrease in the expression of genes involved in inflammation, which ultimately lead to these chronic diseases.

The study explored the different protocols of time-restricted eating and how they vary in their effects on metabolic health.

For example, 12 to 18-hour fasts, or short-term fasting protocols, have greater effects on weight loss and insulin sensitivity. However, 24 to 36-hour fasts, or longer-term protocols, have greater effects on markers of oxidative stress and inflammation.


Focused on Weight Loss?

 It’s also worth mentioning that time-restricted eating can be a convenient and easy way lose weight since you’re less focused on counting calories or eliminating certain foods. This makes it a more sustainable approach to weight loss and overall health, as it can be easily incorporated into a person’s daily routine.

  • WEIGHT REGULATION: A study published in the journal Obesity in 2018 found that TRE, in conjunction with a high-fat diet, led to weight loss and improved insulin sensitivity in obese individuals. The study also found that TRE led to an increase in the expression of genes related to circadian rhythm and metabolism, suggesting that TRE may work by aligning the body’s metabolic processes with its natural circadian rhythm.

  • FAT BURN: Another study published in the International Journal of Obesity in 2019 found that TRE led to a reduction in body weight and fat mass, as well as improvements in glucose tolerance in obese individuals.
  • IMPROVED INSULIN SENSITIVITY: A study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry in 2020 found that TRE led to a reduction in body weight and fat mass, as well as improvements in insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance in overweight and obese individuals.
  • IMPROVED ENERGY METABOLISM: One of the latest studies in Cell Metabolism in 2021 showed that TRE improved energy metabolism and reduced the risk of developing metabolic diseases such as obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Want more information on time-restricted eating?

We’ve got you covered. Check out these articles to learn more about TRE:

What’s Keeping Food Costs So High?

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Well, they are at it again.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and a host of other noted authorities have told us what we already knew: food costs continue to climb. Maybe not as fast as they were. But annual increases of around 10 percent still cause all of us a lot of angst. Is this the new norm?

Just how bad is it?

The BLS numbers regarding retail food price inflation really shouldn’t surprise anyone who buys food today. Food in March 2023 was 8.4 percent more expensive than food in March 2022, down from the 9.5 percent month-to-month increase seen in February.

Prices at the grocery store actually showed a slightly sharper decline, falling to “only” 8.4 percent after a February increase of 10.2 percent. It still sounds awful, unless you consider that annual food inflation peaked last summer at 11.4 percent.

The masochists among us can use the chart below to track where the cost increases hit us hardest. We’re all probably well aware of the headlines – eggs, cereals, beverages, all up sharply. 

Reading between the lines

The problem with statistics is – well, they are statistics. Cold, impersonal numbers and charts often don’t tell the story in a way we all can easily grasp and appreciate. But we all have a stake in these numbers. After all, U.S. consumers, government and businesses spent $2.12 trillion on food and beverages in 2021, at home and away from home.

That’s 2,120,000,000,000 dollar bills, or about 5.4 percent of our entire Gross National Product spent on food, representing an estimated 10-12 percent of the average American family’s disposable income.

The numbers tell us the cost of our food is hugely important, to all of us. 

We at Dirt to Dinner work hard to find the important news buried in all that data. But when we saw the latest round of numbers about food costs, we elected to look behind the numbers by revisiting some of the past reports we’ve done on the complicated food-price picture.

Back in June 2021, we picked up on some great reporting by the Toledo Blade that tracked the actual cost of a shopping cart containing 15 commonly purchased food products. The Blade captured the cost of the same items in 2003, 2008, and 2011.

We replicated the basket and added our own 2021 findings. We found a 10-year increase in the cost of the basket of 28.2 percent. We’re not gifted statisticians, admittedly. But the cost increase seemed pretty much in line with historic food price.

So what would it look like in 2023?  We conducted a quick survey to see how the cart costs lined up with the latest inflation figures. That same cart of groceries that cost us $44.96 in 2021 today clocked in at a hefty $55.61, or 23.6 percent more than just two years ago.

Big increases in prices of cereal products, sugary beverages, eggs, and coffee accounted for the largest share of the rise. Our quick look behind the numbers suggests that the dramatic events of the past three years managed to inflate our food costs almost as much as we saw in the entire 2011-20 decade.

By taking advantage of sales and promotions, however, we cut the cost of the 15 items by over $4, bringing the annual cost rise to an average of 7.3 percent. Our 2023 sample was significantly smaller than in 2021, so our findings can hardly be categorized as a rigorous statistical analysis. But as a snapshot of the price realities facing consumers, it seemed to align with the statistics provided by BLS and USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS).

Are commodity costs behind the continuing increase?

The big question that emerged for us at Dirt to Dinner had less to do with the hard numbers than the causes behind them. What’s keeping the inflation engine churning when it comes to our food?

One of the more frequent questions posed by consumers involves the cost of the commodities that fuel our modern food system. Prices for basic crops, notably food grains and feed grains, soybeans, and many other cornerstone commodities, remain high, by historical standards. But they have declined from the exceptionally high levels seen during the pandemic and the initial portion of the Ukrainian conflict.

All that aside, commodity costs are far from the only cost element in our food.

What else drives food cost inflation?

The world continues to increase production of essential commodities such as corn, soy, wheat, and palm. But as various USDA commodity reports and market analysts note, those increases are matched by equally significant increases in demand, with constant pressure on the level of available stocks to contend with disruptions to normal cropping patterns or trade needs. We are simply not likely to see production outpace consumption at the levels needed to bring commodity prices back to historically low levels.

For every dollar spent on food, where does it go?

According to an ERS analysis by the National Farmers Union (NFU), farmers receive only about 20 cents of the $4.49 cost of a two-pound loaf of bread. Overall, across all major food categories, the farmer’s share of each food dollar is estimated at 14.3 cents. That’s actually a lower share of the food dollar than the 15.5 cents received in 2020 – prior to the pandemic and Ukraine conflict.

The food dollar also includes costs for all steps along the marketing chain – obvious things such as basic and secondary processing, food manufacturing, packaging, transportation, storage, and distribution. But it also includes the cost of finance, advertising, insurance, and all the other “hidden” costs that go into moving food from dirt to dinner.

Every step in the chain is subject to the same economic pressures. Energy prices also remain relatively high. Freight rates, insurance costs, and added finance costs — all contribute to sustained upward pressure on food costs.

One commonly overlooked component of the food-dollar breakdown involves labor costs. ERS estimates that half of our food dollar goes to salaries, wages, or benefits of those across the food chain.  (In comparison, ERS estimates that energy costs represent only 3.2 cents of the same food dollar.)

BLS notes that overall U.S. wages and salaries increased by 4.5 percent in 2021 and another 5.1 percent in 2022 – almost double the annual increase seen in 2020. Increases in the labor-intensive food processing sector since 2020 have often eclipsed these levels.  As far back as November 2021, Jayson Luck of Purdue University reported substantial pay hikes already underway:

“The average weekly earnings of production and non-supervisory employees working in food manufacturing have increased 11.1% from before the pandemic in January 2020 to September 2021.

Specifically in animal slaughtering and processing, weekly earnings have increased 19.1% over this same time period. Wages for non-supervisory workers in food retail (i.e., grocery) have increased 8.5% and for workers in food service (i.e., restaurants) by 15.5% since the start of the pandemic.” 

– Jayson Luck, EconoFact, Nov. 12, 2021

More recently, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union reported new spring 2023 contracts with more generous compensation elements, including a contract for a Heinz facility offering a 23 increase in wages and compensation spread over three years, and another Delaware vegetable processing plant offering a new three-year contract with annual 5 percent wage increases, some retroactive.

Add a pinch of uncertainty, too…

By any measure, rising labor costs continue to be a significant factor in food price inflation.

Add to all that some additional complications – most oriented around the simple power of uncertainty. How long will the conflict in Ukraine go on? What new conflicts may emerge that will affect food production and trade? Will the global economy enter a recession?

Which way will energy costs go? How will climate change affect global production of essential food commodities? Are production climate patterns and global trade flows undergoing a fundamental shift? Will requests for ESG practices increase costs to the consumer? How quickly can we use science intelligently to increase global productivity and still sustain, enhance, and protect our planet’s air, soil and water?

In our modern interdependent world, uncertainty translates into risk – especially economic risk. Uncertainty creates a constant upward pressure on prices, regardless of the goods or commodities involved

The Big Question: Cost or Investment?

The uncertainties hanging over the global food system seem daunting. And they are. But they aren’t insurmountable, and history suggests our food system has always remained flexible and agile. It continues to remain healthy overall and fully capable of meeting our rising food needs. But the price we pay for that food security may be changing. Higher food costs may be the fuel needed to keep the productive engine running.

Those in the food supply chain, from dirt to dinner, have been challenged over food costs – and rising profit reports – make several points about the future and the past. Reckless claims of “greed’ and “profiteering” ignore the fact that past food prices have been an exceptionally good bargain for consumers, they contend.

Also, increases in wages and salaries have helped offset – and in many years exceeded – the rate of food inflation. The latest data from BLS suggests a growing convergence of the rate of increase in food costs and average wages.

Furthermore, the sector continues to promote sales and promotions that eat into margins, while significant investments in new and better equipment and systems are needed every day.

Double-digit annual price increases are painful, especially following two decades of retail food price inflation that averaged just 2 percent per year. But smart shopping is still an important way to ease the pain.

Economists in the public and private sectors say the inflation rates should continue to drop. But a return to the 2 percent level of increase may not, and certainly not in the short term. As ERS put it in their Food Price Outlook for 2023:

Food prices are expected to grow more slowly in 2023 than in 2022 but still at above-historical average rates. 

In 2023, all food prices are predicted to increase by 7.5 percent, with a prediction interval of 5.5 to 9.6 percent. Food-at-home prices are predicted to increase by 7.8 percent, with a prediction interval of 5.3 to 10.5 percent. Food-away-from-home prices are predicted to increase by 8.3 percent, with a prediction interval of 7.2 to 9.3 percent.

Business leaders and many economists argue that higher earnings mean we can continue to develop our food system to meet the changing expectations of consumers, for more variety, convenience, healthy options, environmental protections, fair and responsible sourcing, and all the other demands of our progressive world.

Furthermore, they point out, consumers by and large have been willing to pay the costs of building and maintaining a food system to meet those expectations.

Government and numerous other private sector reports tend to support this line of argument. Consumers combat higher food costs in a variety of ways – by being more selective in the foods they put on the table, by looking more aggressively for store promotions and sales, by cutting back on spending on out-of-home dining, and by a host of other intelligent responses to higher costs.

Despite the continuing upward trend in prices, there’s no apparent imminent rebellion in the streets. Perhaps unconsciously, we as consumers may be coming to realize that higher food prices are as much an investment in our long-term food security as a day-to-day expense.