Health - Diet & Nutrition
By: - at October 24, 2013

Top 15 Foods That Help Migraines

Migraines are painful headaches that keep people from getting to work or from attending other social events. Sensitivity to light, nausea, and vomiting often accompany these head-throbbing experiences. Migraine sufferers describe them as constant and intense throbbing that can last anywhere from a few hours, to a couple days before getting relief.

migraine sufferor

The Migraine Research Foundation indicates that over 10 percent of the American population suffers from migraines, and that migraines are one of the top 20 disabling medical conditions in the world. Migraines are much more common in women than they are in men. 18 percent of women experience migraines annually, and only 6 percent of men report having migraines. Even school-aged children suffer from migraines which can cause them to miss school, and fall behind in their studies.

stressed business person migraine

Doctors are not exactly sure what causes migraines. Some patients experience them as a result of weather changes, hormone fluctuation, or due to stress. The popularity of seeking natural and organic treatments for ailments has drastically increased the number of people using dietary changes to prevent and treat medical conditions, including migraines. The drugs prescribed to migraine sufferers are typically strong medicines with harsh side effects, and can be pretty expensive. So if youíre interested in avoiding medications or if you simply canít afford them, pay attention because there are a variety of dietary changes you can make that can help naturally prevent migraines.

15)  Beef
Why it works: Beef is a great option for people who like first-class proteins and are afraid to try seafood as a migraine-reducing option. A first-class protein is a protein that contains all 8 essential amino acids. Beef is also very affordable for most people. With a decent amount of magnesium, beef can function for some as a migraine fighter.

Ways to add it: If you already eat beef, you may want to consider changing to a lighter, less fatty version to reap its full health benefits.

Beef Stuffed Bell Peppers - Home-style Food that Prevents Migraines
Beef Stuffed Bell Peppers - Home-style Food that Prevents Migraines

If not, you can prepare it in so many ways, from meatballs, to steak on the grill, or stuffed peppers. The fat on beef, even in a lean cut, has a rich flavor so you donít need to add a lot to beef to make it tasty.

14)  Olive Oil
Why it works: Olive oil is rich in omega-3 fats, good fats that your body needs to be healthy. A diet rich in omega-3 will help to lower blood pressure. Any food that increases your blood pressure may cause headaches or migraines. Olive oil should not be your only source of omega-3 fats because itís unlikely you could eat as much of it as you need, to get the recommended daily amount. The Mayo Clinic recommends that adults consume 1.6 grams of omega-3 fats per day, and olive oil only has .2 grams per serving. This is why olive oil is low on the list. It still has health benefits and can help prevent migraines, so consider using it the next time you need oil for a recipe.

Try to Stick to Baking or Using Olive Oil in Salad Dressings
Olive Oil is Great to Cook with but it Alters Omega-3 Properties - Try to Stick to Baking or Using it in Salad Dressings

Ways to add it: Olive oil is a great alternative to other oils and fats while cooking and baking in the kitchen. Be careful, though, because frying olive oil will hinder its omega-3 health properties. Instead, use it in baking, or to make salad dressings in which you consume it raw. You can also add it lightly to pasta before serving. It gives a nice olive flavor to any dish. Even people who donít typically like whole olives will enjoy the delicate flavor of olive oil. Be careful when purchasing olive oil that you make sure the oil you are buying is just that. Do your research to make sure it is actually made from olives. You can usually tell that the oil is whole, or partial olive oil, if it has a green tint to it and has an olive taste. Some bottles even show if other oils are combined with the olive oil, so make sure to avoid those.

13)  Eggs fortified with Omega-3
omega 3 eggsWhy it works: If youíre not a fish eater, you can get the same omega-3 benefits from eggs fortified with omega-3 fats. Omega-3 fortified eggs have five times the amount of omega-3 fats as regular eggs. These eggs are made by feeding the hen a diet high in omega-3. You can check out the labels of any egg carton to search for cage-free eggs. These fortified eggs shouldnít be much different in price than traditional ones, though a cage-free egg is more expensive.

Ways to add it: Eggs are so versatile. If youíre not an egg eater in the traditional forms, you can slide them into recipes and not even taste them. Many baking recipes call for eggs: pancakes, muffins, cookies, cakes, and more. Keep eggs on hand to grab if you need to bake something. Itís particularly cost saving to bake your own breakfast items and simply freeze them.

omega 3 eggs

By keeping eggs in your refrigerator, you can do this anytime with other simple ingredients like whole wheat flour, sugar or applesauce, oil, and baking powder or soda, plus whatever special ingredient you want to add like fruit or nuts. Eggs are still good if they are kept refrigerated for up to four weeks past the date on their carton.

12)  Sweet Potato
Why it works: Sweet potatoes are simply healthy, no matter what your nutrition goals are. They are rich in beta-carotene, vitamin C, omega-3 fats, and magnesium. Both omega-3 fats and magnesium are food based migraine deterrents. With all the other added health benefits, choosing sweet potatoes is a smart decision.

sweet potatoes

Ways to add it: Sweet potatoes are quite versatile and can usually be found year-round in American supermarkets. Boiling, steaming, and roasting them are the best ways to make sure their healthy properties remain intact before consuming. Slice them thinly and drizzle with olive oil to make a baked, crispy chip.

Sweet Potato Chips
Sweet Potato Chips

They can also be chopped, boiled, and then mashed as a replacement for mashed white or red potatoes. A lot of people like to add cinnamon and butter to sweet potatoes, though they already have a sweet flavor, so be careful how much sweetness you add to them. They make a great ingredient for baking as well. Sweet-potato pie, anyone? If youíre not a huge sweet-potato fan, but love white or red potatoes, try mixing in some sweet potatoes. If you mash or roast your potatoes, you can add them in a more subtle way.

11)  Chicken
Why it works: Chicken is another great alternative for the non-fish eaters out there. It is also extremely affordable. Even hormone and antibiotic-free chicken is easily accessible and affordable these days. Chicken is also high in omega-3 fats, as well as to packing a punch of magnesium. Plus, most Americans grew up consuming chicken on a pretty regular basis, so itís a comfortable and safe ingredient for many people.

Ways to add it: If youíre not already eating chicken, you can prepare it in so many ways. It can dry out quickly, but needs cooked so that any pink is removed from the center. Itís such a common ingredient, but so many people overcook it. To prevent it from drying out, you can cook chicken in a marinade in a crock pot. Crock pots are fairly affordable, and you can get a small one to cook small family meals. Make sure your marinade is nice and moist and covers all the chicken. You may want to add some olive oil to it. Another way to get the most use out of a chicken is by cooking a small whole chicken in the crock pot for about five hours, and then using the bones to make your own chicken stock to make soups you can freeze.

Chicken Chasseur - Classic French Casserole
Chicken Chasseur - Classic French Casserole

Then all you have to do is throw it in the microwave to heat it up, eating when you donít have time to cook and possibly grabbing a bite on the run. Chicken is versatile as an ingredient and can be prepared in so many ways. You can also use almost every part of the chicken in preparation.

10)  Tuna
Why it works: Tuna has an extremely high amount of omega-3 fats. If youíre a fish eater, tuna is a good choice for you. It has almost .5 grams per serving, almost 5 times the amount of omega-3 than chicken contains. Tuna also has about the same amount of magnesium that chicken does. It also contains a healthy dose of riboflavin or vitamin B-2, which is another natural migraine preventive supplement. With all of these headache fighters, itís hard to say no to tuna.

Ways to add it: If you donít love canned tuna, try fresh tuna cooked like a steak. Some people only associate tuna with tuna salad and a mayonnaise-rich sauce, but there are so many other ways to prepare and eat tuna.

Tuna Steak
Tuna Steak

Even if you donít like sushi you may enjoy tuna tartare. In this preparation it is only cooked with citrus juice, so itís practically rare. If the flavors of the vinaigrette are punchy and flavorful, then you probably wonít even tell that youíre eating tuna. Of course, classic tuna salad with crackers is popular with many people and is an excellent way to reap all of its health benefits with very little preparation.

Classic Tuna Salad with Crackers
Classic Tuna Salad with Crackers

9)  Pork
Why it works: One serving of pork has half a recommended dayís amount of vitamin B-2. High amounts of vitamin B-2 (riboflavin) can help prevent migraines. It will not alter the strength or duration of migraines, but it may result in less headaches and migraines for a migraine sufferer. Pork is another affordable protein that many American families already consume regularly. It goes in and out of fashion in the food industry but if youíve forgotten about it, try bringing it back into your diet.

Classic Pork Chop
Classic Pork Chop

Ways to add it: Pork is a light meat similar to chicken. In fact, it can be a chicken substitute in almost any dish. Pork loin is particularly juicy, tender and relatively affordable. You can even purchase marinated pork loin at the grocery store. Be careful of the salt content in these prepared protein dishes as most prepared foods usually contain high quantities of sodium.

Roast Pork Tenderloin
Roast Pork Tenderloin

It may be cheaper and healthier for you to make your own marinade. Pork also pairs well with fruits like strawberries and apples, and can be served cold in the summer for a refreshing change to classic dishes like boring chicken salad.

8)  Whole Grains
Why it works: Whole grains are good for you for a variety of reasons. They are packed with complex carbohydrates that your brain needs to function properly. They also help to prevent blood sugar swings that may cause headaches and migraines. Whole grains can help reduce cardiovascular issues and diabetes. Both of these ailments can contribute to the horrific pain headache and migraine sufferers experience every day. Whole grains also contain vitamin B-2 and magnesium. A vitamin and mineral that both ward off migraines. It is so easy to purchase whole grains these days in a variety of forms, so consider going the whole grain route instead of choosing a refined grain the next time you are shopping.

whole grains

Ways to add it: The best way to make the switch from refined to whole grains is to start mixing them together. Some people note that whole-grain bread, pasta, and rice are an acquired taste. By eating half and half at first, you can slowly ease into the transition. Be careful when you purchase whole grain products, because many are labeled ďwhole grainĒ but also contain refined grains. To know that a product is 100 percent whole grain you must look at the ingredient label. The first ingredient in bread, pasta, or rice should be ď100 percent whole grain/wheat.Ē If itís not, look at for an alternative brand or product that has 100 percent whole grain/wheat printed on the box. You can even make your own whole grain products at home: breads, muffins, cakes, cookies, and more. If you purchase white whole-wheat flour, it will give you all the benefits of red germ whole wheat, but with the taste and cooking properties of refined white flour. Your kids wonít even notice the difference!

7)  Almonds
Why it works: Almonds have been a known headache fighter for a long time in the health community. And with almond milks and butters in vogue, itís easier than ever to add them to your diet. One serving of almonds has more than half of the recommended daily value of magnesium, one of the most important headache fighting minerals.

Ways to add it: With the increased caution about GMOs and the ways in which soybeans are cultivated and processed in this country, it makes sense to use almond milk in cereal and for baking needs.

Almond Milk
Almond Milk

It tastes similar to both soy milk and cowís milk, and can be stored in the fridge for weeks. Almond butter, though a more expensive alternative to peanut butter, is also packed with the healthy benefits of almonds. Kids probably wonít be able to tell the difference either. A handful of lightly salted almonds as a snack will go a long way to helping prevent the next headache that might be right around the corner, and will keep you satisfied and full for hours.

6)  Leafy Greens
Why it works: Any leafy green is a great option for headache prevention. They are also filled with magnesium, so theyíll stave off that upcoming headache or migraine. You can easily find leafy greens in your grocery store, too. You get a lot of nutrition for a relatively little expense.

Fresh Green Kale
Fresh Green Kale

Ways to add it: Not everyone loves leafy greens. You can sneak them into smoothies and shakes or use just a small amount in salads with less leafy lettuce. Donít forget that greens on turnips and beets also count.

Fresh Red Beet Juice
Fresh Red Beet Juice

If they are sautťed lightly, they will provide a delicious and inexpensive dose of magnesium.

5)  Broccoli
Why it works: Broccoli is rich in phosphorous, a mineral that aids the body in energy storage. This is essential for nerve function and can help prevent migraines that are caused because of low electrolytes or fluids.

Glass of Broccoli Juice
Glass of Broccoli Juice

Ways to add it: Broccoli is not everyoneís favorite food, but its health benefits make it worth eating. If youíre not a fan of boiled or steamed broccoli, try roasting it in the oven with some olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast at a high temperature or even broil. The tips will get a bit crispy, and some of the bitter flavor will subside with the addition of olive oil and salt and pepper.

4)  Halibut
Why it works: If you like seafood, choose a fish like halibut. Halibut has almost all of the migraine-fighting elements: omega-3 fats, magnesium, and vitamin B-2. The omega-3 fats in halibut are so high, that youíd just need a little over a single serving to get your recommended daily amount. Itís also a more palatable fish for most than tuna.

Halibut Seared on a Bed of Brown Rice
Halibut Seared on a Bed of Brown Rice

Ways to add it: Halibut is a delicate and flaky white fish. Its delicate flavor is mild enough even for those who donít love fish. Toss it on the grill with a flavorful marinade and itíll cook quickly and taste delicious. Try it instead of chicken or steak next time you have a barbeque.

3)  Flaxseeds
Why it works: Believe it or not, flaxseeds have way more omega-3 fats than any fish. Just one serving of flaxseeds will give you almost 30 times your recommended daily amount! It seems that a lot of companies now are putting flaxseeds in their products, so itís easier than ever to get them into your system as a powerful migraine fighter.

Brown and Golden Flaxseed
Brown and Golden Flax Seed

Ways to add it: Try a cereal with flaxseeds. On their own, they may be too gritty and rich for most people, but put in cereal or granola, flaxseeds are delicious. And since you only need a small amount, you can simply add a small handful to one of your meals and youíre set for the entire day.

2)  Pumpkin Seeds
Why it works: One serving of pumpkin seeds has almost twice the recommended daily amount of magnesium. Magnesium has been proven to be the number one migraine fighter when it comes to minerals. Almost every medical source on migraines recommends magnesium as a preventive dietary measure. It also has the added bonus of relaxing you and helping you sleep. Lack of sleep can certainly worsen or even cause headaches and migraines.

Organic Pumpkin Seeds
Organic Pumpkin Seeds

Ways to add it: You can usually find pumpkin seeds at the store easily in the nut section, but itís fun to roast them yourself in the fall. Pumpkins are relatively inexpensive when theyíre in season, so simply add some olive oil and spices to the seeds, pop them in the oven at a high temperature, and youíll have a tasty snack in minutes. You can also add them to salads for an added crunch.

1)  Water
Why it works: The best thing you can do to prevent headaches and migraines is to stay hydrated. This is a crucial component for preventing migraines. With so many drink options available, it is no surprise that many people live in a natural state of dehydration. Diuretic drinks such as coffee, soda, and tea are sometimes the only liquids people drink throughout the day. For some people caffeine is a trigger so if you suffer from migraines, go for decaf tea or coffee in moderate amounts. According to a report in the Associated Press, the average American consumes 44 gallons of soda per year. One of the first symptoms of dehydration is headache or light-headedness. If youíre already a headache sufferer, this dehydration headache can quickly escalate into a full-blown migraine. Many people donít even realize they are dehydrated. The best way to determine if youíre dehydrated is to evaluate how you feel when you go for a drink. If you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated and should only be reaching for water. By staying hydrated you will be taking the best step at not only preventing migraines, but improving your overall health and diet.

glass of water

Ways to add it: There are many supplement mixes that can be added to water to help you get the amount of water you need. The general rule of thumb is to take your weight, divide it in half, and then drink that many ounces of water per day. So, if you are a 140-pound woman, you should consume 70 ounces of water (or 8.75 glasses that are 8 ounce in size) per day. Since you are trying to prevent migraines, you may want to hydrate a bit beyond this recommendation. When choosing a mix to add to your water, if you donít like the taste of water or canít bring yourself to drink that many ounces, be careful to read the ingredients. Some of these supplement mixes contain caffeine, artificial sweeteners, or large amounts of sugar. Choose a supplement mix that is derived from real fruit and contains supplements you feel comfortable taking (Vitamin C is a great one). You should also carry around a bottle of water so that you can sip on it all day long. This way, you can sneak in a lot of extra water without feeling like you have to drink many glasses of water all at once.

Final Thoughts
Most migraine sufferers live in fear about when their next migraine will come along. If you equip yourself with the knowledge to help prevent these debilitating headaches, you can go through your day and life with confidence that youíve done all you can do to prevent the next one from sneaking up on you. And if your migraines are caused by stress, taking preventative measures can also help relax you and decrease the stress you feel. Of course everybodyís migraine triggers are unique. If you are a new migraine sufferer, consider keeping a food diary so that you can track which foods trigger them. Even if a food is on the migraine prevention list, if it causes you to feel bad or get a headache or migraine, you should stop incorporating it into your diet. With the right tools and a healthy diet and life outlook, you can prevent migraines before they even happen.





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