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  » Diet Information  »  Anti-migraine diet

Headaches can be caused by many things, including illness, stress and lack of sleep. They may also be triggered by several common foods, and simply changing your diet could be the most effective treatment. Once you and your doctor have ruled out other potentially more serious causes for your headaches, take a look at what you eat every day and see if eliminating common trigger foods eliminates your headaches.

Here's how the Headache Prevention Diet can help:

• Dietary modifications that exclude common food triggers may help you pinpoint just what is causing your headaches. Although the list of potential food triggers is long (see the Dos and Don'ts section for a comprehensive list), the most common are chocolate, red wine, caffeine, MSG, Aspartame, cured meats, aged cheese, nuts, nitrate, sulfites, alcohol and ice cream. This diet excludes all common headache triggers, yet is still nutritionally balanced. Try following it for several weeks to see if it doesn't help reduce the number and severity of your headaches.
• Recent studies show that omega-three fatty acids, the kind found in fish oil, may help prevent migraines. This diet includes plenty of fish options that may reduce the frequency of your headaches.
• Caffeine, found in coffee, tea and colas, as well as more "hidden" sources like chocolate and some medications including Anacin, Excedrin and Actifed, can exacerbate headaches. This meal plan excludes foods that are high in caffeine and suggests alternatives (like herb tea and juices).


Option One Option Two Option Three
Non-citrus juice such as apple, pear or peach
Whole grain, calcium fortified cereal topped with skim milk or soy milk and fresh berries
Herb tea
Scrambled eggs (purchase those high in omega-three fatty acids) or add in some fresh cooked salmon or canned salmon and fresh herbs such as basil or cilantro
Fresh Blueberry Muffin or toasted whole grain bread
Herb tea
French toast recipe such as Seattle Apple French Toast (using skim milk)
100% juice
Herb tea


Option One Option Two Option Three
Vegetable cottage cheese (low fat) in whole-wheat pita with lettuce or sprouts
Fresh fruit
Herb tea
Homemade soup that doesn't contain prohibited foods, such as Asparagus and Sesame Chicken Soup (substituting cider vinegar for the rice wine vinegar)
Crusty roll
Calcium fortified juice
Tuna salad sandwich on whole grain bread with lettuce
Baby carrots
Strawberry Sports Shake
Oatmeal Cookies


Option One Option Two Option Three
Pasta stir-fry, such as Linguini Honey-Sauced Prawns
Steamed broccoli
Garlic bread sticks
Fresh fruit salad
Broiled fish, such as salmon or tuna
Baked potatoes
Sauteed zucchini
Microwave Rhubarb Crisp
Gingered Pork and Peaches (made without the lemon juice or peel)
Mashed potatoes
Mixed green salad
Cinnamon-Scented Raspberry Rice Pudding


• 1/2 cup cottage cheese topped with canned peaches and sprinkling of cinnamon
• 1/2 whole-wheat bagel with light cream cheese
• Hard-boiled egg and whole-wheat crackers
• Small bowl of high fiber cereal topped with skim milk or low-fat soy milk
• Soft and Chewy Molasses Cookie



• Take ginger at the first sign of a headache (1/3 teaspoon or 500 mg). According to the National Headache Foundation, ginger has a small amount of antihistamine and is an anti-inflammatory
• Get plenty of sleep. Although the reasons are not well understood, studies show that sleep deprivation can cause headaches
• Take a multivitamin supplement that includes the B vitamins and antioxidants. Deficiencies of these vitamins are a possible cause of migraines
• Read all labels very carefully to avoid trigger foods
• Avoid stress, which is considered a key headache trigger


• Go long periods without eating or forget to drink enough fluids. Low blood sugar or dehydration may be other dietary causes of headaches
• Consume artificial flavorings and preservatives, especially MSG, sulfites and nitrites. Most wines, many dried fruits and preserved fruits contain sulfites. Many canned foods contain the flavor enhancer MSG, particularly Chinese foods. Don't eat processed foods, and focus only on all natural, fresh foods. Also avoid cured meats including bacon, bologna, corned beef, ham, salami, sausage, hot dogs and smoked fish due to the nitrate content
• Eat foods containing artificial sweeteners, especially Aspartame, found in diet beverages, candy or gum. Be skeptical of foods labeled "diet" or "light"
• Eat legumes and broad beans, and pods of broad beans, including lima, navy, pinto, garbanzo, pole, fava, string and navy beans, lentils, snow peas and pea pods
• Consume hot, fresh, yeast-containing breads, including coffee cakes or doughnuts (okay if allowed to cool and okay toasted)
• Eat certain dairy products, including ripened cheeses (e.g., cheddar, brie, camembert, gruyere), whole milk, sour cream and yogurt
• Eat nuts, including peanuts, and seeds such as pumpkin or sunflower
• Eat fermented, pickled or marinated foods -- no pickles, olives, sauerkraut, chili peppers, miso, tempeh or soy sauce
• Eat particular fruits -- papayas, passion fruit, figs, dates, raisins, citrus fruits. Limit bananas to one a day. Limit tomatoes to 1/2 cup per day
• Use vinegars, except white and cider vinegar. Also avoid most mustard, mayonnaises and ketchups
• Eat food containing Brewer's yeast, large amounts of onion, chocolate and alcohol or red wine