Are you one of the 45 million people in the United States who suffers from headaches? If so, relief could be found by taking a close look at your diet.
Headaches, and more severe migraines, can be triggered by any one of the following:
• Skipping meals
• Changes in weather
• Some physical activities
• Hormonal changes
It is important to see your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment of chronic or severe headaches.
But certain foods may also trigger headaches and migraines. The list of potentially offending foods is long. Chances are, if you are susceptible to food-triggered headaches, they will be set off by only one or a few foods. Keep track of what you eat and your headaches for a few weeks. If you identify foods that may be triggers, eliminate them one at a time to see if you get some relief.
Headache relief may come from drinking adequate water and caffeine-free beverages, eating regular meals and snacks and eliminating any trigger foods from your diet.
Foods implicated in headaches and migraines include:
• Aged cheeses: cheddar, blue cheese, Brie and Camembert
• Alcohol: especially red wine and champagne; It is best to omit alcoholic beverages all together or limit them to one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men
• Artificial sweeteners: aspartame
• Beans: broad beans, lima beans, fava beans, snow peas
• Bread: sourdough bread, fresh yeast and homemade bread
• Caffeine (excessive amounts – usually > 2 cups/day): caffeinated tea, coffee, cola, diet cola
• Chocolate, nuts, peanut butter, pizza
• Fermented, pickled (pickles, olives, sauerkraut) or marinated foods
• Fruits: citrus fruits, dried fruit, papayas, avocados, red plums, bananas
• Ice cream
• Items containing MSG (monosodium glutamate), which is a food additive and flavor enhancer, often found in Chinese restaurant foods and in many processed foods, including soy sauce, meat tenderizers, seasoned salt
• Processed meat and fish: herring (pickled or dried), sausage, bologna, pepperoni, salami, summer sausage, hot dogs, chicken livers, pâté, deli meats, smoked seafood items
Sources: ADA Fact Sheet: Migraine Headaches and Food: The “Trigger Factor,”
Cleveland Clinic Health System Web site
National Headache Foundation
A helpful resource for more information is the National Headache Foundation (www.headaches.org).
By Hollis Bass, MEd, RD
Judy’s passion for cooking began with helping her grandmother make raisin oatmeal for breakfast. From there she earned her first food service job at 15, was accepted to the world famous Culinary Institute of America at 18 (where she graduated second in her class), and went on to the Fachschule Richemont in Switzerland where she focused on pastry arts and baking. But after learning that the quality of a croissant directly varies with how much butter it has, Judy sought to challenge herself by coming up with recipes that were as healthy as they were tasty.
Judy received The Culinary Institute of America’s Pro Chef II certification, the American Culinary Federation Bronze Medal, Gold Medal, and ACF Chef of the Year. Her enthusiasm for eating nutritiously and deliciously leads her to constantly innovate and use the latest in nutritional science to guide her creativity, from putting new twists on fajitas to adapting Italian brownies to include ingredients like toasted nuts and cooked honey. Judy’s publishing company, Food and Health Communications, is dedicated to her vision that everyone can make food that tastes as good as it is for you.