Headaches and the Food Connection -- with Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
There are a couple of brands of luncheon meats that did not appear to
contain nitrates at this time, and they were Healthy Choice and Hillshire Farms
You also mentioned magnesium-rich food as something we should eat if we get
hormonal headaches. What are good food sources for magnesium?
Increasing the amount of magnesium in your diet has been demonstrated to
prevent menstrual migraine in controlled trials. So let me give you the top 12
from the long list in the book:
- whole-grain bagel
- black beans
- black-eyed peas
- bran cereal with raisins
- Brazil nuts
- 100% whole-grain bread
- brown rice
- Wheat Chex
What do I do when I'm at a restaurant and the waitress says she doesn't know
whether there's something in the food that contains a pain trigger?
The more you know the better. I do have some restaurant "do's" from the
book that I could share. There are some restaurant "don'ts," also.
Let's talk about the "do's":
- Plan ahead and do your homework on restaurants.
- Select fresh fruits or vegetables when you are given the option with your
- Ask that fat not be added to the vegetables.
- Enjoy broth-based soups rather then creamy soups.
- Order salad dressings on the side so you know exactly what amount you're
eating. You can always go for the olive oil and vinegar with nothing added to
- Go for the grilled foods, particularly roasted turkey sandwiches because
the turkey tends to have less tyramine than chicken.
- Look for menu items that are described as broiled, barbecued, grilled,
poached, steamed or roasted. These tend to be the lower-fat options.
- Opt for petite portions of meat or other dishes, when given the
There's much more information in the book but this gives you an idea of some
positive things to do in a restaurant.
You say there are foods you can eat to prevent and reduce headaches. Or is it
simply foods to avoid that you have already covered?
Since stress is the number one trigger of migraines, let's talk about how to
de-stress your diet. Basically you want to eat healthy, balanced, nutrient-rich
meals. That's your best nutritional defense against stress. When we are most
stressed we do two things: we skip meals and we eat junk, and we drink alcohol
or coffee. None of these things are going to help you with your headaches.
Let's look at de-stressing your diet six ways:
- Keep carbs handy and healthy. Stress hormones behoove us to eat a higher
carbohydrate diet, so we want to choose our carbs wisely by choosing foods that
give us carbs, plus fiber plus nutrients, like fruits, vegetables, beans, and
- Omega 3s to the rescue again. Although the uplifting effect of Omega 3s on
mood hasn't been proven quite yet, plenty of studies suggest a strong
connection, particularly for one of the Omega 3s in fish.
- Cut the caffeine. One researcher found that when people sensitive to
caffeine eliminate it from their diet their mood and energy levels
- Eat smaller more frequent meals through the day to provide your body with a
consistent supply of energy and help you avoid feeling tired or overly
- Eat breakfast. People who eat breakfast tend to have more consistent moods
and are less likely to suffer food cravings later in the day.
- Alcohol is actually a depressant and overdrinking only adds to the stress
in your life.