Foods to Eat to Prevent Migraines

Updated April 17, 2017

Foods that can trigger migraines--chocolate, cheese, alcohol--are well known to most headache sufferers. Foods to eat to avoid migraines are less well-known. As with trigger foods, migraine prevention foods vary for different individuals, but foods rich in calcium, magnesium, omega 3's, and seratonin-creating tryptophan have helped many migraine sufferers.

Healthy Diet in Migraine Prevention

A low-fat, high complex carbohydrate diet is recommended to reduce severity and occurences of migraines. This would involve fresh fruits, raw or steamed vegetables, whole grains like brown rice and whole wheat, and protein sources like broiled fish, baked chicken, or soy-based meat-substitute. Migraine sufferers should also avoid deep-fried foods or condiments that contain MSG unless you are certain that these are not migraine triggers for you.

The Mayo Clinic has reported that skipping meals or fasting can also trigger migraines. A healthful diet and regular meals--three to six smaller meals per day rather than snacking and then over-filling on one large meal--should not only reduce migraines, but support other positive health factors.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Magnesium

According to, omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil can protect nerves and fight inflammation associated with headaches. Fish oil can be obtained by regularly eating fish or by taking fish oil supplements. The Mayo Clinic staff has found magnesium seems to help some people with severe migraine relief. Magnesium is found in seafood, wheat germ, leafy green vegetables, beans, whole grains, and dairy products. The Mayo Clinic also says high quantities of riboflavin may also aid in migraine prevention. Most healthful foods contain riboflavin, but it may be necessary to take a vitamin supplement to get the quantities necessary to obtain migraine relief.

Seratonin levels drop during migraine incidents, so boosting seratonin levels may also help relieve migraines. Seratonin is manufactured by the body from tryptophan, the substance commonly blamed for making everyone sleepy after eating the Thanksgiving turkey. In addition to turkey, duck and chicken, tryptophan is found in walnuts, almonds, sesame and pumpkin seeds as well as in dairy products. Avoid cheeses if they trigger your migraines, but consider low fat milk, yoghurt or cottage cheese in moderate amounts to boost tryptophan intake.

Herbs and Supplements

The Mayo Clinic suggests that feverfew, butterbur, and Coenzyme Q10 may be useful in migraine prevention. The herbs feverfew and butterbur are available medicinally as extracts or supplement capsules. Coenzyme Q10 is a substance similar to a vitamin, which contributes to healthy heart and liver function. It is also available in supplement capsules without a prescription.

Lavender, chamomile, ginger, and peppermint all aid in relaxation which can help prevent migraines or ease ongoing migraine symptoms. These herbs can all be consumed in tea, applied to the head in a poultice, inhaled through steam, eaten in salads, or used as flavouring in candies and baked goods.

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About the Author

A freelance writer since 1978 and attorney since 1981, Cindy Hill has won awards for articles on organic agriculture and wild foods, and has published widely in the areas of law, public policy, local foods and gardening. She holds a B.A. in political science from State University of New York and a Master of Environmental Law and a J.D. from Vermont Law School.