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Top 5 Food Triggers for Migraines

Top 5 Food Triggers for Migraines

Find out which foods are causing your headaches and migraines and which healthy food swaps can help.

Scratching your throbbing head as to what’s triggering those awful migraines? While the direct cause is still a little foggy in the minds of researchers, the food on your plate could reveal many culprits.

With millions of migraine sufferers in the United States alone, the causes and level of tolerance can vary, but here’s a look at the most common food triggers:

1. Caffeine

Caffeine can be just as much of a foe as it is a friend. In the short term, a little caffeine may be good at warding off a migraine, but excessive consumption could act as a trigger for migraines.

Swap: Opt for herbal tea, since even decaffeinated coffee and tea still contain small levels of caffeine. 


2. Chocolate

Caffeine and other ingredients in chocolate can contribute to a not-so-sweet side effect when it comes to inducing migraines.

Swap: Carob -- unrelated to cocoa but similar in flavor -- may be a better option to satisfy those chocolate cravings.


3. Nuts

Whole nuts, nut butters, and nut milks can all trigger migraines. Because this is a such a broad category, it’s valuable to test different nuts and nut products individually.

For those who experience nuts as triggers, pay special attention to the ingredients of baked goods, granola, and cereal blends, as well as sauces and salad dressings which can be nut-based or contain a nut oil.

Swap: Test out some of the nut-free alternative butters such as sunflower butter, or use an alternative plant-based oil such as olive oil or avocado oil.


4. Preservatives

Add “migraine trigger” to the long list of reasons to minimize processed food in your diet. Nitrates and monosodium glutamate (MSG) can be among the worst offenders. Nitrates occur naturally in some foods, but are often added as a preservative in increased amounts to items such as processed meats, bacon, sausage, and hot dogs.

MSG is also commonly found in many processed foods and seasonings. Moreover, it can be tricky to spot: in addition to being listed as “monosodium glutamate,” it may be hidden in ingredients such as hydrolyzed vegetable or soy protein, whey protein concentrate, glutamic acid and sodium caseinate among others.

Swap: Look for more natural versions and “preservative-free” labels, or choose fresh, whole foods to avoid these preservatives all together. Also look for foods labeled “No MSG.”


5. Artificial sweeteners  

They may be lower in calories, but fake sweeteners can cause real pain in your head. Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose and saccharin have found their way into countless products, so it’s important to read labels, and especially those touting themselves as low calorie or low fat. Culprits include diet beverages, soups, low fat yogurts, salad dressings and even gum.

Swap: Opt for naturally sweet fruit, or spices such as cinnamon and vanilla, to sweeten a yogurt or beverage. If dining out, it may better to opt for the original product and just enjoy a smaller portion.


Identifying your personal food triggers can be a time-consuming process, but eliminating these common culprits could put you on the fast track to more migraine-free days.


Do you suffer from headaches or migraines? Share your tips in the comments below!


nutrition advice, nutrition facts, migraines, headaches, migraine triggers, headache triggers

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