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Eat to avoid migraines + a recipe!

Migraines can be a chronic condition which, for some sufferers, can interfere with daily activities. The cause of migraines varies in each individual, but a common trigger, and possible means of prevention, is diet. Tyramine, an amino acid formed by the breakdown of protein in aged foods, is known to trigger migraines in many individuals. Avoiding Tyramine-containing foods can help to prevent recurrent migraines and so can eating at regular intervals and staying hydrated.

Below, I have listed foods to aid in the prevention of migraines, as well as some other possible triggers to avoid.

Migraine Preventing Foods:

  • Fish, walnuts, flax seeds, olive oil, canola oil and oysters: contain Omega-3 fatty acids with anti-inflammatory properties
  • Whole grains, beans, peas, nuts, baked potatoes, dill, basil, cantaloupe and bananas: contain Magnesium, supporting proper cell function, blood-sugar levels and blood pressure
  • Sardines, salmon, collard greens, yogurt, and milk: contain Calcium and Vitamin D, with anti-spasmodic properties to help reduce the frequency and severity
  • Spinach, kale, broccoli, legumes and mushrooms: contain Vitamin B-12 (also known as Riboflavin) to help reduce the frequency
  • Black-eyed peas, walnuts, almonds, brown rice, whole grains and sesame seeds: contain Tryptophan and 5-HTTP which produce Serotonin (low Serotonin levels can trigger migraines)

Migraine Inducing Foods and Preservatives:

  • Aged/processed meat, aged cheese, fermented food (pickles, sauerkraut, kimchee), vinegar, canned soup, chocolate, caffeinated drinks and alcohol: contain Tyramine
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • MSG
  • Cured and smoked meats (bacon, deli meats, hot dogs), canned and pickled foods: contain Nitrates
  • Cold foods
  • Dried Fruit and wine: contain Sulfites

Below, I have included one of my favorite sardine recipes made with lots of migraine preventing foods. Sardines are often a forgotten fish, but don’t be scared of them! They are delicious, quick and easy to prepare. They also contain beneficial Omega-3 fatty acids, Calcium, Vitamin D, and Tryptophan. Because they are a sustainable fish and because of their small size, you don’t need to be as wary of their mercury levels as with the larger fish, like tuna. I have also added white beans to the salad as they are a great source of magnesium, and the kale contains Vitamin B-12 to help reduce the frequency of your migraines.

Lea’s Favorite Grilled Sardine Salad

Serves 4, Preparation Time: 10 minutes

  • 12-16 Fresh Sardines (have your fishmonger clean, debone, scale and filet them for you)
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper
  • 1 bunch kale
  • 1 bulb of fennel, sliced
  • 1 can white beans (drained and rinsed well)
  • 6 tbsp lemon juice
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Heat a grill or grill pan over high heat. Season the fish with red pepper, salt, and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil. Grill until firm, about 2-3 minutes per side. While the fish is grilling, slice the fennel and kale. Grill the kale until just barely wilted, about 2 minutes. In a small bowl whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Add the kale, fennel, and beans. Top with the grilled sardines, about 4 per person, add a squirt of lemon and serve.

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