When your head’s pounding, try these soothing eats. (Photo: Getty Images)
The pain from a really bad headache can stop in you in your tracks. But it doesn’t have to. Thankfully, there are a few foods you can add to your diet that have a soothing effect. So we asked our nutrition director, Jaclyn London, MS, RD, CDN, for her favorite headache-busting eats.
1. Low-Fat Milk
One of the biggest triggers of headaches is dehydration, so skipping alcohol and foods high in sodium are key to staying hydrated and preventing headaches. And not only is milk a hydrating liquid, but it’s also full of important minerals like calcium and potassium that offset the effects of high sodium diets. Plus, research has found that low intake of dairy is associated with more frequent migraines per week. On top of that, getting your recommended three daily servings of dairy can improve your blood pressure and reduce your risk for diabetes and obesity.
2. Fatty Fish
Foods rich in B vitamins like B6, B12, and folic acid may help reduce the amount of headaches, which is why salmon and tuna are great diet additions for beating pain. Salmon alone has more than 250% of our recommended daily intake of B12 in a three ounce serving, meaning adding a bit of smoked salmon to your meal can make your stomach and head feel better. Fatty fish are also full of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, meaning adding fish to your diet is doubly important for helping cure headaches.
Because fruit is high in both water and potassium, it can counterbalance headaches caused by high sodium and dehydration. Cantaloupe also offers 66 milligrams of magnesium per one medium melon, which is about 16% of our daily recommended intake. Some studies have shown that it can also help stabilize insulin levels in non-diabetic patients. And since low blood sugar is a big headache trigger, more magnesium could help regulate your blood sugar levels and alleviate any future headaches.
4. Navy Beans
On the subject of magnesium, one cup of navy beans has more than 25% of your daily value of the vitamin, which is considered a headache-helper due to its role in muscle contraction — including those pesky blood vessels that cause headaches. Other magnesium rich foods to consider are bananas, almonds, avocados, spinach, and apricots.
Like melons, potatoes are chock-full of potassium, which can help treat headaches if you’re dehydrated. One potato with the skin packs 25% of our daily recommended intake, plus it’s full of good for you vitamins A, C, and B6. (If you’re skipping starch, try a banana, which has 422 milligrams and lots of vitamin B6, too.)
Eating any fruit can help with headaches since it’s one way to get more water into your body. However, cherries specifically contain compounds that convert to nitric oxide in the blood, which can protect against headaches. Another option is beetroot or beetroot juice.
Okay, so it’s not actually a food, but staying hydrated is the one of the most important things you can do to prevent and treat headaches. And skipping meals can pose big problems, too. “Especially if you’re someone who is sensitive to dips in blood sugar, don’t go longer than three or four hours without eating,” suggests London.
By Amanda Hawkins
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