Diet and Headaches

Diet has a complex role in the occurrence and severity of headaches.  What you eat can trigger headaches, but it can also help to prevent or reduce the severity of your headaches. 

Headache friendly foods

These foods are likely to help reduce the frequency and severity of your headaches:

  • Milk: Foods that contain high levels of calcium, such as milk and yogurt, will help you. Being deficient in calcium can actually cause headaches.  Remember, however, that certain kinds of cheese often act as headache triggers for many people.
  • Food rich in omega 3 fatty acids: It is the anti-inflammatory characteristics of omega 3 fatty acids that make them effective against headache. Examples of such foods include salmon, and anchovies.  Flaxseed oil is also a very good choice.
  • Foods with high magnesium levels: Foods with high levels of magnesium, such as bananas, almonds, and avocadoes, are helpful in relaxing tension of the blood vessels, thus easing headache pain.
  • Foods rich in potassium: Potassium is necessary to relieve dehydration. Dehydration, such as the dehydration caused by drinking too much alcohol, can cause headache.  An example of a food with a large amount of potassium is the potato (especially potato skin).
  • Water, and fruits that are rich in water: As dehydration causes headaches, water is an absolutely vital tool in the combating headache. An example of a fruit rich in water is watermelon.
  • Caffeine: While caffeine can also trigger headaches, it can help to relieve headaches for some people.
  • Spicy food: If you have a sinus headache, spicy food can help. This is because the heat of the spices will help to clear your sinuses (

Foods that can trigger headaches

There are many different kinds of food that are able to trigger headaches.  Headache triggers tend to vary from person to person, but listed below are some of the most common:

  • Caffeine: Even though caffeine can actually help to relieve a headache in some people, this substance acts as a headache trigger in many others. Drastically changing your caffeine intake from day to day can cause headaches.
  • Alcohol: Alcohol is a common headache trigger. Red wine (especially Chianti) is a common trigger, but it is the chemicals rather than the alcohol in it that causes headaches. 
  • Foods with a high tyramine levels: High protein foods that are not stored properly can have high levels of tyramine. This is because tyramine is produced as protein breaks down.  Tyramine often acts as a headache trigger.
  • Foods at extremely cold or hot temperatures: Extremely cold or hot temperatures can cause headaches in certain people.
  • Raw onions: Some people find raw onions to be a headache trigger.
  • Aged cheese: In people who are sensitive to aged cheese, this food can act as a headache trigger.
  • Nitrates and nitrites: These additives can trigger headaches in people who are sensitive to them.
  • Citrus juices and fruits: While people can almost always have at least half a cup of citrus per day, larger amounts of citrus juices and fruits can trigger headaches in some people.
  • Sulfites: Sulfites can cause headaches for certain people (

Remember that maintaining a generally balanced and nutritious diet will help you reduce headaches, and lessen their severity.