Headache-Busting Foods and Nutrients

Written By: Sofia Layarda, MPH

Title: Master of Public Health

Alumni: University of California, Berkeley

Last Updated on:

Is the rush to manage and plan for Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations giving you a big headache? You’re not alone. This time of the year is a busy time for many families. But before you reach for that aspirin bottle, take a look at the following nutrients that may help shoo away pesky headaches and what foods have them.

Headache-Busting Nutrients


Magnesium helps nerve cells stay relaxed and also affects several neutrotransmitters and receptors involved in migraine attacks. There is some evidence that magnesium level is low among those who suffer from migraine. As a nutrient, it is found in whole grains such as quinoa, leafy dark green vegetables, legumes, and nuts such as almonds.

Vitamin E

Besides its antioxidant properties, Vitamin E also improves circulation and may alleviate headaches. Nuts are a good source of Vitamin E, as are sunflower seeds.


Potassium is an electrolyte, and dramatic loss of potassium, such as through vomiting, diarrhea, or intense exercise, can cause headaches. Check this list of the top 20 high-potassium foods.

Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)

Riboflavin supplementation seems to help reduce the number of migraine attacks. However, it does not appear to reduce the pain or the duration of an attack. Food sources of riboflavin include milk, eggs, meat, green vegetables, nuts, and whole grains.


It seems so simple, and yet it’s true: being dehydrated can give you headaches. If you find it hard to drink large amounts of water at once, keep a reusable water bottle with you all day and take regular sips from it.

Know Your Headache Triggers

While actual causes vary from one person to the next, the following items are considered typical headache triggers:

  • lack of sleep or irregular sleep schedule
  • skipping meals or irregular mealtime
  • dehydration
  • excessive stress

In addition, migraine sufferers may want to watch what they eat or drink, as the following items have been shown to trigger migraine:

  • artificial sweeteners
  • alcohol, especially beer or wine
  • caffeine
  • MSG or monosodium glutamate
  • aged cheeses, such as blue cheese
  • smoked or cured meats
  • chocolate

The Bottom Line

Headache has many possible causes and triggers, so prevention or treatment differs from one person to the next. Look through the list of nutrients above to see if you may be missing some of the food sources of these nutrients. The good thing is, many of these headache-busting foods also contain other nutrients that will benefit your overall health.

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alcohol, chocolate, coffee, nuts, seeds, tea, vegetables, water


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