Below is a list of foods that are known to be inflammatory. As a migraine sufferer, foods in the "obvious" list should be cut out drastically before anything else, as should wheat, grains and the oils on the "not so obvious" list.

For the remaining foods, you can perhaps work at reducing them more slowly over time. Complete elimination is often an unrealistic goal for many of us, but if you can cut your consumption (e.g. from dairy 3x a day to 1x a day and then a few times a week) that should help. The occasional lapse is ok as long as you are making progress over the longer-term.

Remember that the degree to which your body reacts with any given food depends a lot on whether you are genetically sensitive to the food. You can gauge your intolerance to any given food by taking a systematic approach e.g. following the approach of a reintroduction diet.

The obvious ones

The best place to start is cutting out processed foods.

If it’s been made in a factory, keeps on the shelf for a long time or has ingredients you can’t pronounce, it probably doesn’t belong in your shopping trolley.

I’m looking at you ready meals, sauces and sugary sweets.

 Food types

Fast food - burgers, chips, fried chicken etc

Microwave or oven meals

Store bought sandwiches

Sweets & candies

Artificial sauces, mixes, seasonings and flavourings

Fizzy drinks - cola, lemonade, orangeade - includes sports drinks, "diet" versions, "zero" versions 

Potato chips

Sugar - dessert, ice cream, milk chocolate, white chocolate

Dairy such as store-bought yoghurt, Greek yoghurt, American cheese, Cottage cheese, ricotta cheese



The not so obvious ones

If you’re already making progress cutting out the processed foods and eating cleaner, your next big targets are wheat (bread, pasta, pizza), grains, legumes and oils.

Category

Specific foods, ingredients

Wheat

Bread, pizza, sandwiches, toast, croissants, tortillas, pastry, crackers

Pasta

Noodles

Cakes, cookies, biscuits, baked goods

Battered foods

Corn & maize

Breakfast cereals, lots of processed foods (high fructose corn syrup)

Rice

White rice, brown rice

Other grains

Oats, porridge, breakfast cereals, barley, sorghum, millet, quinoa, rye, buckwheat

Beans

Kidney beans, black beans, baked beans, green beans

Legumes

Lentils, chickpeas, soy milk, tofu, peas

Nuts & seeds

Peanuts, peanut butter, pumpkin seeds, cashew nuts, sunflower seeds, chia seeds

Fruits & vegetables

Tomatoes (peeled and deseeded is ok), cucumber (peeled and deseeded is ok), bell peppers (peeled and deseeded is ok), potatoes, eggplant/aubergine, pumpkin, melons, squashes

Oils

Grapeseed, corn, soy, sunflower, safflower, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, partially hydrogenated canola oil, peanut oil

 

So what can I eat?!

We feel you!

Looking at this list can be exasperating. It rules out so many things that we're used to eating every day.

But the science is increasingly showing that eating these things (particularly wheat- & grain-based products) as regularly as we do causes a build of inflammation over time that causes all sorts of illness, migraine included.

In terms of replacement ingredients, here are a few easy wins:

  • Make sweet potatoes (try boiled, baked or mashed) your staple carb
  • Replace ordinary rice with homemade cauliflower rice
  • Use avocados for bulk or creaminess
  • Use coconut milk instead of dairy cream
  • Add ground nuts like almonds (no peanuts or cashews) to sauces and soups for creaminess
  • Make pizza at home using almond flour instead of wheat flour
  • Make your own tortillas from fresh plantains (like bananas) instead of store-bought ones
  • Stop cooking with sunflower, grapeseed and vegetable oils and use hemp, coconut or olive oil instead

Having gone through the process of cutting down many of these inflammatory foods ourselves, we have found the real key to success is not so much motivation or willpower, but having tasty and easy recipes at the ready to replace your old favourites.

We're working on bringing you our favourite replacement recipes as part of the Migraine Escape Diet, which is coming soon. In the meantime, we recommend checking out The Plant Paradox Cookbook for lots of great recipes to try.