As anyone who has had a migraine attack knows, it is not a common headache. Migraines can be debilitating and prevent you from working and participating in your everyday activities for hours or even days. They are one of the most common causes of chronic pain, affecting 39 million men, women, and children in the US and 1 billion people worldwide.
As someone who has suffered from this disease for most of my adult life, I know too well how painful and disruptive it can be. Fortunately, there have been tremendous advances in the prevention and treatment of this neurological disorder in recent years. Still, medications can cause undesirable side effects, including hair loss, constipation, and nausea, in some migraineurs.
RELATED: That One Diet Change May Reduce Your Migraines, Says A New Study
That’s why I was excited to see the results of a recent National Institutes of Health sponsored clinical study that looked at how specific dietary changes could help migraineurs. The study found that participants who consumed foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, the oils found in some fish, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, increased their diet while eating foods high in omega-6 fatty acids, like many Vegetables, restricted oils, could reduce the frequency and intensity of their migraines.
Why are omega-3 fats so special? Researchers believe they play an important role in reducing inflammation, which can contribute to migraine pain. Although more study is needed, if you have a severe headache, change your diet to reduce sources of omega-6 fatty acids and eat foods high in omega-3s. However, always speak to your doctor before trying a new diet.
Here are five foods that you should be eating to increase your omega-3 fat intake.
Oily fish like sardines, anchovies, mackerel, salmon, albacore tuna, and trout are some of the richest sources of omega-3 fatty acids. These fish contain eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), sometimes referred to as marine omega-3s. Fish can be expensive, and to increase your omega-3 fatty acid intake you will likely need at least 2-3 servings per week. Canned and bagged options are usually cheaper than fresh fish and can be an easy and convenient way to add omega-3-rich seafood to your meals.
Don’t miss what happens to your body when you eat canned salmon.
Plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids like chia seeds are made from alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which the body can convert to EPA and DHA, although not very efficiently. Still, you can increase your omega-3 intake with some plant-based foods. Not only is chia high in fiber and protein, it is also a source of more omega-3 fatty acids than salmon.
I add these delicious seeds to cereal, salads, smoothies, and jams. You can also use them to make a delicious chia pudding.
If you’re not eating fish, these shiny, golden-brown seeds are a rich vegetable source of omega-3 fatty acids. Flax seeds, like chia seeds, contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which the body can convert into EPA and DHA in limited amounts. To release their beneficial fats, always grind fresh flax seeds before using them. You can also buy them pre-ground.
Flax seeds have a mild, nutty taste and contain other healthy nutrients, including protein and fiber. I use them in muffins, salads, smoothies and on muesli and yogurt.
With 2.5 grams of omega-3 fatty acids per one ounce serving (that’s about 14 walnut halves, roughly a handful), walnuts have more alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) per ounce than any other tree nut.
A 1-ounce serving of this flavorful nut also has 4 grams of protein, 2 grams of fiber, and is a good source of magnesium – a nutrient that some studies show can help reduce the frequency and intensity of migraines.
Walnuts are a delicious addition to meals, snacks, and desserts. I always have a trail mix of walnuts and dried fruits in my handbag. I also add them to oatmeal, salads, and yogurt.
Now read an important effect of eating walnuts, says a new study!
If you don’t eat fish, consider taking a fish oil supplement to boost your omega-3 intake. Many health organizations, including the American Heart Association, now recommend consuming 1,000 milligrams of fish oil per day for anyone who does not eat fish or who only eats fish occasionally. Look for a brand that has a 5-star rating from the International Fish Oil Standards (IFOS) program.
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