Foods That May Trigger Migraine Headaches

A migraine refers to an excruciating headache that is often felt on one side of the head, however, it may affect both sides. Some people experience warning signs, which are also referred to as an aura. This may include vision or sensory disturbances.

Migraines may be triggered by certain foods, or more specifically, by some of the chemicals and substances that are found in many foods. Here are a few foods or food additives to be aware of if you suffer from headaches and have not yet identified the cause or causes.


Aspartame is one of the most commonly used artificial sweeteners and many people claim it can trigger a migraine. If you are prone to having migraine headaches, you should be conscious of your consumption of low-calorie desserts, yogurts, artificially sweetened items, diet beverages and “sugar-free” candies.


Sausages, hot dogs, corned beef, jerky beef, pepperoni and soy sausages all contain nitrites that can trigger a migraine. Nitrites are commonly found in foods that have been smoked, canned, pickled and/or cured.


Tyramine isn’t a food, however, it can occur in foods, such as cheeses, citrus fruits, chocolates, balsamic and red vinegar, nuts and soy foods. If foods have not been stored properly or left unrefrigerated for too long, their tyramine content may increase. Yet another good reason to not eat foods that aren’t fresh. A good saying is, “If in doubt, throw it out!”


Foods that give you that puckering and dry feeling in your mouth such as apple juice, apple cider, pears, and red-skinned apples are examples of foods that contain tannins. Tannins contribute to the astringent taste of foods.  Although more studies are still needed about tannins, there are reports that it might be a cause for migraine headaches in some people.


Sulfites are another possible contributor to incidence of migraines. This preservative is found in commercially dried fruits such as apricots, prunes and figs. Make sure to check the food labels before buying dried fruits and avoid the packages that contain this preservative. If you dehydrate your own fruit at home, this will not be an issue.

Other Food Additives

Those who experience migraines should be extra careful of buying food products that contain any of the following food additives:

  • MSG or monosodium glutamate
  • HVP (Hydrolyzed Plant Protein)
  • Autolyzed or hydrolyzed yeast
  • Sodium caseinate
  • Kombu extract – usually found in Japanese foods
  • Yeast extract.

There may be other foods or food additives that you suspect may trigger your attacks. If so, check what is in them and see what other foods may contain the potential culprit. It’s a great way to rule out the ‘bad ones’.

Living with migraines is definitely not easy, however, taking a look at your diet is a great place to start if you want to reduce them.

Health advocates and nutrition experts have been stating for years that eating fresh fruits, veggies and foods devoid of preservatives is the best way to improve health, including the alleviation of migraines.

There are many natural ways in which you can reduce if not avoid the recurrence of migraine attacks. Much kudos has recently been given to Vitamin B2 and its ability to help those who suffer from recurring migraines.

There is no truer application of “prevention is better than cure” than when it comes to migraine headaches. How much better to avoid rather than having to suffer through trying to reduce the pain of yet another migraine!