Prevention and treatment may involve taking NSAIDs or similar painkillers, but while they can never replace medication, certain foods have actually been shown to help prevent and ease a variety of headache types, from migraines to allergy and dehydration-induced headaches.
To help you get some much-needed relief, we've rounded-up 10 of the most effective anti-headache foods on the planet.
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Suffer from migraines? It may be a good idea to up your intake of spinach. The ultra-virtuous leafy green is packed with magnesium and B vitamins, plus it's the richest vegetable source of co-enzyme Q10 – these micronutrients may help protect against migraines and lessen their severity according to a clinical review published in 2004.
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Magnesium in particular appears to have a preventative effect on headaches, including migraines and, like spinach, almonds are rich in this essential mineral. Incredibly satiating and nutrient-dense, a mere handful of unsalted almonds should also help relieve any hunger-induced headaches you might experience.
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Salmon and other oily fish are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids. These healthy fats have anti-inflammatory properties and a number of studies have linked diets high in omega-3 with a lower risk of headaches, especially migraines. If you can, aim for two portions a week of salmon or similar oily fish, or speak to your doctor about supplementing with fish oil.
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If you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet or you're just not fond of oily fish, opt for flaxseeds or flaxseed oil instead. Flaxseeds are loaded alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is an anti-inflammatory omega-3. Try sprinkling the seeds over your breakfast cereal or porridge, baking seeded bread or drizzling your salads with the oil.
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Dehydration is a major cause of headache and research from the University of Aberdeen shows that watermelon can hydrate the body twice as effectively as water. Watermelons contain 92% water, along with 8% sugar and a variety of mineral salts that are essential for optimum hydration, including sodium, magnesium and potassium.
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Sweet potato is richer in potassium than watermelon, and making sure you have adequate levels of this essential mineral in your body may help prevent and mitigate headaches, more specifically dehydration-related headaches. Not a fan of sweet potato? Try avocado, white potato or banana instead, which are all crammed with potassium.
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Like other berries, blueberries contain a flavonoid antioxidant called quercetin. Boasting all sorts of health benefits, this beneficial chemical has antihistamine properties, so increasing your intake of berries may help prevent or relieve allergy-related headaches. Other quercetin-rich foods include capers, red onions and kale.
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Vitamin C has antihistamine properties, too, so if your headaches tend to be triggered by allergens, whether you're sensitive to pollen or pet dander, eating more vitamin C-rich foods such as peppers, broccoli and strawberries may be of benefit – you'd certainly be doing your general health a massive favour.
Asian chopped omelette with kale and peppers
If you're susceptible to allergy-induced headaches or you're living with osteoarthritis, eating pineapples may help. The tropical fruit is brimming with bromelain, an enzyme that acts as both an antihistamine and an anti-inflammatory. Research suggests bromelain can calm the pain associated with hip arthritis, and study after study has indicated that the enzyme may ease chronic joint pain.
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Low calcium levels in the body can trigger headaches and muscle cramps. If your intake of calcium-containing foods such as yogurt, kale and sardines is on the low side, you may want to think about increasing it. Yogurt is rich in migraine-busting B vitamins to boot and should also help you stay hydrated.
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