When you eat a low-fat diet, you not only cut down on the number of migraines you get, but you can have shorter and less painful headaches, too. That means less medication. Researchers at the University of California at Irvine tracked the diets of 42 women and 12 men with migraines. Their findings could change your life.
Halt headaches. During the first month of the study, they all stuck to their usual eating pattern. Those who ate fewer than 69 grams of fat a day suffered, on average, five migraines. Those who ate more fat had twice that many migraines. When they limited their fat to 20 grams a day — equal to one McDonald’s Quarter Pounder — everyone had fewer migraines.
Not surprisingly, they also lost weight, lowered their percentage of body fat, and slashed their cholesterol.
Make smart substitutions. You don’t have to turn into Jack Sprat, but a low-fat diet might be worth a try. Even if you can’t get down to 20 grams a day, cut some fat and leave those migraines behind.
Here are some easy ways to shave fat grams during a typical day:
- Use a cup of skim milk instead of whole milk on your breakfast cereal and you’ll slash 8 grams of fat from your morning meal.
- Instead of a double-bacon cheeseburger, fries, and a shake for lunch, eat a turkey sandwich on whole-wheat bread, skim milk, and an apple. You just cut your fat intake by nearly 60 grams.
- For dinner, a batter-dipped fried chicken breast might sound yummy, but a skinned and roasted chicken breast has 31 fewer grams of fat.
In general, aim for more fruits, vegetables, and legumes and less meat, cheese, and chocolate. When cooking, steam, poach, roast, broil, grill, or microwave your food rather than saute or pan-fry it. Use herbs, spices, and chicken broth for flavor instead of butter and sauces.
Get the big picture
Experts believe migraines are just a signal that you have a type of imbalance going on in your body. High levels of blood lipids — or fats — along with free fatty acids in your blood lead to changes in your body that cause your blood vessels to dilate. This change in blood flow contributes to migraines. Researchers think reducing dietary fat could help reduce migraines.
While this theory seems sound, keep in mind that other factors might be involved. When the people in the study changed their diet, they didn’t only eat less fat. They also consumed different nutrients, while eating fewer calories. So fat might not be the only thing affecting their headaches. It’s still a good, healthy strategy — for your head and the rest of your body — to trim some fat from your diet.