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HeadWay, Issue #176 -- Pros and Cons of "Nutrient-Dense" Eating to Fight Migraine
May 22, 2019

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In this issue:

"Nutrient-Dense" Eating to Fight Migraine?

The Give-Away Winner!

Say what?! Micronutrients

"Nutrient-Dense" Eating to Fight Migraine?

If you haven't already heard about it, you probably will soon. Eating "Nutrient-Dense" is all the rage. But is there a downside?

What is "nutrient density"?

Nutrient density is a comparison of nutrients to calories - a ratio. If a food is low in calories, but has a lot of nutrients, it's naturally more nutrient dense than a food that is high in calories but low in nutrients.

Why are migraineurs interested in nutrient dense foods?

As we've said here for many years, changing how we eat is simply one of the most powerful things we can do to fight migraine. But we all know that many "fad diets" simply aren't a long term benefit.

Focusing on nutrient density, however, doesn't mean cutting out a whole food group or eating the same thing every day. Every time you eat a "nutrient rich" food, you're improving your health, and may be decreasing your migraine symptoms.

The problems with the nutrient-dense eating approach

As with any "simplified" way of choosing what we eat, there are several caveats with this system. For example:

1) We don't know enough about food to know what all we need and what we don't. In the near future, eating will never be a simple 2+2 mathematical formula. Food - and your body - are too complex.

Jeffrey B. Blumberg, PhD, a senior scientist at the Antioxidants Research Laboratory of the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, says it this way: "Any one algorithm used to try to quantify healthfulness can be misleading. Which nutrients should we focus on? How much of a nutrient does a food need to make the list? How do we account for negative attributes like sodium or trans fat?" [source]

Even today we're still discovering new nutrients and compounds, and how they interact with our bodies.

2) This approach doesn't cover everything. Sometimes low or no-calorie foods are left of the list - like water (very healthy!) and herbs and spices.

3) The temptation of "the list" - making a list of the "top foods" and just eating 10 things all the time. Variety is important!

4) The temptation of the "packaged nutrient". That vitamin pill - that packaged food "packed with omega-3s" - sounds great, right? But with all our technology, it's still "real food" - whole food, that's the best for us.

The Good News

With these warnings in mind, nutrient-dense food can still be a powerful way to fight migraine. The more you can eat whole food - and the more naturally it's grown - and the closer you are geographically and seasonally to the source - the better.

And remember to avoid foods with added chemicals and highly processed ingredients - especially sugar.

Again, remember that even just choosing some more nutrient-dense foods can help your overall health and fight migraine symptoms. If you need to make small steps - this is one of the most powerful steps you can take. But never off-set those healthy choices with unhealthy ones ("because I deserve it"), or you may lose the benefits!

Examples of Migraine-Fighting Nutrient-Dense Foods

  • Kale and Spinach (organic if possible - pesticide alert!)
  • Broccoli
  • Bell Peppers
  • Blackberries/Raspberries
  • Garlic
  • Liver
  • Eggs
  • Salmon
  • Asparagus
  • Cauliflower
  • Mushrooms
That's just to get you started.

You may find these articles and books helpful in your search for nutrient-packed foods:

Say what?! Micronutrients

Micronutrients - sounds great, but what are they? Don't panic - it's easy. Micronutrients are nutrients that we need in small amounts all throughout life. You know them by the two types of micronutrients - vitamins, and minerals. There, that was easy, wasn't it?

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