Hold on to your hats…this one isn’t too good to be true.
For some of you, this is old news—you already know that including raw nuts in your diet is generally good for your health.
But for those of you who are just learning about this for the first time—Yes!—you really can eat nuts to cut down on headaches (assuming, like any food, that you haven’t specifically determined that they are one of your personal trigger foods).
Two of the most common triggers for severe headaches or migraines are:
- Blood-sugar imbalance
- Vitamin or mineral deficiencies (for a 30 day deep dive into how balanced, whole food nutrition can help you beat your headaches, check out the Migraine Freedom nutrition program)
And raw nuts are vitamin-packed, mineral-infused, bite-sized bits of goodness that carry an impressive blood-sugar-balancing caloric load that’s rooted in healthy fat and protein.
Sounds GOOD!—But which nuts are the best?
Although there is no “best” nut, most advocates swear by almonds.
For one thing, almonds are delicious.
For another, they’re readily available all over the world.
But more importantly than taste or accessibility is biological impact—almonds are loaded with salicin, a natural anti-inflammatory agent that transforms into salicylic acid inside the body.
(Fun fact—salicylic acid is one of the primary reasons aspirin is so effective as an anti-inflammatory medicine.)
However, many people are allergic to salicylic acid which means almonds (and aspirin) are obviously a no-go.
Fortunately, there are lots of backup options available, including pumpkin seeds, macadamias, sunflower seeds, brazil nuts, pistachios, pecans, hazelnuts, cashews, pine nuts, walnuts, almonds, chestnut, breadnuts, pili nuts, and Gabon nuts.
Incorporate these and other nuts into your diet on a regular basis. Try to eat at least a handful of different nuts three to four times per week, changing up the nut varieties every couple of weeks. Doing so will ensure you don’t encounter dietary boredom, and it will mitigate the risk of developing any unpleasant food sensitivities.
(Pssssst—if you’re struggling to keep your raw nut consumption up, try eating them with some fresh fruit, sprinkling them on top of a delicious salad or baked squash, or mixing them in before you serve baked carrots, Brussels sprouts or other veggies.)
Ultimately, you want to try no less than ten different varieties to ensure both your palate and body get well-rounded exposure to what’s out there.If your local grocery store doesn’t have that many options, that’s OK—online shopping has made purchasing unusual or hard-to-come-by foods (including nuts) easier than ever.
Raw is right
Always aim to get your hands on raw, unprocessed nuts—the closer they are to being “in-shell” the better (soaked or sprouted nuts are also a fantastic option). And read the ingredients because there should only be one—the raw seed or nut! Avoid added oils, or nuts dusted with extras like wheat flour.
And buy certified-organic raw nuts.
Non-organic, commercially processed nuts are usually fumigated with nasty pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides (this is especially true with almonds)—things you absolutely do NOT want in your body.
(Pssssst—If you’re just not a fan of raw nuts and are in need of an alternative—buy raw nuts and then bake them at home. Eat your baked creations either plain or lightly seasoned with wholesome herbs and spices like salt, pepper, paprika, cayenne, rosemary, Chinese five-spice, cinnamon, or clove.)
Listen to your body
As you sample different nuts and different seasonings, pay attention to your body.
Everyone digests nuts and seeds a little differently, and some nuts are going to be more naturally suited to your digestive system than others. If you start to experience any gastrointestinal stress that ties into the consumption of a particular nut or seasoning, you may be consuming more than you can handle.
Try ratcheting-back your intake to see if it’s a volume issue.
If you scale back the number of nuts you eat and the problem persists, you may just need to stay away from that type of nut.
(Pssssst—if you have questions about your gastrointestinal system, or how GI-troubles can tie into your migraines, it’s time to set up a 20-minute consultation!)
Keeping and consuming
How you store (and when you eat) your nuts matters, so pay attention to expiration dates and storage instructions.
Some types of nuts—like walnuts and pecans—are richer in fats than others, and these fats have an unfortunate tendency to turn rancid with either the application of heat or time.
That means the further removed these nuts are from harvest, the less pleasant they are to taste. If they sit too long in the pantry or on the store shelf, expect them to have a biting, bitter flavor.
Pay attention to peanuts
While you’re welcome to try any number of seeds or nuts in your quest to alleviate the symptoms of your headache, do try to avoid peanuts (easier said than done).
First of all, they’re not a true nut, they’re a legume.
Secondly, most of the peanuts you’ll ever encounter have been processed using unhealthy cooking oils. While raw peanuts exist, they’re not easy to find.
But most importantly, peanuts are frequently contaminated by aflatoxins—poisonous, cancer-causing chemicals that are the byproduct of the fungi Aspergillusflavis.
Taking these three things into consideration, it becomes pretty easy to see why you’re better off avoiding peanuts.
Taking a break
This might be hard to believe, but your body can develop cumbersome food sensitivities if exposed to certain foods too frequently (yes, even healthy foods like nuts).
Although they’re an immune-based reaction, food sensitivities are entirely different from food allergies and require special testing to appropriately diagnose.
If you suffer from headaches when you eat your favorite nuts—and you’ve been eating those nuts regularly for the last two or three years—think about removing them from your diet for at least six months.
Fighting your headaches with more superfoods
Nuts are just a few of the amazing, headache-fighting foods that you can incorporate into your diet to start feeling better.
If you’d like to learn about some of the other ways to fight headaches through diet—or if you’re simply feeling a little overwhelmed by all of this nutritional information—it’s probably time to set up a call with a nutritional coach.
Stay healthy. Stay Amazing.
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