We all know there are healthy foods and not so healthy foods.
And the science behind food is now well passed foods that are healthy or not, even if mainstream knowledge is still far behind.
So why are we developing chronic illnesses like migraines(15%), fibromyalgia(6%), diabetes or prediabetes (1 in 3), alzheimer’s(2%), autism(1 in 68 children) and risk for heart disease(1 in 2) at such alarming rates?
Well science has now started focusing on our ability to digest, assimilate, absorb and eliminate foods as critical in developing into healthy humans, or progressively weakening the genes we pass on.
This is the next step in knowing what foods are and are not favourable for us to eat, especially for migraineurs.
No longer will we be tricked into believing grains and dairy are the main staples in our diets by government subsidized industries only to find out years later that many of the foods touted as “healthy” are the opposite (Ex. Low fat, low sugar, fortified, enriched).
We now know that we need to listen to our body and its reaction to foods to know if it sits favourably with us or in turn causes our body more issues than it solves.
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
Spoken thousands of years ago but still as true today.
When we want to heal, to reduce sensitivities to foods, to build our immune system, help provide the nutrients to repair our brains and our guts, to clear up our skin or just to stop the flurry of symptoms we keep battling with.
Food is there for us.
Unlike many of the modern chemicals used in healthcare today, food has been with us since the beginning of time as our source for health, nourishment and energy.
And most people will find these foods, the ones that work best.
The oldest and most primitive foods that have the least processing and oldest introduction into our diets.
Things like leafy greens, fruit, meat and honey are integral parts of what we scavenged, gathered and hunted for.
It was only up until 10,000 years ago that grains were introduced and very different grains than today’s modern wheat.
We never had the technology to process and strip foods into their individual chemicals, picking them apart for the pieces that trigger our taste and satisfaction receptors most, but leaving our bodies wanting more in terms of nutrients.
When we went hunting for meat, we ate the whole animal, skin, bones, organs, muscles, everything was used in one way or another and with good reason.
Our organs contain huge sources of nutrients that naturally balance those found in muscles(which is most of what eat).
When we went foraging we would eat whatever we found in its whole and complete form(No, noodles didn’t exist in nature).
Many times it would be raw, unpasteurized, wild(organic is close, biodynamic is closer) and covered in dirt that was host to millions and billions of microorganisms that would feed our gut and balance our microbiomes.
When we couldn’t finish something or we had too much, we would ferment, cure, smoke, pickle, jar, sour and so much more.
This would add to the nutrient density and microorganisms that evolved with us to create strong adaptive human bodies and minds.
So let’s get down to the base-ics.
Now of course we have to remember that we are all individuals and as with many things in health, “it depends.”
So the base here is high quality animal proteins(no grain fed or conventionally raised) and delicious non-starchy vegetables.
These can both be eaten frequently to appetite.
There are over 200,000 edible plants and well over 100,000 edible animals on earth so get creative because variety is important.
Animal Proteins:(Make sure to include bones and organs to balance glycine and methionine)
(3+ times per day)
Beef, lamb, pork, ox, bison, rabbit, goat, deer, buffalo
Chicken, turkey, cornish hen, goose, duck, pheasant, quail, ostrich
Wild fish like salmon, cod, tilapia, catfish, squid, shrimp, oyster, clam, mussel, eel, bass, anchovy, halibut, trout etc.
Processed, packaged and low quality meats(conventionally raised) and meats that contain high histamines and tyramines( for those sensitive)
Non starchy vegetables:
(3+ times per day)
Peppers, cauliflower, broccoli, spinach, asparagus, cucumber, avocado, onions, garlic, collard greens, okra, green beans, eggplant, celery, lettuce, tomato etc.
Next up the pyramid we have whole fruits which are amazing and are okay being eaten every day depending on the place we find ourselves and how good our blood sugar regulation is.
(Careful with overdoing because of fast sugars)
(3-7 times per week)
Banana, currant, grape, guava, kiwi, litchi, mango, papaya, apple, avocado, berries, date, fig, persimmon, pomegranate, apricot, cherry, pineapple, plum, peach, grapefruit(careful with medications), lemon, lime, orange, watermelon, honeydew etc.
All processed and refined fruit products like packaged juices.
Next is healthy fats and oils which can be used wherever palatable and liberally as long as you don’t have gallbladder or fat digestion issues.
Fat is good, saturated fat is good and the sources of the fat are crucial despite the decade of fat demonization and low fat craze that did nothing for our health.
Avoid all refined oils and low quality fats that are not organic, pastured or wild.
Healthy fats and oils:
(1-3 times per day)
Extra virgin olive oil, extra virgin avocado oil, walnut, macadamia, coconut and oils made by low temperature manufacturers like Omega nutrition, Flora Inc, Rapunzel, Dr. Bronners etc.
Other good fats include:
Butter, ghee, tallow, suet, lard, duck fat etc.
Vegetable oil, palm oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, any hydrogenated oil, soybean oil, corn oil, canola oil, cottonseed oil etc.
These oils are toxic waste products and should not be eaten by anyone, especially a migraine sufferer.(They are largely over sprayed and processed)
Next we have starchy vegetables which we should show some restriction with and only eat 2-5 times a week as they have a fair amount of carbohydrates and don’t digest well with proteins.
Again depending on your blood sugar, hormones and gut(and many other factors) this can change but they can be easily overdone.
(3-6 times per week)
Carrot, beet, potato, yam, yucca, corn, parsnips, plantain, pumpkin, taro, winter squash etc.
Next on the list is legumes, these are similar to starchy vegetables in that they contain complex carbohydrates so they shouldn’t be overdone and using methods like soaking and sprouting help reduce some of the legumes natural protection against digestion.
(1-4 times per week)
Butter bean, haricot, cannellini, red kidney, adzuki, chickpea, pea, lentil etc.
Soybean(and all its products)
Next on the list we have full fat dairy.
This is particularly different from most milks in regular stores because it is whole milk. Whole and complete. Not altered by manufacturing, raised in natural conditions fed a grain free diet.
If you have to worry about your raw dairy source being contaminated with pathogens, you are buying from the wrong sources.
Of course dairy is one of the highest migraine trigger foods and this should be taken into account. Most of the population is said to be unable to properly digest dairy because of the lack of curdling ability and enzymes that get lost after the age of breastfeeding.
“Casein is the primary protein in dairy. It shares structural similarities with gluten, a highly problematic grain protein that can shred the intestinal lining and lead to severe auto-immune issues.”(1)
Whole Milk Products:
(0-2 times per week)
Cow’s Milk(Goat milk is better), cheeses, sour cream, kefir, butter, buttermilk, curd, yogurt, ghee, ice cream etc.
Processed, pasteurized, conventionally raised milk, milk products or milk derivatives etc.
Next we are getting a little nutty but be careful because nuts and seeds contain lots of PUFA’s which can be inflammatory and exacerbate gut issues as well.
When we choose nuts and seeds we want to make sure we are getting them raw from good quality sources so that mold does not form in the drying process like it does with peanuts(actually a legume) and pistachios which makes them more likely to need to steer clear of while healing.
Remember to “soak your nuts” as it helps remove the phytic acid which blocks absorption of nutrients and prevents digestion.
Remember nuts are great sources of fat that in moderation, can help regulate blood sugar levels.
Nuts and seeds:
(Eat sparingly 1-5 times per week)
Almond, cashew, macadamia, hemp seed, hazelnut, coconut, poppy , brazil nut, pecan, walnut, sesame, cocoa, chia, water chestnut etc.
Next on the list we have one that really rustles peoples jimmies. Grains.
One reason is because grains are found in all processed and packaged foods. The other is because that’s all many people know how to cook.
Even with both of these reasons, you don’t need grains and often times grains can create many more problems than they are worth.
They’re not very nutritious and come with protective chemicals that prevent digestion and absorption of minerals like phytic acid.
That along with having lots of carbohydrates that fragile migraine brains just do not need.
Again, (and I’m really trying to drive this home) it all depends on your individual self and your body’s reaction to foods. If you’re still getting chronic migraines, change what you eat.
There’s a reason our ancestors soured their breads and grains, it helped pre digest them. So if you can, at least soak them, sprout them if you can and definitely try ferments.
For grains and grain alternatives go here
(Limit 1-6 times per month)
Teff, oats(certified gluten free), wild rice/quinoa (technically not grains), amaranth, buckwheat
Corn, wheat(and other gluten containing grains), millet, barley, rye, couscous etc.
Then we come to mushrooms.
Mushrooms are great, unless your vitality is low enough that you present with chronic disease.(Often)
Oftentimes mushrooms will end up feeding many of the bad guys that make our bodies worse.
But not always, because, that’s right you guessed it, it depends.
Medicinal mushrooms are amazing sources of adaptogens and can help us overcome chronic disease as well, so just be careful with them.
(Sparingly 1-6 times per month)
Chaga, lion’s mane, maitake, reishi, shiitake, chanterelle, morels, truffles etc.
Now for the good stuff.
What exactly are “healthy sweets”
Well, it depends on your body and how much room you have to play with.
But we’re going to stick to the basics and create a baseline to understand healthy sweets.
A healthy sweet is a whole food that contains simple sugars which make it sweet.
Just because a can of pop has 30g of sugar and a 100 gram serving of dates has 63g of sugar, does not make it worse than the pop.
Unless you have diabetes and a sensitivity to dates…
There’s always some wiggle room in any statement but the point here is that a whole food which means any food that comes from nature and is unprocessed contains what we call nutrient complexes.
A nutrient complex has carbohydrates, fats, proteins, enzymes, vitamins, amino acids, cofactors, minerals etc.
Whereas when a single nutrient is isolated into crystal form like sugar, it becomes one single chemical and completely devoid of all nutritional value other than its calories with the example of sugar.
This creates huge problems when it comes to absorption and use by the body because the body needs some nutrients to make use of others. For example, some vitamins are much more readily absorbed when taken with a healthy fat source.
This is where the term “4 white devils” came from describing table salt, white flour, pasteurized milk and white sugar.
With all that said, we are going to focus on what you can use to create healthy sweets. If its packaged… beware.
So let’s get on with it.
(1-7 days per week in small amounts)
Raw honey, stevia leaf powder, blackstrap molasses, whole fruits, yacon syrup
Be really careful with:
Maple syrup, dates, juiced blended and cooked fruits
Aspartame (Equal, nutrasweet, natrataste blue), sucralose (Splenda), acesulfame k (Ace k, sunette, equal spoonful, sweet one, sweet ‘n safe), saccharin (Sweet ‘n low, sweet twin), xylitol, sorbitol
Next up we have an odd category not usually seen on food pyramids but it’s important.
The same way we classify things like alcohol and cigarettes as a drug, we need to do with all chemicals we use in a recreational manner that has negative consequences.
Sugar has been shown to be one of the most addictive substances known to man and its addictive properties equal to that of cocaine and heroin, even lighting up the same areas of the brain as drug abuse.
Just try not having any carbohydrates for 10 days, you will go into serious withdrawal.
But not because your body cannot function without it.
Because we can use fat for fuel when there is no sugar.
And in times of fasting that’s exactly what our bodies do.
And it’s incredibly restorative and healing, if we aren’t chronically sick and cannot handle the change.
But that’s another story. What’s important is that we need to recognize these foods that we eat provide no nutrition to us, they are simply empty calories and usually full of highly disruptive chemicals that take more resources from us than they give.
So these are exactly the same as things like alcohol and cigarettes… We use them to “feel good” and for recreation. But they should be only that, not any kind of staple.
And in chronic disease like chronic migraines, be very careful with how recreational you’re feeling and if your body can take the stress.
(0-10 times per month)
Sugar, cookies, alcohol, candy, cakes etc.
The above when healing
Next on the list we have a very small category not because its bad, but because we use very small amounts of them.
Herbs/spices/extracts are amazing for adding flavor, healing properties and variety to our meals and protocols.
We just don’t use a very large quantity of them so there is no base amount.
Of course as with everything else, watch out for preservatives, additives and poor quality products(like oils)
Find reputable brands that have actually been tested to contain what they say they do.
The list of these is too numerous to type out and we all know what they are so just make sure you play around with them and use them in diet and life for your own health and support.
One of the easiest things to do is play around with different types of flavor to help you find what the actual flavor is that brings you to satiety. Often it’s not amount.
And last but definitely one of the least we have soy.
Avoid it as an additive in anything such as under the name soy lecithin which is very common in all processed and packaged foods.
If you have hormonal issues, avoid consumption as well.
If absolutely necessary, when eating soy, only eat fermented and organic versions such as:
Tamari, miso, natto, tempeh
Again, remember it comes down to your ancestry, stress load and illness on how the different ratios of foods will affect you.
For example some people will not tolerate carbohydrates because of illness or not be able to process fats effectively without a gallbladder etc.
So that’s it!
Food is always developing(so are our bodies) and I’m sure there is more I could add in here but this is the foundation for all health!
To make this easier to remember and to offer more information(and possibly a Q&A) we are having a presentation on the Migraineur Food Pyramid which you can sign up for with this link.
Disagree? Let me know in the comments below
Holistic Health PractitionerMark Canadic is a writer, speaker, holistic health practitioner and migraine community leader. Read Mark’s inspiring comeback story, “My Burnout and Brain Fires that Lead me to the Root.” Feel free to send Mark a message here.