Plant Based Diet – Guide to Migraine Diets

Hoping to find a diet pattern that alleviates your migraine?

Food has the power to prevent and more-easily manage migraine.

As a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), the Migraine Nutritionist will review your top requested diets and discuss whether the diet can be helpful for migraine.

Let’s jump into it and learn about plant-based diets!

What is a Plant-Based Diet?

Essentially, a plant-based diet is a style of eating that focuses primarily on foods coming from plants. There are several types of plant-based diets, which will be discussed later on in this article.

Why follow a Plant-Based Diet?

One may choose to follow a plant-based diet for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Ethics/Morals
    • Some may have an ethical or moral opposition to consuming animal products. This may extend to abstaining from other items (such as beauty products tested on animals, leather, furs) and activities (circuses, zoos, rodeos).
  • Environmental
    • Producing animal-based food products may contribute to significant carbon emissions. Those looking to reduce their “carbon footprint” may find their way to a plant-based diet.
  • Health
    • A diet focused on plant foods may prevent diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers.
  • Religious
    • Some religions, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism, and Seventh-Day Adventists promote a vegetarian diet.

Types of Plant-Based Diets


A “plant-based” or plant-forward diet is the most flexible type of plant-based diet. This diet pattern does not entirely exclude animal-based products, however does strive to get the majority of nutrition needs met through plant-based foods.

Current dietary guidelines recommend using the MyPlate strategy for a healthy diet for all Americans. The MyPlate is inherently a plant-based approach, with limited animal-based products.

The MyPlate strategy focuses on a balanced approach at each meal. All food groups are proportionally represented for optimum nutrition. This template includes:

  • 1/2 of your plate includes fruits and/or non-starchy vegetables
  • 1/4 of your plate includes grains or starchy vegetables
  • 1/4 of your plate includes a protein food (either animal-based or plant-based)
breakdown of the 3 myplate food groups in a plant based diet


By definition, a vegetarian diet abstains from meat, poultry, and seafood. Most vegetarians will still consume other animal-based foods, such as dairy and eggs, although some may choose to avoid these foods as well.

One popular vegetarian-style diet is the pescatarian diet. Those following this diet will avoid meat, but still consume seafood.


A “strict vegetarian” diet, or vegan diet, excludes all animal-based foods. Vegans will only consume plant-based foods.

It is still possible to maintain a nutritious and balanced vegan diet. Using the MyPlate strategy above, vegans simply need to turn to plant-based protein sources. This may include:

  • Nuts and seeds
  • Nut butters
  • Beans and legumes
  • Tofu and tempeh
  • Meat alternatives

Will Plant-Based eating improve migraine?

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to migraine management, meaning that one single diet approach is not likely to improve everyone’s migraine.

It’s important to note that any food may be a potential migraine trigger, including animal-based foods. If meat, seafood, dairy, or eggs are identified as food sensitivities through an elimination diet, excluding the offending food(s) from the diet would certainly benefit migraine.

By following a plant-based diet, one study finds a significant reduction in frequency and intensity of migraine symptoms (1). This was speculated to be likely due to the low-fat and high-fiber diet approach, which may eliminate potential food triggers and reduce estrogen activity.

One man has even found over 7 years of remission from chronic migraine by following a whole-foods plant-based diet (2). More research is needed in this area, since one person’s experience can’t be generalized to everyone, but it’s exciting to see!

Risks & Considerations

As with all diet patterns, there are potential nutrient deficiencies if meals are not balanced or well-planned. Some nutrients of concern on a plant-based diet include:

  • Protein
  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin D
  • Omega-3
  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Zinc

Many of the nutrients listed above can be easily included by including a variety of foods and using a balanced diet structure, such as the MyPlate. Some may choose to include supplements to assure needs are met.

Protein foods include:

  • Nuts and seeds
  • Nut butters
  • Beans and legumes
  • Tofu and tempeh
  • Meat alternatives

Vitamin B12 sources include:

  • Fortified cereals, plant milks, and soy products
  • Nutritional yeast (cheesy, nutty flavor, great on popcorn!)

Vitamin D sources include:

  • Fortified cereals, plant milks, and juice
  • UV-treated mushrooms
  • Sunshine

Omega-3 sources include:

  • Walnuts
  • Chia seeds, hemp seeds, flax seeds

Calcium sources include:

  • Dark leafy greens
  • Tofu
  • Nuts and seeds

Iron sources include:

  • Beans and legumes
  • Dark leafy greens

Zinc sources include:

  • Nuts and seeds
  • Tofu
  • Oats
7 important nutrients and food sources for a plant based diet to include to avoid deficiencies

How to follow a Plant-Based Diet

Final Thoughts

You may be considering a plant-based diet to improve your migraine.

A plant-based diet (including vegetarian and vegan diets) are typically followed for moral, environmental, health, and/or religious reasons.

When balanced and nutrient-dense, a plant-based diet may improve migraine through overall wellness and avoidance of potential food sensitivities in animal-based foods.

Use the free downloadable above for help following this diet. For additional support, contact the Migraine Nutritionist.

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