Monday, February 3, 2014

Foods that help you sleep

We live in a non-stop society. In our rush, we too often put sleep on the back burner to get things done. But it is the wrong approach. Sleep has a huge effect on how you feel throughout the day, and nutrition plays a role in how well you sleep. Food relates  directly o serotonin, a key hormone that _along with vitamin B6, B12, and folic acid helps promote healthy sleep. Try to consume foods that calm the body, increase serotonin levels and get you ready for restful sleep.

Here are a few foods to get you started on the path to slumber:

Complex Carbohydrates
Embrace whole-grain breads, cereals, pasta, crackers and brown rice. Steer clear of simple carbohydrates, including breads, pasta and sweets such as cookies, cakes, pastries, and other surgery foods. These tend to reduce serotonin levels and do not promote sleep.

Lean proteins
Lean proteins include low fat cheese, chicken, turkey and fish. These foods are high in the amino acid tryptophan, which tends to increase serotonin levels. On the flipside, avoid high fat cheese, chicken wings or deep fried fish which take longer to digest and can keep you awake.

Heart healthy fats
Unsaturated fats will not only boost your heart health but also improve your serotonin levels. Examples  include peanut butter (read the label to make sure that peanuts are the only ingredient) and nuts such as walnuts, almonds, cashews and pistachios. Avoid foods with saturated and trans fats, such as French fries, potato chips or other high fat snack foods. They have the opposite effect and lower your serotonin levels.

Certain drinks can promote or prevent sleep. A good soothing beverage to drink before bedtime would be warm milk (your mother was right) or herbal tea such as chamomile or peppermint.  As for caffeinated drinks, I recommend that if you are having trouble sleeping consume that last cup by 2pm. Caffeine can affect people differently, and even the smallest amount of stimulant can keep you awake. 

Fresh herbs
Fresh herbs can have a calming effect on the body. For example, sage and basil contain chemicals that reduce tension and promote sleep. Try making your own homemade pasta sauce with sage and basil> it is easy to do, and homemade sauces tend to be lower in sugar than store bought versions. However, avoid herbs such as red pepper at night, as they have a stimulatory effect.

Sleep inducing snacks
Try a banana with low fat yogurt
Eat low fat cottage cheese with a few 100 percent whole grain crackers
Enjoy an apple with mozzarella string cheese

Try all these foods to reduce your tossing and turning when you hit the pillow. Sweet dreams!

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