5 Foods that Help You Sleep

NUTRITION TIP THURSDAY

The foods we eat play a huge role in our ability to sleep. Why? Food affects our serotonin levels, the hormone responsible for maintaining mood balance and promoting relaxation. Consuming foods that boost our serotonin improve our ability to get a good night's sleep. Read on to find out what foods can help you sleep better tonight!

1. Complex carbohydrates

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

2. 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 cheeses, chicken wings or deep-fried fish. These take longer to digest and can keep you awake.

3. 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 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. These bring your serotonin levels down.    

4. Beverages

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, it is recommended to consume that last cup by 2 p.m. Caffeine can affect people differently, and even the smallest amount of stimulant can keep you awake.

5. 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’s easy to do, and homemade sauces tend to be lower in sugar than store-bought versions. However, avoid herbs such as red pepper or black 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 pita chips
  • Smear peanut butter on 100-percent whole grain crackers
  • Enjoy an apple with mozzarella string cheese

Source: Cleveland Clinic