Written by Amanda Ennett
Good sleep is a precious commodity. It is essential for functioning at your top performance, for building and repairing the body and even for weight loss. Here are a few hormones, minerals and vitamins and some of the fruits and vegetables associated with them that will hopefully help you get the rest that you deserve and need. If you would like to read no further then just turn to the almighty avocado, which contains almost everything and in high quantities.
Our eyes sense as the day grows darker signaling to our bodies to naturally release melatonin from the pituitary gland right between our eyes. Melatonin is the hormone chemical that controls the body’s internal clock to regulate sleep. Some people find that taking natural melatonin supplements (either by pill or sub-lingual) can help them fall asleep more easily. Melatonin is often used to prevent jet-lag as well as help night-time workers sleep during day-time. Unfortunately, there are only a few natural food sources of melatonin and the concentrations are very low.
- Cherries: supposedly contain the highest amount of melatonin by size.
- Grapes: also contain melatonin, but significantly less than cherries.
- Ginger: has about 500 picograms per gram of melatonin.
- Tomatoes, bananas, apples, oranges, peppers and spinach also contain minute amounts.
Tryptophan and Serotonin
Tryptophan is that amino acid that is in turkey that everyone blames for the post-Thanksgiving nap. This amino acid is used to make the sleep-inducing chemicals melatonin and serotonin (a relaxing neurotransmitter) in the brain. Being an amino acid, tryptophan is most easily found in animal products. I personally have never tried juicing a chicken wing or fillet of salmon and frankly that does not sound appealing. Here are a few juice-friendly tryptophan foods:
- Broccoli and cauliflower
- Sweet corn
- Banana (blend, doesn’t juice well)
Potassium and magnesium
These two minerals are natural muscle relaxants. The following are a good source of both:
- Spinach, chard, kale and collards
B vitamins are mainly associated as energizers. For this very reason energy drinks are loaded with them. However, research has found that taking a multivitamin with B’s in it or taking B vitamins directly do not affect sleep negatively. B vitamins may help achieve a good night’s sleep, but they do not alleviate insomnia for all individuals.
- Red peppers (the little hot ones) are the kings of most of the B vitamins.
- Turnips and apricots:
Vitamin B3 (niacin): Promotes sleep in people with depression-induced insomnia and increases the effectiveness of tryptophan. While not proven, it is thought to help people who can fall asleep but have trouble staying asleep.
- Broccoli, cauliflower and dates:
Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid): Thought to relieve stress and anxiety. Foods containing B5 also help make melatonin.
- Mustard leaves and strawberries:
Vitamin B9 (folic acid): Helps to regulate mood and sleep patterns, especially in older people.
- Seaweed and cider vinegar:
Vitamin B12: Promotes normal sleep-wake cycles, and has been reported to help people with insomnia fall asleep.
Two-Step Ultimate Sleeper
- 1 cup Cherries (pitted)
- 1 cucumber
…or more to make at least 1 delicious cup of juice
- 1 Banana
- 1 cup Spinach
- ½ Avocado
Drink and sleep better!
“But what about all of that sugar right before bed?!”
- Cherries and bananas are low GI… less blood sugar impact.
- Sugar may theoretically have some effects on sleep, depending on an individual’s sensitivity to it. However, the sugar from fruit is far less impacting than processed sugar (before bed chocolate fix? Oops, chocolate has caffeine too.)
- The old adage was to have a glass of warm milk before bed to help one fall asleep. Milk has A LOT of sugar, and I personally do not condone drinking milk, ever.
- The healthy fat from the avocado will also control blood sugar levels (i.e. no sugar spike and crash.)
- Plus fruits are low in fat, reasonably low in calories and packed full of fiber, vitamins and minerals that keep us healthy.
Nutrient Ranges: http://wholefoodcatalog.info/nutrients/
B-vitamin and Sleep Information: http://www.insomnia.net/natural-remedies/vitamins/
By Amanda Ennett
I am a self-proclaimed health fanatic living by the mantra “let thy food be thy medicine.” Ask me about working out, being a foodie, or my kids and we’ll talk forever. Looking for like-minded people to share pictures of food with which we can discuss over fresh juice after yoga.
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