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Foods That Help You Sleep

Foods That Help You Sleep

Foods That Help You Sleep

Foods that help you sleep

 

We all know that getting seven to nine hours of sleep is good for us. After all, it can do everything from improving our mood to making us look and feel more beautiful. But did you know that what you eat can have a big effect on your ‘sleep health’ too?

 

By eating good, nutritious food that helps you sleep, you’ll make sure your body has everything it needs to get you through the night and wake up refreshed, happy, and ready to go. There’s no one perfect meal to eat before bed, but that’s a good thing - it means you can choose ingredients you love and create something that’s just for you.

 

The best foods for sleep

 

Experts Dr Rachel Edwards-Stuart and Lily Soutter gave us the lowdown on the foods that promote better sleep health. Enjoy them as they are, or keep reading for delicious recipes that combine all of these brilliant bedtime ingredients into a three course meal!

 

1. Kiwi

 

Eating kiwi on a daily basis has been linked to substantial improvements in sleep quality and quantity. It has two characteristics that make it a strong sleep-promoting food: its high antioxidant levels and its high serotonin levels. Serotonin converts to the sleep hormone melatonin, which in turn aids with sleep. Kiwi is a true sleep superfood.

 

2. Mackerel

 

Oily fish is an amazing source of healthy omega-3 fatty acids. A higher intake of omega-3 fats has been shown to stimulate the release of our sleep hormone melatonin. Mackerel is also a source of vitamin B6, which plays an essential role in the production of both serotonin and melatonin.

‘An Oxford University study showed that four months of supplementation with omega-3 fats helped children to sleep for an hour longer each night,’ say our experts.

 

3. Spinach and olives

 

Both ingredients have the same aroma compounds as kiwi fruits. Spinach also contains high levels of magnesium, a calming mineral which aids with better sleep. Heightened magnesium leads to a better regulation of our natural sleep cycle, positively impacting the body's internal clock.

 

4. Chicken

 

Chicken breast is the top source of tryptophan - the building block of our sleep hormone melatonin.

 

5. Pumpkin seeds

 

These little seeds are nutritional powerhouses being a rich source of magnesium. Pumpkin seeds are also a great plant-based source of tryptophan, which converts into melatonin.  (Can you tell we love melatonin?)

 

6. Sweet potato

 

These contain high levels of B-vitamins and are high in digestion-aiding fibre. This makes it the perfect carbohydrate component for an evening meal as it slowly releases body-repairing energy during your sleep.

 

7. Walnuts 

 

Researchers from University of Texas found that walnuts contain their own source of melatonin, which ultimately may aid with a more restful night’s sleep.

 

8. Honey

 

Amongst the top ten ingredients which share aromas with walnut, honey tends to have a lower glycemic load in comparison to regular sugar. A low glycemic load is essential for preventing a blood sugar crash, which often results in that 3 a.m. wakefulness.

 

9. Melon

 

Melon is rich in vitamin A, a powerful antioxidant that’s good for the skin and mucous membranes. Additionally, due to its high nutritional content, melon helps reduce thirst - one of the biggest reasons people wake during the night.

 

10. Apple

 

As well as sharing aromas with walnuts, apples are a rich source of fibre which helps balance blood sugar and minimize the risk of waking up in the night. 

‘Research from the University of Colorado showed that rats who were fed a diet rich in prebiotics found in apples had greater amounts of beneficial gut bacteria and better quality of sleep,’ say our experts.

 

When should you eat?

 

Of course, choosing healthy food that promotes good sleep is a great idea - but eating right before hitting the pillow might not be.

 

- Wait 2-3 hours before bed

 

Experts recommend that we don’t eat a large meal any less than two hours before we go to bed, preferably three. That’s because we can be kept awake by our bodies digesting a heavy meal. And, anecdotally speaking at least, when our digestive systems are active we’re more likely to have strange and less restful dreams (that’s where the rumour about eating cheese before bed comes from). Eating before bed can also trigger an unpleasant case of acid reflux.

 

Experts also say that our metabolism slows down when we’re sleeping, so eating before bed can also contribute to unwanted weight gain.

 

- Don’t go to sleep hungry

 

It doesn’t pay to go to bed hungry, as that can also keep us awake, so if you do need a snack choose something light like an apple. Sugary foods in particular can make us feel more awake, as can snacks with caffeine, making chocolate a double no-no. 

 

In short, don’t go to bed hungry - but for a good night’s sleep, avoid having popcorn with your evening film.

 

Foods to avoid before bed

 

As well as healthy foods that promote good sleep, there are foods that you should avoid if you have trouble sleeping, too - especially in the evening. These are:

 

1. Salty foods

 

As well as being bad for you in general (if you have too much, anyway), eating too much salt can leave you feeling thirsty, which in turn will increase the chances of you waking up during the night. Takeaways tend to be quite salty, which is why many of us find ourselves waking up and reaching for a glass of water after having one.

 

2. Sugary foods

 

Refined sugar enters your bloodstream quickly, which means that - in certain circumstances - they’re a good short-term way of grabbing an energy boost (although the disadvantages usually outweigh the benefits). Equally, eating sugar before bed can make it hard to settle down and drop off.

 

3. Fatty foods

 

It can take a few hours to digest fat, so if you eat fatty foods right before bed, you’re less likely to use the energy it gives you before it’s stored as - well - fat. To help you stay healthy, try less fatty foods before bed instead.

 

Three recipes to try before bed

 

We’ve gone through some of the best foods for sleep, but did you know that the elements of one can counteract another if paired incorrectly? After investigating the properties of these ingredients, our expert nutritionist and food scientists Lily and Rachel have created a three-course Dream Food dinner menu guaranteed to send you off to sleep soundly. 

 

Starter

 

Sustainably sourced mackerel, organic kiwi, Kalamata olive, and baby spinach salad

 

Ingredients - serves 2

• 1 Pack smoked mackerel fillets

• 1 Bag baby spinach leaves

• 1 Kiwi

• 50g Pitted black kalamata olives

• Extra virgin olive oil

• A wedge of lemon

• Sea salt

 

Method

 

1. Preheat the oven to a low heat (80°C)

2. Roughly chop the olives, and place in the oven on a tray for 30 minutes to slightly dry them and intensify their flavour.

3. Place the mackerel on a small baking tray, skin-side-up and warm in the oven for 10 minutes

4. Peel the kiwi and cut into thin slices. Dress the spinach leaves with olive oil, a squeeze of lemon and a little salt. Remove mackerel from the oven.

5. Arrange the kiwi, black olives and spinach salad on a plate and place the smoked mackerel fillet on top.

 

Starter (vegan option)

 

White Asparagus, Kiwi Fruit, Spinach & Black Olives

 

Ingredients - serves 2

• 6 Spears white asparagus

• 1 Bag baby Spinach leaves

• 1 Kiwi

• 50g Pitted black kalamata olives

• Extra virgin olive oil

• A wedge of Lemon

• Sea salt

 

Method

 

1. Preheat the oven to a low heat (80°C)

2. Roughly chop the olives, and place in the oven on a tray for 30 minutes to slightly dry them and intensify their flavour.

3. Peel the kiwi and cut into thin slices. Dress the spinach leaves with olive oil, a squeeze of lemon and a little salt.

4. Trim the tough ends of the asparagus. Slice the tender part of each spear crossways into two pieces. Boil or steam for 3 minutes.

5. Arrange with the spinach salad, black olives and kiwis.

 

Main

 

Corn-fed chicken, pumpkin seeds, black garlic and organic sweet potatoes

 

Ingredients - serves 2

 

• 1 Large chicken breast (Skin-on)

• 75g Pumpkin Seeds • 25g Raisins

• 3 Cloves black garlic

• 1 Green (unripe) tomato

• 10g Chipotle chilli

• 1 Sweet potato (cut into rough chunks)

• Half a head of broccoli (broken up into florets)

 • Olive oil 

• 200ml chicken stock

 

Method

 

1. Preheat the oven to 180 ° C.

2. Season the sweet potatoes with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and bake until they are soft, about 45 minutes.

3. Toast the pumpkin seeds in a frying pan on a low heat, until they colour slightly, about two minutes. Remove, cool and chop.

4. Chop the green tomato, black garlic, raisins, and chilli. Add to a small pan with a drizzle of oil. Cook for ten minutes on low heat, until the tomatoes have started to colour. Add the chopped pumpkin seeds and the chicken stock and simmer on low for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add the sauce to a blender and blend until smooth.

5. Place the chicken breast and broccoli on a baking tray.

6. drizzle with olive oil and season with sea salt. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes or until cooked through.

7. Rest chicken for 5 minutes, slice crossways and serve with the other elements.

 

Main (vegan option)

 

Butter Beans and Black Beans, Pumpkin Seeds, Black Garlic & Sweet Potato

 

Ingredients - serves 2

 

• Black beans & butter beans

• 75g Pumpkin Seeds • 25g Raisins

• 3 Cloves black garlic

• 1 Green (unripe) tomato

• 10g Chipotle chilli

• 1 Sweet potato (cut into rough chunks)

• Half a head of broccoli (broken up into florets)

• Olive oil 

• 200ml vegetable stock 

 

Method

 

1. Cook the beans on a low heat with 50ml water and a pinch of salt until warmed through.

2. Season the sweet potatoes with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and bake until they are soft, about 45 minutes.

3. Toast the pumpkin seeds in a frying pan on a low heat, until they colour slightly, about two minutes. Remove, cool and chop.

4. Chop the green tomato, black garlic, raisins, and chilli. Add to a small pan with a drizzle of oil. Cook for ten minutes on low heat, until the tomatoes have started to colour. Add the chopped pumpkin seeds and the vegetable stock and simmer on low for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add the sauce to a blender and blend until smooth.

5. Serve beans with pumpkin seed sauce and sweet potatoes.

 

Dessert

 

Fresh Galia melon with yogurt, walnuts, walnut oil, apple juice, honey and mint

 

Ingredients - serves 4

 

• 1 Ripe galia melon

• 450g Greek-style live yoghurt

• Or Coconut-based vegan ‘yoghurt’

• 300ml Sharp apple juice such as Bramley

• Handful of whole walnuts or walnut pieces

• 2 Teaspoons walnut oil

• 1 Bunch mint

• 2 teaspoons good quality runny honey

 

Method

 

1. Remove the skin and seeds from the melon and cut the flesh into bite-sized pieces.

2. In a bowl, whisk the apple juice together with the honey to sweeten slightly. Add more honey if you would like it sweeter.

3. Finely chop the walnuts. Chop the mint leaves into fine strips.

4. To assemble the dish, place pieces of melon in a dessert bowl. Put a few teaspoons of yoghurt around the dish. Pour some of the sweetened apple juice around everything, being careful not to pour it directly onto the melon or yoghurt. Add a few drops of walnut oil into the apple juice. Garnish the yoghurt with the pieces of walnut and garnish the melon pieces with strips of mint.

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