Foods that Induce the ZZZZ’s

If you spent a lot of time on the IFT floor, chances are you’re like us and didn’t get a whole lot of sleep. Working the show floor, late night events, meetings with clients and sampling concepts kept you moving and you probably indulged in some fabulous Vegas food experiences.  But, did you ever think that lack of sleep might have more to do with what you DIDN’T eat than what you did?

First, some straight sleep facts. There are a few ingredients necessary for a great sleep. The neurotransmitter serotonin, the hormone melatonin and the amino acid tryptophan are critical components of helping the body to sleep along with Vitamin B6, magnesium, potassium and calcium. Tryptophan helps produce serotonin, known to help to balance mood, memory, and depression.1

For a great night’s sleep on the road or at home, here are some foods that bring on the zzzz’s and some that even help boost REM sleep.

Fruits – Bananas are high in potassium and magnesium which act as natural muscle relaxants and also promote REM. Cherries, especially the Montmorency variety, are a natural source of melatonin and anthocyanins that contribute to a more regulated internal clock. Don’t have fresh cherries? Tart cherry juice can do the trick. And while oranges are known for their serotonin content, eating two kiwis before bed may actually do a better job of sleep inducement.2

Poultry – Turkey is famous for its tryptophan content responsible for many an afternoon nap on Thanksgiving but it isn’t just turkey that performs some sleepy time magic. A few pieces of chicken before bed works even better than turkey as it contains more tryptophan.

Cereal and Milk – There’s something to be said for a bowl of cereal and milk before bed—especially if it’s unsweetened cereal and even better if it’s oatmeal which has REM enhancing properties. And the old wives’ tale about warm milk is a true one. Calcium from dairy such as yogurt or milk is needed for melatonin and tryptophan production. And cereal always tastes better with some cold milk.

Jasmine Rice – Yes, specifically jasmine rice. High-glycemic, low sugar, low-fat foods like jasmine rice make the difference between a good night’s sleep and a not-so-good one. With the ability to spike tryptophan and consequently serotonin, be sure to make jasmine rice the base of your next stir fry.

Fish  – A 100-gram serving of tuna has 1 mg of Vitamin B6 that helps convert tryptophan to serotonin so the next time tuna is on the menu, choose it to sleep like a baby.

Beans – Snack away on hummus during the day for great sleep that night. Beans, particularly garbanzo beans, are high in Vitamin B6 but also help the body produce serotonin.

Nuts – Almonds and walnuts are high in melatonin; a handful of nuts an hour to two before bed could help with the sleep/wake cycle.

Honey – A tablespoon of honey, a good source of tryptophan, promotes relaxation and would be a great addition to herbal tea before bed. Try our Honey Spice Glaze on your next grilled chicken for a double dose of zzzz’s.

Be sure to include any of these in your daily diet for sound, restful sleep. Check out the recipes section of our site for some more application inspiration.