Culinistas's Kitchen,  Health

Sleep Focused Foods For The New Year

by The Culinistas

It’s almost January, a foundational time to reset our bodies and minds. There is no better way to start than with a good night’s sleep. A healthy circadian schedule is the key to all other wellness goals, whether it be effective exercise, sticking to a nutritious diet or balancing your mindset. 

To ensure max snooze time, you’ll need a healthy hit of magnesium, serotonin, and melatonin, which can all be derived from the foods you eat. You’ve probably heard of serotonin; it’s the happy hormone, and melatonin, the hormone that regulates your sleep-wake cycle. These two need to work in tandem to promote a restful night. 

Magnesium is vital to nervous system regulation, which manages calm and relaxation. It regulates the production of our good friend melatonin. In fact, insomnia is a common side effect for those with magnesium deficiencies. Beyond zzzzs, there are myriad health benefits to upping your intake of magnesium, including bone health, heart health, mood regulation, and lowered blood pressure. Munching on pumpkin seeds (which contain the highest amounts of magnesium!), almonds, cashews, avocados, and spinach is key to a healthy dose.

Serotonin aka “the happy hormone” comes to us naturally from the sun, but with shorter, darker winter days, it’s that much more important to get your fix elsewhere. While melatonin production tells your body it’s time to go to sleep, serotonin keeps your body energized. We need serotonin not only to keep us peppy, but also because it gets processed to melatonin.  Think of serotonin as the yin to melatonin’s yang. Without a day of energy and action, it becomes almost impossible to fall asleep at night. Production of this hormone is also activated by the amino acid tryptophan which can be found in turkey (not a Thanksgiving dinner wives’ tale!), lamb, chia seeds, halibut, oats and bananas. 

Melatonin is the hormone that tells your body it’s time to rest when the sun goes down. It’s produced by your brain's pineal gland during the nighttime and ceases production during the day, regulating your body's circadian rhythms. To trigger a healthy, consistent dose of melatonin, incorporate rice, corn, walnuts and tart cherries into your diet. There is also some research about slightly spiking insulin levels before bed with white rice, the reason being that with insulin production comes a release of serotonin,  triggering an extra boost of melatonin. 

Both magnesium & melatonin are found in supplement form and taken as a short-term fix for restless nights. However, we suggest incorporating soporific foods into your diet this month, to facilitate restful nights ahead. Try our California Dip, made with magnesium-rich pumpkin seeds, our cherry-packed Red Cabbage & Quinoa Bowl for melatonin, or our Baked Halibut with Pesto and a side of our Green Rice with walnuts. Finish off your meal with our addictive magnesium rich avocado based Chocolate Pudding or get a head start to regulating you rhythms in the morning with our Overnight Oats, a healthy, filling, breakfast option and full of serotonin producing oats. Wishing you a restful new year!

A special thanks to Nadia Agsen for the beautiful photograph.