Have you ever noticed how big of a role food has in our lives? Stop to think about how much of our lives revolve around eating. Food is without a doubt one of the largest driving forces for every living thing. It makes sense to spend more time thinking about the foods we are putting into our bodies. Clearly, eating is a necessity to keep us alive. With that said there is a difference between alive and truly living. What if I told you the foods you eat can either put you one step closer to living your best life or one step closer to the end of your life? Conveniently, when you understand how you can make food work for you, the whole world opens up for you.
Are You Over Working?
Sleep is without a doubt one of the most important tasks (next to nutrition) that we can do for our health. We have all had at least one moment in our lives where we were given a glaring reminder of just how important sleep is. During sleep our bodies are still hard at work in an attempt to rebuild and detox themselves. The time frame in which we rest is crucial for our well being. It helps if you think of it as if our bodies are our personal assistants. Only they NEVER clock out. They are constantly trying to keep up with our needs and wants, all while trying to anticipate what we may want in the future.
An Organ Never Forgets!
Did you know that even our organs have memory? Every aspect of our bodies does everything within their power to ensure we are working to the best of our ability. But here is the thing we need to remember. There are certain foods that actually help our bodies to do their jobs better and faster! Like most things in life, there are two sides to the coin. While there are foods that can help, there are also foods that can slow our bodies down and even stop them all together. It is important that we are constantly providing our bodies with foods that act as fuel not obstacles.
With sleep being one of the most important tasks our bodies need to focus on, it makes sense to start with foods that improve sleep. There are several different hormones that work together to aid in our sleep. Two of the most important hormones for sleep are Serotonin and Melatonin. While Serotonin is produced in the digestive tract, blood, and brain. Melatonin is only produced in side the brain. Both hormones, however, utilize tryptophan dense foods. The amino acid tryptophan is broken down into Serotonin, which is then used to produce and regulate Melatonin.
Sleep, How it’s Made
Melatonin is a hormone that is created within the pineal gland. The pineal gland is a pea-sized gland located in the middle of our brains. It aids in the regulation of our sleep clock. Our sleep clocks help us recognise when we should be sleeping and when we should wake. Melatonin’s job is to regulate our circadian rhythm. Whereas Serotonin is responsible for triggering rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Melatonin itself does not make us sleep. However, it is critical in signaling the body for sleep and controlling our sleep cycles. The hormone Melatonin is not naturally produced within the body without the aid of additional hormones.
Did You Know?
Due to the fact that Melatonin production relies on other hormones (Serotonin) to be produced we need to consume foods that aid in their production. Melatonin is only found naturally in a small handful of foods such as cherries and dark grapes. Because Melatonin is so hard to find in foods we are forced to substitute with foods that activate a cascade effect ending in its production. For example, eating foods that contain tryptophan generates Serotonin, which then triggers production of Melatonin. The following is a list of foods that are either high in tryptophan or have Melatonin in them naturally.
- Dark Grapes
- Sweet Potatoes
- Brown Rice
- Winter Squash
To save on time we are going to focus on the top five foods to help promote sleep. The number one food that aids in sleep is hands down cherries. As I mentioned prior, cherries are one of the only natural sources of Melatonin. Cherries have the power to do more than just promote sleep. They are antioxidant and anti-inflammatory rich fruits making them ideal for anti-aging and pain relief. Cherries are high in potassium, which reduces the risk of stroke, alleviates hypertension, high blood pressure, reduces muscle cramping, and improves strength. They are also great for promoting weight loss, aid in the treatment of gout and osteoarthritis, and increase heart health.
Bananas are another great option to promote a healthy sleep cycle. They are high in vitamin B6, manganese, vitamin C, fiber, potassium, and biotin. Making them great for energy, brain function, blood circulation, digestion, regulation of blood sugar, reducing stomach acid, menstrual relief, and improved mood. Bananas are also high in tryptophan which helps promote deeper sleep. They also contain iron which can help stimulate the production of hemoglobin in the blood and lower risk of anemia. Bananas can also help people quit smoking. Due to the fact that they are high in B vitamins and minerals that can lessen the effects of nicotine withdrawal.
Pistachios are another great option to help improve our sleep. They are high in fiber, in fact, one serving has 2.9 grams of fiber. Fiber is helpful in maintaining a healthy weight and promoting digestion. Pistachios contain essential vitamins and minerals like B6, thiamin, copper, and phosphorus. Like olive oil, they primarily contain monounsaturated fatty acids. The lutein and zeaxanthin in pistachios can slow the development of age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. Pistachios have also been shown to improve diabetes symptoms, promote heart health, and increase sexual function in men.
If you have not read through my pumpkin posts this article should inspire you to get to know pumpkins and all of their health benefits better. Pumpkins are high in Vitamin A which has been linked to healthy eyesight. In fact, one cup of cooked pumpkin gives you more than 200% of your daily Vitamin A. It is high in fiber and low in calories which makes you feel full longer, maintain a healthy weight, and aids in digestion. Pumpkin is high in Beta-carotene, which is an antioxidant that protects the body from free radicals. It is full of zinc, tryptophan, and magnesium, which all aid in the stabilization of mood.
Spinach is the last of the top five foods to improve your sleep. It is also high in Vitamin A, C, and K. Spinach helps boost metabolism and strengthens the digestive system. It reduces the risk of age related macular degeneration. Spinach is rich in anti-inflammatory and antioxidants. It helps maintain normal blood pressure, aids in strengthening muscles, and even protects skin from UV rays. Spinach is one of the richest sources of iron among vegetables. 100 grams of cooked spinach contains 3.6mg of iron which is 20% of your daily recommended dose. Due to its high value of manganese, spinach can also reduce bone loss preventing osteoporosis. It is also high in magnesium which aids in the improvement of mood.
The Power In Nutrition
No matter how you slice it we all have to eat. So, why not eat with purpose? Instead of consuming foods that are just quick and easy, yet full of fillers. Reach for foods that are full of nutrients that our bodies crave. Healthy food can be quick and easy too. To show you just how quick and easy it can be to eat healthy I am going to include two of my favorite nice cream recipes. Each one is sure to be a hit in your home and takes less than five minutes to make. Both of these recipes are great for improving sleep and make the list on my must haves before bed.
Chocolate Covered Cherry Nice Cream
Gluten-free Vegan makes 1 quart
- 1 Cup Cherries pitted & Frozen
- ½ Cup Vegan Dark Chocolate Chips
- 4 Overripe Frozen Bananas
- 1 Can Full Fat Coconut Milk
- 1 ½ tsp Pure Vanilla
- 1 Tbsp Maple Syrup
- ¼ tsp Sea Salt
In blender combine all ingredients except chocolate and cherries. Blend until smooth. Chop up cherries and fold with chips into ice cream mix. Pour into freezer safe container (I use stainless steel or silicone) and let set up in the freezer for about an hour (or until desired firmness has been reached). I top mine with homemade coconut whipped cream and a homemade chocolate sauce.
Cherry Pistachio Dream Nice Cream
Gluten-free Vegan makes 1 quart
- 1 Cup frozen pitted Cherries roughly chopped
- 1 large Avocado
- 1 Cup Medjool Dates pitted
- 1 Cup Pistachios Unsalted and shelled
- 4 Overripe Frozen Bananas
- 1 Can Full Fat Coconut Milk
In blender combine all ingredients except cherries and ¼ cup of pistachios. Blend until smooth. Fold in cherries and remaining pistachios. Transfer to a freezer safe container and place in the freezer for about one hour or until desired firmness has been reached. Enjoy!
Ready For a Change?
A happy and healthy life is closer than you may think. Our health is something that we all have to deal with daily, and when we don’t feel our best, it shows. If you are tired of just making it through your day then you NEED to start investing in your health today! You are not alone on this journey. If you ever need any help I am always here to do just that. Even if it is something as small as just acting as a sounding board. Do you have any questions or concerns I can help you with? Feel free to contact me directly at [email protected] or you can even book a one-on-one call with me. Be sure to subscribe to gain access to tons of free goodies and check back daily for more great recipes and information!