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Healthy Foods that Promote Deep Sleep
Posted by Dr. Ben Kim
If you're following sound advice on how to get a good night's rest, and still having trouble sleeping soundly, you may want to try eating a bedtime snack that combines a concentrated dietary source of tryptophan with a healthy carbohydrate-rich food.
Tryptophan is an amino acid that your body cannot make; you must obtain it from the foods that you eat. Once tryptophan crosses your blood-brain barrier to gain access to your brain, it is used to make a hormone called serotonin.
Serotonin acts within your body to promote feelings of sleepiness, calm, and relaxation.
Without adequate levels of serotonin in your system, you might have a hard time feeling sleepy enough to rest soundly. And without adequate levels of tryptophan within your brain, you may not be able to produce significant amounts of serotonin.
The challenge with shuttling tryptophan through to your brain is that it has to compete with other amino acids for access to the limited number of channels that line your blood-brain barrier. And tryptophan tends to be outnumbered by other amino acids in natural foods.
The key to getting enough tryptophan to your brain to sleep well at night is to combine a tryptophan-rich food with a carbohydrate-rich food. This is because ingesting a carbohydrate-rich food causes your body to release insulin, which diverts many of your other amino acids away from your brain, leaving tryptophan with little competition to cross your blood-brain barrier to gain access to your brain.
Here is a list of some healthy foods that are naturally rich in tryptophan:
- Whole grains, including rice
- Sunflower seeds
- Sesame seeds
- Miso (fermented soy beans)
- Unsweetened soy milk
- Raw dairy products (if you can tolerate dairy)
If you combine any of the foods listed above with a healthy carbohydrate-rich food as an evening snack, your body should be able to produce enough serotonin to facilitate a good night's rest.
What follows are some suggestions for healthy meals and snacks that combine a tryptophan-rich food with a carbohydrate-rich food:
- Rice with miso soup
- Whole grain pita with hummus (add tomato and red onion slices for flavor)
- Whole grain crackers with organic peanut butter (add a touch of honey for sweetness, if desired)
- Unsweetened whole grain cereal with soy milk
- Rice with lentils
- Rice, black beans, and guacamole
- Hummus with steamed broccoli
- Eggs with whole grain toast
Clearly, the possible combinations of tryptophan-rich foods and carbohydrate-rich foods are endless. Be creative and enjoy the process of figuring out which combinations suit your palate and help you sleep like a bear.
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