Eat, drink, and enjoy a good night’s sleep!

By: Jodie Shield, RDN

Having trouble falling asleep? It may be that handful of greasy potato chips or late afternoon latte? What you eat and drink can wreak havoc on your sleep and health. Getting enough shuteye helps you feel energized and possibly lose weight. That’s because food relates directly to serotonin, a key hormone that helps promote sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation  recommendations, most adults need about 7 to 8 hours of sleep a day. So if you’re tossing and turning all night, reach for foods that naturally calm the body and increase serotonin levels. Here are four foods that may help you snooze.

Calming carbohydrates. Skip the sugary carbs like white bread, cookies, and pastries. They tend to reduce serotonin levels. Nosh on whole grain breads, cereals, pasta, and brown rice instead. Try my homemade cinnamon raisin granola.

Tripped out proteins. Lean proteins such as seafood, turkey, and chicken are high in the amino acid tryptophan, which tends to increase serotonin levels. Skip the high fat proteins (steak, cheese, fried chicken wings) they take longer to digest and can keep you awake. Try my lemon chicken.

Heart-healthy fats. Avoid foods with saturated fat and trans fat like French fries and potato chips. Not only are they bad for your heart, they can bring your serotonin levels down. Unsaturated fats can boost serotonin levels, so spread the heart-health love and enjoy peanut butter or nibble on nuts like almonds, cashews, pistachios, and walnuts.Try my homemade peanut butter.

Soothing beverages. A cup of warm low-fat milk or herbal teas like chamomile or peppermint have a calming effect on the body. They help reduce tension and promote sleep. Caffeine is a stimulant so beverages like coffee, tea, and soft drinks often perk you up and interfere with sleep. As a rule of thumb, avoid caffeinated beverages after 3:00 pm.

All of these recipes – and many more – can also be found on my app Time to Eat Healthy! Sweet dreams!

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About Author


Jodie Shield, M.Ed., R.D., L.D.N. Jodie Shield has been a consultant and spokesperson in the field of nutrition for over two decades. A former national media spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association (1989-1995), she has worked extensively with the Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center and taught nutrition and medical dietetics at the University of Illinois. Currently she is a complemental faculty member of the College of Health Sciences in the Department of Clinical Nutrition at Rush University in Chicago.

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