Organic Consumers Association

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Healthy Foods That Promote Restful Sleep

If you are following sound advice on how to get a good night's sleep but are 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 will have a hard time feeling sleepy enough to rest soundly. And without adequate levels of tryptophan within your brain, you will 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:

* Beans

* Whole grains, including rice

* Lentils

* Chickpeas

* Hazelnuts

* Peanuts

* Eggs

* Sunflower seeds

* Sesame seeds

* Miso (fermented soy beans)

* Raw dairy products (if you can tolerate dairy)

If you combine any of the food listed above with a healthy carbohydrate-rich food as an evening snack, you will provide your body with a good opportunity 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:

1. Rice with miso soup

2. Whole grain pita with hummus (add tomato and red onion slices for flavor)

3. Whole grain crackers with organic peanut butter (add a touch of honey for sweetness, if desired)

4. Rice with lentils

5. Rice, black beans, and guacamole

6. Hummus with steamed broccoli

7. 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.

About the author

Ben Kim is a chiropractor and acupuncturist who lives in Ontario, Canada with his wife and two sons. He provides information on how to experience your best health as you age at his website, http://drbenkim.com.

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