11 Foods That Can Help You Sleep Better

Find out what to eat and drink to catch more quality zzz’s.

Trying to get more shut-eye? Take a look at your diet. Eating the right foods in the hours before you hit the hay may help you fall asleep faster, say experts, and even improve the quality of your sleep. Keep reading for your get-sleepy grocery list, and remember to stop noshing two hours before bedtime to give your body enough time to properly digest.

1 Edamame

Craving a salty snack before bed? Turn to lightly salted edamame, says Dr. Dalton-Smith—especially if you’re dealing with menopause-related symptoms. “The natural estrogen-like compounds found in soy-based products can be very beneficial in controlling those nighttime hot flashes that can disturb your sleep,” she says. If it’s crackers and dip you’re craving, try making this easy edamame recipe: In a food processor, blend together 2 cups of shelled, cooked edamame with 1 tsp salt, a drizzle of olive oil and 1 clove garlic (optional) until smooth.

2 Hard Cooked Eggs

If you have trouble staying asleep at night, it may be because you didn’t eat a pre-bedtime snack high in protein, or perhaps your snack was too high in simple, high-sugar carbohydrates, like cake and candy. “The problem with simple carbs is that they can put you on a ‘sugar roller coaster’ and drop your blood sugar while you’re sleeping, causing you to wake at 2 or 3 in the morning,” says Dr. Teitelbaum. A better bet? “Eat an egg, cheese, nuts or other protein-rich snack instead,” he says, “so you can not only fall asleep, but stay asleep.”

3Miso Soup

You love to order this comforting, broth-based soup in Japanese restaurants, but keeping a few 8-ounce packs of instant miso soup at home may be key when you’re having trouble falling asleep, says Stella Metsovas, CN, a nutritionist in Laguna Beach, California. Here’s why: Miso contains amino acids that may boost the production of melatonin, a natural hormone that can help induce the yawns. Bonus: Research shows that warm liquids like soup and tea may also relieve cold symptoms, helping you sleep better when you’re feeling under the weather.

4Cereal

There’s no need to feel guilty about having a small bowl of cereal before bed, especially if it’s a low-sugar, whole-grain cereal. Not only is it a healthy snack (make sure you top it with milk to give your body the protein it needs), but it may also help you snooze. “Complex carbohydrate–rich foods increase the availability of tryptophan in the bloodstream, increasing the sleep-inducing effects,” says Dr. Dalton-Smith. Bonus: Top your bowl with a sprinkling of dried cherries (see above) for extra help catching your zzz’s.

5Broccoli

What you eat during the day could help you feel well-rested tomorrow morning. A study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that the more fiber in a person’s diet, the more time they spent in restorative sleep. On the other hand, researchers found that people who ate a lot of saturated fat spent less time in the deep-sleep phase. Opt for fiber-filled foods like beans, broccoli and raspberries, and cut back on foods high in saturated fat, like bacon, steak, butter and cheese.

6Dairy

Yogurt and milk do contain tryptophan, notes Dr. Dalton-Smith, but also have a surprising sleep-inducing nutrient: “Calcium is effective in stress reduction and stabilization of nerve fibers, including those in the brain.” That means a serving of your favorite Greek yogurt before bed can not only help you sleep, but also help you stop worrying about the weird thing your boss said earlier at work.

 

Worried about falling asleep tonight? Have a banana before bed, says Saundra Dalton-Smith, MD, an internist and the author of Set Free to Live Free: Breaking Through the 7 Lies Women Tell Themselves. “Bananas are an excellent source of magnesium and potassium, which help to relax overstressed muscles. They also contain tryptophan, which convert to serotonin and melatonin, the brain’s key calming hormones.” Try this tasty and incredibly simple bedtime smoothie: Blend one banana with one cup of milk or soy milk (and ice, if desired). Pour and enjoy!

8Oatmeal

You eat it for breakfast, but could a bowl of warm oatmeal help you get more rest? Yes, says Stephan Dorlandt, a clinical nutritionist based in Southern California. “Think about it,” he says. “Oatmeal is warm, soft, soothing, easy to prepare, inexpensive and nourishing. It’s rich in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon and potassium—the who’s who of nutrients known to support sleep.” But go easy on the sweeteners; too much sugar before bed can have an anti-calming effect. Instead, consider topping your bowl with fruit, like bananas (see above).

9 Tea

Yes, avoiding all caffeine in the evening hours is key, but some decaf varieties can help get you into sleep mode, says Dr. Teitelbaum. “Chamomile tea is a very helpful and safe sleep aid,” he says, adding that green tea is another good choice. “Green tea contains theanine, which helps promote sleep. Just be sure you get a decaf green tea if drinking it at bedtime.” Experts recommend trying a 1-cup serving of the hot stuff.

10 Cherries

Oddly, a glass of cherry juice may be an effective way to fall asleep faster, says a team of researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and University of Rochester. In their study, they found that cherries, particularly tart cherries, naturally boosted the body’s supply of melatonin, which helped people with insomnia. While the jury is still out on how much juice or how many cherries are needed to make you sleepy, experts say sipping a glass of cherry juice (available at most natural foods stores) or having a serving of fresh, frozen or dried cherries before bedtime couldn’t hurt.

Five Easy Ways to Eat More Spinach (Your Muscles Will Thank You, Says Science)

by Siobhan O’Connor

Siobhan O’Connor is a natural beauty and health expert and the co-author, with Alexandra Spunt, of the blog No More Dirty Looks.

It turns out that Popeye was onto something: Besides providing the body with protein, iron, powerful antioxidants, and a natural glow, spinach may also benefit muscle building. So much for the puny-vegetarian stereotype!

And since it’s such a health superstar, we’re going to tell you how to incorporate it into your diet without having to think too much about it. Here’s why.

The Daily is reporting on a new(ish) study published in Cell Metabolism which showed that eating spinach may help muscles work more efficiently during exercise. Apparently the inorganic nitrate found in spinach does this by fueling mitochondria—the little engines in our cells that could—with more energy on less oxygen. The lead scientist on the study, Dr. Eddie Weitzberg, compared it to being able to run a car on less fuel but at the same speed.

Whether or not you’re taking the GOOD 30-day challenge or did our own Vegan For a Week Challenge (and have been following ourMeatless Monday recipe series), eating more spinach is a great idea. Its mild flavor makes it one of the most versatile super foods, and it pairs easily with (or hidden in) just about anything. Because you can buy it frozen it’s also convenient and affordable.

Here are a few no-brainer ways to add it to a meal:

Hidden in smoothies: You can load a smoothie with spinach and still have it taste like vanilla ice cream—it’s truly an incredible trick for anyone who thinks they hate veggies (if you’re dealing with a finicky kid—or as I was, a finicky man—just add blueberries to hide the color). Smoothies are also a happy home for spinach because the iron is more readily absorbed with vitamin C, which is found abundantly in fruits. Go for strawberries right now—they have a ton of C and they’re in season (at least in California).

In omelettes: Whether you want to power up at breakfast, or make a lazy dinner, adding spinach to an omelette will take it to the next level. I like doing a Greek-inspired fast frittata with olive oil, onion, and feta. Just saute the onions in a pan that can go in the oven, then add the spinach and let it cook down for a minute. Then pour in your eggs and let that sit until it looks like the bottom half is cooked; then sprinkle it with feta, salt, and pepper and throw it in the oven under the broiler. When the eggs brown at the edges and the feta bubbles you’re done. Takes ten minutes, tastes gourmet.

With pasta or on pizza: It really doesn’t matter whether you like a red sauce, a cream sauce, or a simple olive oil drizzle on your pasta or pizza—spinach pairs with all. You can easily add it to something store-bought but a recent taste triumph at my house involved frozen peas and spinach sauteed in olive oil and garlic in a pan. To that I added the brown rice pasta from Trader Joe’s (cooked of course), some red chili flakes, lemon juice, and lots of salt and pepper. If you’re vegan you’re done (or you can add some nutritional yeast to taste). If you like cheese, throw in some parmesan. If you want meat in there, prosciutto works great.

As a side: This is basically the same as above but without the pasta. Put about a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan with some chopped garlic and saute your spinach for a few minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste along with a squeeze of lemon juice (for both flavor and some vitamin C).

In a salad: Spinach can be added to just about any salad—from a caesar to a chopped to a simple olive oil and vinegar variety. I like making a good vegan caesar dressing with the following: 1 tbs olive oil, 1 tbs vegenaise, 1 tsp dijon, juice of a lemon, 1 tbs of capers (if you like them), 1 tsp of nutritional yeast (if you have it/like it), and salt and pepper to taste. (Note: if you use the capers you may not need the salt, taste it first.) Do a romaine and fresh spinach mix and add anything you like to it: You can go traditional with croutons and parmesan, or make it more of a mixed vegetable salad with artichoke hearts, tomatoes and cucumbers.

Ok, your turn! What’s your favorite way to use this muscle-building age-fighter?

Photo (cc) from Flickr user srqpix

 

Eating spicy food linked with longer life in Chinese study

Spice up your diet? It may be the key to longevity.

Spice up your diet? It may be the key to longevity.  (iStock)

Firing up the flavors in your food may help you live longer: Eating spicy foods frequently may be tied to a slightly lower risk of an earlier death, according to a new study. However, more research is needed to confirm the link, experts say.

In the study, researchers asked nearly 500,000 people in China how often they ate hot, spicy foods. The participants were ages 30 to 79 when the study started, and the researchers followed up with them for about seven years, during which time about 20,000 of the people died.

The researchers found that the people in the study who ate spicy foods one or two days a week were 10 percent less likely to die during the study, compared with those who ate spicy foods less than once a week, according to the study published today (Aug. 4) in the journal The BMJ.

Moreover, the people in the study who ate spicy foods three or more days a week were 14 percent less likely to die during the study, compared with those who ate spicy foods less than once a week. [Extending Life: 7 Ways to Live Past 100]

However, the study was observational, and so it is too early to tell whether there is a causal relationship between eating spicy food and lower mortality, said study author Lu Qi, an associate professor at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts. “We definitely need more data from other populations,” Qi told Live Science.

The researchers don’t know why exactly the consumption of spicy food may be linked to lower mortality, but previous research on cells and animals has suggested several possible mechanisms, Qi said. For example, the consumption of spicy foods has been shown to lower inflammation, improve the breakdown of fat in the body and change the composition of gut bacteria, he said.

In the study, the researchers also asked the participants to specify the main sources of spices they typically used, allowing them to choose between fresh chili pepper, dried chili pepper, chili sauce and chili oil. Fresh and dried chili peppers were the most frequently used types of spices among the people who ate spicy food at least once a week, the researchers said.

However, “itis unclear whether the observed associations are the direct result of chili intake, or whether chili is simply a marker for other beneficial but unmeasured dietary components,” said Nita Forouhi, a nutritional epidemiologist at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, who was not involved in the study, in a editorial published with the study in the journal.

At this point, researchers don’t know for sure whether eating spicy foods can have a beneficial effect on human health and mortality, Forouhi wrote. “Future research is needed to establish whether spicy food consumption has the potential to improve health and reduce mortality directly, or if it is merely a marker of other dietary and lifestyle factors,” she said.

New ‘Fake Meat’ Smells, Tastes And Feels Like Meat, But Is Actually Made Entirely From Plants!

What would your reaction be if someone told you that the delicious steak you were gorging on was actually made of plants? No, I’m not talking about cheap (read: horrendous) substitutes like tofu, or those godforsaken nutri nuggets. This is actually ‘fake meat’.

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Ethan Brown is the mind behind this. Founder and CEO of the startup ‘Beyond Meat’, Brown wants to manufacture fake meat by using patented technology, and plant products, eliminating animal slaughter, along with any other negatives that meat brings to the table.

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He realised that meat is nothing more than just a combination of amino acids, fats, carbohydrates, trace minerals and water. Convinced that he would only do epic stuff in life, and nothing else, he took the exact same nutrients from the plants and combined them to match the taste, texture and nutrition of real meat. Boss!

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1. But why avoid something as delicious as real meat? It’s the greatest ever, right?

Because it requires huge efforts and resources to get meat, he says. “Raising livestock is an incredibly inefficient way of producing protein. It takes a lot of land, a lot of energy, and a lot of water just to generate one pound of meat from an animal. About 30% of the animal is meat we eat; the rest is not useful.”

2. Manufacturing meat can solve a bunch of other issues like global warming, animal welfare, natural resources, and the alarming effects processed meat has on the health of humans.

3. Not to forget, it also addresses the concerns of people who have been fighting against the slaughter of animals.

While the company’s main plant is located in Missouri, it’s headquartered in El Segundo, California.

 

 

3. Not to forget, it also addresses the concerns of people who have been fighting against the slaughter of animals.
While the company’s main plant is located in Missouri, it’s headquartered in El Segundo, California.

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In fact it worked so well at blind tastings that people really could not tell the difference. Even people like Bill Gates and the founders of Twitter got up and took notice of Beyond Meat. Bill Gates even went out to call it the future of food for humans. Writing a blog post describing his experience of having a Chicken Taco made from plants at Beyond Meat, he said – “Like most people, I don’t think I can be easily fooled. But that’s just what happened when I was asked to taste a chicken taco and tell whether the meat inside was real or fake. The meat certainly had the look and the smell of chicken. I took a bite and it had the taste and texture of real chicken, too. But I was surprised to learn that there wasn’t an ounce of real chicken in it. The ‘meat’ was made entirely of plants. And yet, I couldn’t tell the difference.”

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This is something really cool, but none of us would actually believe how authentic it feels until we test it out on ourselves. Anyhoo, if this technology does work out, it will totally change the way the food industry functions.   Keeping our fingers crossed.

Healthy Summer Snack for Kids!

Zu-Canoe Ingredients

  • 2 medium 2 inch wide zucchini
  • 1/2 TSP salt
  • 1/2 TSP freshly ground pepper
  • 1 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 TBSP white wine vinegar
  • 1 TBSP minced shallot
  • 1 cup quartered grape tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup diced mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
  • 1 cup chopped celery
Make Zu-Canoes for you and your family! 

Trim both ends off zucchini; cut in half lengthwise. Cut a thin slice off the backs so each half sits flat. Scoop out the pulp, leaving a 1/4 inch shell. Finely chop the pulp; set aside.
Place the zucchini halves in a microwave-safe dish. Sprinkle with 1/4TSP each salt and pepper. Cover and microwave on high until tender-crisp, 3-4 minutes.
Whisk oil, vinegar, shallot and the remaining 1⁄4 TSP each salt and pepper in a medium bowl.
Add tomatoes, cheese, basil and the reserved zucchini pulp; toss to combine. Divide the filling among the zu-canoes.Nutrition per serving: 87 calories; 4g fat (1g sat, 3g mono); 3mg cholesterol; 7g carbohydrates, 0g added sugars; 7g protein; 2g fiber; 408 mg sodium; 545mg potassium. Bonus: Vitamin C (48% DV), Vitamin A (19% DV), Zinc (30% DV), Calcium (16% DV)
Exchanges: 1 vegetable, 1/2 starch, 1/2 high-fat meat

Maintaining a conscious diet of the foods you love, with healthy portions and thoughtful consumption times, is the best way to stay on track and love what you eat! See more recipes here

 

 

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