Eat Right to Sleep Tight

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It’s almost midnight and you are wired; like most nights, you just can’t seem to settle down. What can you do nutritionally to help get some much-needed shut-eye?

First things first, avoid caffeine after noon. Your good friend Joe can impede sleep for several hours after consuming it. Don’t forget that chocolate, soda, and several varieties of tea also contain caffeine.

There are plenty of foods to choose from that help induce sleep. Look for foods that are high in the amino acid tryptophan, vitamin B6, and the minerals calcium and magnesium, as well as foods that naturally contain melatonin.

Tryptophan is an amino acid that your body does not produce; therefore you must turn to food to obtain it. Tryptophan starts a domino effect. First, it creates the feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin, which settles you down and helps you to happily relax. Serotonin then stimulates the production of the “sleep hormone” known as melatonin, and voila, you begin to feel sleepy.

Terrific Tryptophan selections include:

  • Poultry
  • Yogurt
  • Oats
  • Bananas
  • Eggs
  • Walnuts

Vitamin B6 helps sleep by creating both serotonin and melatonin.

Excellent vitamin B6 choices include:

  • Fish
  • Poultry
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Chickpeas (or hummus)
  • Bananas
  • Fortified cereals
  • Sunflower seeds

Magnesium and calcium are natural sedatives.

Foods high in both magnesium and calcium include:

  • Whole grains
  • Dark leafy greens (spinach, collard greens or chard)
  • Fish
  • Sunflower seeds

And then there are some food choices that naturally contain melatonin. Some of these superstars include:

  • Tart cherries
  • Raspberries
  • Almonds
  • Goji berries
  • Fenugreek and mustard seeds

Use this blog as a checklist and make it your goal to consume as many of the food selections as possible in the week ahead. You will likely achieve the slumber you desperately need.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your Heart Hearts the Mediterranean Diet

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As February, Heart Healtmediterraneanh Month, soon comes to a close, we must not forget to take our heart health seriously. Heart Disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. Every year about 735,000 Americans have a heart attack. Of these, 525,000 are a first heart attack and 210,000 happen in people who have already had a heart attack. Choosing a Mediterranean diet is one of the best ways to protect your health.

Let’s take a look at some of the main items consumed by Italians, Greeks, Egyptians, and others who live near the Mediterranean Sea.

Veggies Galore:

Vegetables are very central to the Mediterranean diet.  For example, residents of Greece eat, on average, six or more servings of vegetables a day. Experiment with spices to add flavor and life to those veggies. No mushy broccoli here!

Fish:

The Mediterranean diet includes a lot of fish. Thousands of studies have proven that the Omega-3s present in fish are great at boosting heart health by decreasing triglycerides, lowering blood pressure, reducing blood clotting, and reducing inflammation in general. The research has led to the American Heart Association recommending 2-3 servings of fish a week.

Nuts & Seeds:

Nuts and seeds are heart-healthy snacks and condiments for salads.  Several of the largest cohort studies, including the popular Nurses’ Health Study, have shown a consistent 30 percent to 50 percent lower risk of sudden cardiac death or cardiovascular disease associated with eating nuts several times a week. In fact, the FDA now allows some nuts and foods made with them to carry this claim: “Eating a diet that includes one ounce of nuts daily can reduce your risk of heart disease.” Which nuts to choose? Almonds lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. Pistachios lower blood pressure and walnuts help keep the arteries clear.

Olive Oil:

The Greeks, Italians, and Spaniards are serious about their olive oil. Abundant evidence supports the role of extra-virgin olive oil in protecting the heart. It lowers LDL cholesterol and may raise your HDL (good cholesterol).

Try substituting your red meat dishes for fish; choose nuts and seeds over cookies and pastries, and experiment cooking with olive oil as opposed to butter in your cooking and you will be doing your heart a super favor!

Sneaky Tricks to Eat More Fruits & Veggies

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We all know it can be hard to get in your fruits and veggies every day, especially when we are supposed to intake 2-4 servings of fruit and 3-5 servings of veggies. Here are some fun tricks you might like to try in order to reach and maybe even surpass those serving recommendations

  • Add berries to your morning cereal.
  • Add sliced cucumber, alfalfa sprouts, parsley, tomatoes or cilantro to your sandwiches.
  • Keep a fruit bowl filled with seasonal fruit in your home and at your office.
  • Add shredded veggies (like zucchini or carrots) to your spaghetti sauce. Shredded veggies can also be easily disguised in meatballs.
  • Speaking of spaghetti, try spaghetti squash!
  • Make kale chips. Rinse and dry a bunch of kale. De-stem it and chop into small pieces. Put the kale in a bowl and drizzle with a tablespoon of olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt. Arrange on a baking sheet (making sure they do not overlap). Bake for 20-25 minutes at 275.
  • Keep some dried fruit on hand (make sure they are sulfate-free); have them combined with some raw nuts to keep your blood sugar balanced.
  • Aim for originality when snacking. Try raw snap peas or raw green beans with hummus.
  • Have a salad challenge with your friends or kids! Get creative. See who can come up with the most colorful salad. Add beets, bell peppers, apples, mangoes, pineapples, or watermelon!
  •  Make a smoothie. Get the blender out. Blend frozen fruit with almond milk. Add a tad of honey if you need it sweeter. You can easily sneak in spinach or kale and it won’t even alter the flavor!

The most important thing to do in order to meet your veggie and fruit serving requirements is to make sure you have them in your home. Keep your freezer loaded with options for those nights when you have little motivation or energy to do major food prep.