A PhD & RD’s 3 Nonnegotiables For Stellar Sleep

Ferira is a fan of eating in a sleep smart way throughout the day—namely, including high-quality sources of protein and colorful, magnesium-rich plant foods. Magnesium is a mineral that’s important for lots of functions in the body, including sleep,* and according to Ferira, it’s a major nutrient gap. “Nuts, seeds, whole grains, leafy greens, legumes—these are magnesium-dense foods that should go into your [grocery] cart.” (You can find our full list of magnesium-rich foods here, if you’re curious.) 

No matter your recipe of choice, Ferira also recommends avoiding anything excessive before hitting the hay: excessively sweet, spicy, or heavy. “Our largest meals should not ever be close to bedtime,” she notes. “You might put some wonderfully spicy things in your shopping cart, but don’t consume those near bedtime.” 

Finally, we’d be remiss not to mention the famous tryptophan phenomenon—the essential amino acid that’s a precursor to serotonin, a neurotransmitter that converts to melatonin in the brain. In terms of eating foods chock-full of the amino acid (like poultry, oats, nuts, and seeds) to help foster sleep? “The science is not super clear on that, but if you are pro-tryptophan, it won’t hurt you,” Ferira says. 

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