A Mediterranean diet doesn’t just help tame your sweet cravings and help you lose weight but it also features lots of foods that can help you sleep. Eating lots of fibre-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts and wholegrains will help keep you regular and keep your digestive system firing.
Here are some superstars of the Mediterranean diet that could turn your poor sleep into wonderful restorative sleep.
- Salmon and tuna – Salmon and tuna are wonderful sources of Vitamin B6 which promotes the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone.
- Tempeh – The Japanese learned long ago that tempeh, made of fermented soy beans, can help modulate the quality and duration of a person’s sleep. The key is that it contains isoflavones which act like oestrogen, and just 50mg of isoflavones (in roughly 100-150g of tempeh) can be beneficial. Isoflavones are also found in tofu, edamame and miso.
- Brown rice – Skip the white rice and go for higher-fibre, magnesium-rich brown rice. Eating a meal featuring brown rice can give you a dose of the amino acid tryptophan which the body converts into serotonin, a ‘good-mood’ brain chemical.
- Tart cherry juice – Cherries are actually one of the few food sources of melatonin, the hormone that helps regulate your sleep cycles.
- Almonds – Loaded with magnesium which acts as a natural muscle relaxant, almonds are an excellent snack if you want to improve your sleep. Munch on just ten almonds a day and you may notice an improvement in your sleep after just two weeks.
- Butter beans – Rich in phosphorous, a mineral that can help reduce wakefulness during the night and also increase the time you spend asleep, butter beans are also a rich source of fibre.
What foods to avoid for good sleep
If improving your sleep is a priority then there are three foods you really must try to avoid or minimise in your diet.
- Saturated fat – Try to keep your saturated fat intake to foods that contain less than 3g per 100g. A diet high in saturated fat can negatively impact your slow-wave sleep.
- Refined carbs – Foods like pasta, bread, breakfast cereals and white rice can spike blood sugar, interfering with the release of your sleep-inducing hormones.
- High-sugar foods – You know sugar gives you instant energy. Now consider how much it can hinder your ability to sleep well. As your body processes the sugar you’ve eaten, it causes rises and falls, which are not conducive to restful sleep. (Honey could be an exception! Read more.)
If you’re experiencing less than excellent sleep, give the Mediterranean diet a go. Or at least, try adding some of the superstar Mediterranean ingredients to your diet.