What is Melatonin? Melatonin is a hormone your body produces to help regulate sleep and awake patterns. Not everyone produces enough of this hormone, so their sleep patterns are off, making it difficult to either get to sleep and stay asleep; or difficult in going back to sleep once you have woken up. For the average person, this can be quite a challenge. No one really understands this unless they, themselves, go through it. It’s a frustrating cycle that just won’t stop.
Are there foods that contain melatonin? Yes! Do they help a person get rest at night? Absolutely!
Today, we are going to talk about a few foods you can eat that have melatonin in them and the affects it has on your body. I have also taken the liberty of looking in to some teas as well, which I know for a fact, a few of them do work very nicely in calming a body down so you can rest; especially after a long day.
Everyone wants (and needs) a good night’s rest, that is no secret. If a person doesn’t sleep well, their whole day is thrown off course because they are exhausted from lack of sleep. Concentration is at a low; focusing on anything is almost non-existent and forget about energy to get anything done on time. Let’s face it; people that don’t sleep well don’t perform well. There are supplements that can be taken to help people sleep that have melatonin in them, up to 10 mg. While taking this type of supplement is fine for some, others may not be able to take them, due to medication they are currently on. There at four vitamins and minerals found in foods that naturally help the body relax and help to rest. Some of these will help your body produce the melatonin.
Four vitamins and minerals will help with sleep :
- Tryptophan –This contains an essential amino acid, which is needed for normal growth in infants; it is also important for production and maintenance of your body’s proteins, muscles, enzymes, and neurotransmitters. This contains melatonin (which helps to regulate the sleep cycle) and serotonin (which helps to regulate pain, sleep, mood and appetites. While people claim the tryptophan in turkey makes you sleepy, there isn’t enough in it to really do much. There are other vitamins/minerals in turkey that also contribute to “sleepy” feeling you get after eating that Thanksgiving turkey.
- Magnesium – This is an important mineral the body needs to function; it helps with nerve and muscle function, helps regulate your blood pressure and helps support your immune system. Not having enough of this mineral in your body will cause health issues, such as numbness, tingling and muscle cramps, just to name a few.
- Calcium – This is a mineral your body helps your brain make melatonin and helps your bones stay strong. A lack of calcium in your body could you to lose bone mass, which makes the bones easy to break; also not enough calcium can cause a person to wake up in the middle of the night and have a hard time going back to sleep.
- B6 – This vitamin helps to turn tryptophan into melatonin. If your body doesn’t have enough B6, you tend to have a lower amount of serotonin and very poor sleep. This has also been known to cause symptoms of depression and mood disorders, which may lead to insomnia.
Now that we have listed what your body needs to function properly and be able to sleep, let’s take a look at some foods that you can eat to help yourself get more rest and be healthy.
Foods to help you rest :
Foods on the high scale with Tryptophan include lean chicken and turkey, lean red meat (like skirt steak), lean pork chops (cut as much fat off as you can), tofu, salmon, boiled soy beans (edamame), milk (skim), pumpkin/squash seeds, cashews, peanuts, oatmeal, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, and hard boiled eggs.
Food on the high scale with Magnesium include spinach, kale, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, lima beans, kidney beans, black-eyed peas, tuna, mackerel, Pollock, brown rice, wheat pasta, wild rice, almonds, brazil nuts, cashews, pecans, walnuts. You can also eat dark chocolate (approximately one square), avocado, skim milk, non-fat yogurt, and bananas.
Foods on the high scale with Calcium include firm tofu, skim milk, low-fat yogurt, grated parmesan cheese, low-fat ricotta, Swiss cheese, spinach, turnip greens, navy beans, white beans, black-eyes peas, okra, trout, can of salmon (3 ounce), acorn squash (add a little butter and cinnamon, this is amazing!), clams, shrimp, lobster, octopus, and blue crab.
Foods on the high scale with B6 vitamin include mahi-mahi, salmon, snapper, lean chicken breast, roasted turkey, tempeh (firm soy product with a very strong nutty flavor), green soy beans (edamame), lean pork chops, salami, cured ham, beef, buffalo, beef roast, sweet potatoes, acorn squash, peas (fresh or steamed), bananas, mango (fresh), pineapple (fresh), white potatoes (baked with skin), avocados, pistachio nuts, roasted chestnuts, dried sunflower seeds (unsalted) and walnuts.
There is also some nighttime teas that you can drink if you don’t feel like eating any of the foods listed, and here are couple to start with: peppermint tea, chamomile tea, Tazo dream tea, Ashwagandha tea (a revered herb of Indian Ayurveda alternative medicine, to help calm your nerves), Valerian root tea (also used for anxiety, depression and menopause symptoms), the ever popular warm milk (I’m not a big fan of warm milk these days, but it may worth a try!), Passionflower tea (used to help with sleep quality and anxiety issues), and last but not least, tart cherry juice (warm may be more soothing for you, but you can drink this cold as well).
As you can see, a lot of these foods are in the other categories listed as well; therefore, they are all good for your well-being and health. There are other foods you can also eat that are not included in the list; you can look more up as you go through the foods. These are just a jump start on what you can eat to help yourself along on the right road, with hopefully easier (and better) rest at night. Remember, they do have melatonin in them, but in order for your body to work at full capacity, you need to keep these other vitamins and minerals in your body as well. If you aren’t sure what you may be lacking, don’t experiment, go get a blood test done, get your levels checked and then use the advice from your doctor on how to improve your numbers. Too much of one (or all) is also not a good thing. You have to level out, and do it in a healthy way.
With the items listed, you can make a great meal for yourself and your family. Take in to consideration the amounts you serve. There are all sorts of places to look for the correct serving amounts needed. Always remember, grilled meats are best, as they do not have a high fat content, as they would if you fried them. I think they all taste better grilled anyway. If you do decide you want to fry something, use extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil. They are much healthier to use and you don’t need a lot to do the desired taste you want. Always put them on a paper towel or baking towel to take the excess oil off of the food, because food that doesn’t have the extra oil taken off will be very mushy and not all that good. You want it to crunch, not drip.
Melatonin is a vital part of what you need for rest and we have listed quite a few things, at the top of the lists with a few extras for you try. This isn’t meant for you to throw everything out in your kitchen and replace with only the foods listed. This is meant for some guidance for you, so you know what may help you sleep better at night. There are foods that give you energy, help you focus to get something done, help you heal, etc. Not all of the foods will help you sleep. So perhaps, at dinner, you can make a menu that will help your body adjust a bit better to getting ready for sleep. Always remember not to eat too late, as this causes a lot of uncomfortable sleepless nights as well. Personally, I would say eat no later than 7pm, if you can help it. If you eat later than that, and then eat lightly, and try including a few of the items listed, see how it makes you feel. You won’t have an overnight miracle but you will see a big different in how you feel throughout the week. Keep it on as much a routine as you can, so your body can get used to the changes you’re making.
I also don’t oppose a nice warm bath, with perhaps some candles and the tea. This is more calming than you can imagine if you have never tried it. Your entire body will be relaxed, giving your new system of eating (and drinking) time to acclimate to your new routine.
Please remember, don’t do a lot of anything until you have your blood levels checked, talk with your doctor about how to handle missing vitamins and minerals. You don’t want to do more damage to yourself. Your doctor would want a healthy way for you too, but not at the expense of your health. Get checked first!