Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland situated in your brain. This chemical offers so many benefits, thanks to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Studies have shown that melatonin protects the heart from damage. It’s also proven to help ward off cancer.
However, the most popular role played by melatonin is the regulation of the circadian rhythm — your body clock. Individuals lacking in melatonin often find it difficult to get a good night’s sleep. Melatonin is something that you will find on various internet articles pertaining to how to combat insomnia.
Because of the ability of melatonin to combat sleep deprivation, so many pharmaceutical companies offer the said hormone in supplement form. The downside to taking melatonin supplements is every capsule or tablet usually contains synthetic ingredients. Their intake can actually do more harm than good in the long run because of the man-made chemicals in them.
Fortunately, there are a handful of ways of naturally boosting the amount of melatonin your pineal gland produces and secretes. With increased levels of the chemical in the bloodstream, getting to dreamland won’t be a problem. Including certain foods known to have melatonin-boosting properties can help your body produce sufficient amounts of melatonin so that you may take advantage of all the benefits the chemical offers. Here they are:
Among all your fruit options, experts agree that pineapples are the best in enhancing melanin production. Snack on them if you want to bid insomnia farewell. However, it’s a good idea to consume pineapples in moderation most especially at night in order to avoid acid reflux. Another nice thing about these tropical fruits is they are packed with vitamin C which helps strengthen your immune system.
When going though online listings of naturally regulating your circadian rhythm, it’s for certain that you will find cherries in majority of them. This doesn’t come as a surprise because cherries, in particular the tart varieties, are known to help promote melatonin production. Aside from this, cherries have anti-inflammatory properties. Their consumption may help suppress chronic inflammation that’s associated with various problems, from obesity to cancer.
Available all year round and practically everywhere, bananas help promote the production of more melanin. It’s true that consuming these elongated fruits allows you to gain energy. However, snacking on them before you hit the sack can keep you from ending up sleepless. Experts say that bananas are also good sources of tryptophan, a kind of amino acid that helps calm down your mind and promote sleep.
Drinking a glass of freshly-squeezed orange juice is a thirst-quenching way to boost the amount of melanin your pineal gland produces. Including oranges in your diet also allows you to enjoy stronger bones and teeth due to their calcium content. As you may already know, oranges are excellent sources of vitamin C. A powerful antioxidant, vitamin C is essential not only for a bolstered immunity, but also young-looking and healthy skin.
Whether added to salads, turned into sauces or in taken in juice forms, tomatoes help your body produce sufficient amounts of melatonin to ward off insomnia. What’s so nice about tomatoes is they are excellent sources of a cancer-fighting antioxidant called lycopene. Tomatoes also supply your body with energy-boosting vitamin B6 and immune-strengthening vitamin C. In addition, they contain potassium which is good for the heart.
Fiber in oatmeal makes this breakfast staple very good not only for your gut but also heart. Fiber sweeps out cholesterol as well as impurities along the intestinal tract. Did you know that a serving of oatmeal is also good for someone battling insomnia because it helps boost the production of melatonin naturally? Topping oatmeal with slices of fruits or a handful of nuts or seeds helps increase its health-giving benefits.
What to eat to reduce inflammation and feel better.
By Franziska Spritzler / Authority Nutrition February 25, 2016
Inflammation can be both good and bad.
On one hand, it helps your body defend itself from infection and injury.
But on the other hand, chronic inflammation can lead to weight gain and disease.
Stress, unhealthy inflammatory foods and low activity levels can make this risk even worse.
However, some foods can actually help fight inflammation.
Here is a list of 13 anti-inflammatory foods that are supported by science.
Berries are small fruits that are packed with fiber, vitamins and minerals.
Although there are dozens of varieties, some of the most common berries include:
Berries contain antioxidants called anthocyanins. These compounds have anti-inflammatory effects that may reduce the risk of disease.
Your body produces natural killer cells (NK), which help keep your immune system functioning properly.
One study found that men who consumed blueberries every day produced significantly more NK cells, compared to men who did not.
In another study, overweight men and women who ate strawberries had lower levels of certain inflammatory markers associated with heart disease.
Bottom Line: Berries contain antioxidants known as anthocyanins. These compounds may reduce inflammation, boost immunity and reduce the risk of heart disease.
2. Fatty Fish
Fatty fish are a great source of protein and the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA.
Although all types of fish contain some omega-3 fatty acids, these fatty fish are the best sources:
EPA and DHA reduce inflammation that can lead to metabolic syndrome, heart disease, diabetes and kidney disease, among others.
This occurs after your body metabolizes these fatty acids into compounds calledresolvins and protectins, which have anti-inflammatory effects.
In clinical studies, people consuming salmon or EPA and DHA supplements had decreases in the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein (CRP).
However, in another study, patients with atrial fibrillation who took EPA and DHA daily showed no difference in inflammatory markers when compared to those who received a placebo.
Bottom Line: Fatty fish contain high amounts of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, which have anti-inflammatory effects.
Broccoli is extremely nutritious.
It’s a cruciferous vegetable, along with cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and kale.
Research has shown that eating a lot of cruciferous vegetables is associated with a decreased risk of heart disease and cancer.
This may be related to the anti-inflammatory effects of the antioxidants they contain.
Broccoli is rich in sulforaphane, an antioxidant that fights inflammation by reducing your levels of cytokines and NF-kB, which drive inflammation.
Bottom Line: Broccoli is one of the best sources of sulforaphane, an antioxidant with powerful anti-inflammatory effects.
Avocados are a true “superfood.”
They’re packed with potassium, magnesium, fiberand heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.
They also contain carotenoids and tocopherols, which are linked to reduced cancer risk.
In addition, one compound in avocados has been shown to reduce inflammation in young skin cells.
In one study, when people consumed a slice of avocado with a hamburger, they showed lower levels of inflammatory markers NF-kB and IL-6 than participants who ate the hamburger alone (23).
Bottom Line: Avocados contain various beneficial compounds that protect against inflammation and may reduce the risk of cancer.
5. Green Tea
You’ve probably already heard that green tea is one of the healthiest beverages you can drink.
It’s been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, obesity and other conditions.
Many of its benefits are due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, especially a substance called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG).
EGCG inhibits inflammation by reducing pro-inflammatory cytokine production and damage to the fatty acids in your cells.
Bottom Line: Green tea’s high EGCG content reduces inflammation and protects cells from damage that can lead to disease.
Bell peppers and chili peppers are loaded with vitamin C and antioxidants that have powerful anti-inflammatory effects.
Bell peppers contain the antioxidant quercetin, which has been shown to reduce one marker of oxidative damage in people with sarcoidosis.
Chili peppers contain sinapic acid and ferulic acid, which may reduce inflammation and lead to healthier aging.
Bottom Line: Chili peppers and bell peppers are rich in quercetin, sinapic acid, ferulic acid and other antioxidants with strong anti-inflammatory effects.
Mushrooms are an incredibly healthy type of fungus, and thousands of varieties exist throughout the world.
They’re very low in calories and rich in all of the B vitamins, selenium and copper.
Mushrooms also contain lectins, phenols and other substances that provide anti-inflammatory protection.
A special type of mushroom called Lion’s Mane may potentially reduce the low-grade inflammation seen in obesity.
However, one study found cooking mushrooms decreased a large portion of their anti-inflammatory compounds, so it may be best to consume them raw or lightly cooked (38).
Bottom Line: Mushrooms contain several compounds that may decrease inflammation. Consuming them raw or lightly cooked may help you reap their full anti-inflammatory potential.
Grapes contain anthocyanins, which reduce inflammation.
They may also decrease the risk of several diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer’s disease and eye disorders.
Grapes are also one of the best sources of resveratrol, another compound that has many health benefits.
In one study, people with heart disease who consumed grape extract daily experienced a decrease in inflammatory gene markers, including NF-kB.
Also, their levels of adiponectin increased, which is a good thing because low levels are associated with weight gain and an increased risk of cancer.
Bottom Line: Several plant compounds in grapes, including resveratrol, can reduce inflammation. They may also reduce the risk of several diseases.
Turmeric is a spice with a strong, earthy flavor that’s often used in curries and other types of Indian dishes.
It has received a lot of attention for its content of the powerful anti-inflammatory nutrient curcumin.
Turmeric is effective at reducing the inflammation related to arthritis, diabetes and other diseases.
When people with metabolic syndrome took 1 gram of curcumin daily, they experienced a significant decrease in CRP when compared to placebo.
However, it may be hard to get enough curcumin to have a noticeable effect from turmeric alone.
In one study, overweight women who took 2.8 grams of turmeric per day had no improvement in inflammatory markers.
Eating black pepper along with turmeric enhances the effects. Black pepper containspiperine, which can boost curcumin absorption by 2,000%.
Bottom Line: Turmeric contains a powerful anti-inflammatory compound called curcumin. Eating black pepper with turmeric can significantly enhance the absorption of curcumin.
10. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Extra virgin olive oil is one of the healthiest fats you can eat.
It’s rich in monounsaturated fats and a staple in the Mediterranean diet, which provides numerous health benefits.
Many studies have analyzed olive oil’s anti-inflammatory properties.
It’s been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, brain cancer and other serious health conditions.
In one Mediterranean diet study, CRP and several other inflammatory markers significantly decreased in those who consumed 1.7 oz (50 ml) of olive oil daily.
The effect of oleocanthol, an antioxidant found in olive oil, has been compared to anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen.
However, it’s important to note the type of olive oil. Anti-inflammatory benefits are much greater in extra-virgin olive oil than in refined olive oil.
Bottom Line: Extra-virgin olive oil provides powerful anti-inflammatory benefits, which may reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer and other serious health conditions.
11. Dark Chocolate and Cocoa
Dark chocolate is delicious, rich and satisfying.
It’s also packed with antioxidants that reduce inflammation. These may also reduce the risk of disease and lead to healthier aging.
Flavanols are responsible for chocolate’s anti-inflammatory effects, and also keep the endothelial cells that line your arteries healthy.
In one study, smokers showed significant improvement in endothelial function two hours after eating high-flavonol chocolate.
However, make sure to choose dark chocolate that contains at least 70% cocoa (more is even better) in order to reap the anti-inflammatory benefits.
Bottom Line: Flavanols in dark chocolate and cocoa can reduce inflammation. They may also reduce the risk of several disease.
The tomato is a nutritional powerhouse.
Tomatoes are high in vitamin C, potassium andlycopene, an antioxidant with impressive anti-inflammatory properties.
Lycopene may be particularly beneficial for reducing pro-inflammatory compounds related to several types of cancer.
One study found that drinking tomato juice significantly decreased inflammatory markers in overweight women. However, these markers did not decrease in obese women.
In a review of studies analyzing different forms of lycopene, researchers found that tomatoes and tomato products reduced inflammation more than lycopene supplements.
Lastly, it’s interesting to note that cooking tomatoes in olive oil can maximize the amount of lycopene you absorb.
Bottom Line: Tomatoes are an excellent source of lycopene, which can reduce inflammation and protect against cancer.
Cherries are delicious and rich in antioxidants, such as anthocyanins and catechins, which fight inflammation.
Although the health-promoting properties of tart cherries have been studied more, sweet cherries also provide benefits.
In one study, when people consumed 280 grams of cherries per day for one month, their CRP levels decreased and remained that way for 28 days after they stopped eating cherries.
Bottom Line: Sweet and tart cherries contain antioxidants that reduce inflammation and the risk of disease.
14. Anything Else?
Even low levels of inflammation on a chronic basis can lead to disease.
Do your best to keep inflammation in check by choosing a wide variety of these delicious, antioxidant-rich foods.
P.S. If you are looking for the foods to avoid to reduce inflammation, then read this:Top 6 Foods and Ingredients That Cause Inflammation.
Franziska Spritzler has a BSc in nutrition and dietetics. She is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator with expertise in carbohydrate-restricted diets for diabetes and weight management.
Give your box of chamomile a rest. New research presented at the Experimental Biology 2014 meeting finds drinking this twice a day can help you sleep nearly 90 more minutes a night.
Researchers from Louisiana State University had seven older adults with insomnia drink eight ounces of Montmorency tart cherry juice twice a day for two weeks, followed by two weeks of no juice, and then two more weeks of drinking a placebo beverage. Compared to the placebo, drinking the cherry juice resulted in an average of 84 more minutes of sleep time each night.
Cherry juice is a natural source of the sleep-wake cycle hormone melatonin and amino acid tryptophan, says study coauthor Frank L. Greenway, director of the outpatient research clinic at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center at LSU.
“Proanthocyanidins, or the ruby red pigments in tart cherry juice, contain an enzyme that reduces inflammation and decreases the breakdown of tryptophan, letting it go to work longer in your body,” he says.
Montmorency cherries are particularly high in those compounds. (The study was funded by the Cherry Marketing Institute, but the group had no role in the study design or outcome.)
Greenway estimates that up to one-third of American adults over age 65 have insomnia, which is defined as having trouble sleeping more than three nights per week.
He believes cherry juice is a safer way to improve sleep quality than going the pharmaceutical route, given the lack of side effects.
“Sleeping pills in the elderly are associated with a 4-fold increase in the prevalence of falls which, at that age, can result in fractures that require surgery,” he explains.
Not a cherry juice fan? Try kiwi.
Eating two kiwi fruits an hour before bed was shown to increase sleep time by 13% and decrease mid-sleep waking periods by 29% after just four weeks, finds a recent Chinese study.
Or incorporate seaweed into your dinner; the ocean vegetable is high in omega-3 DHA, which helped children get an extra full hour of sleep, according to a recent University of Oxford study.
By Carolanne Wright Contributing Writer for Wake Up World Updated September 2014
Poor sleep isn’t only a nuisance, it’s also dangerous for health. Currently, over 50 million Americans suffer from the condition, with women three times more susceptible than men. When we are sleep deprived, the risk of diabetes, depression and cardiovascular disease increase, immunity falters and our waistlines expand. As anyone who has suffered from insomnia knows, lack of decent shut-eye creates mayhem in personal and professional lives, while also jeopardizing ultimate well-being.
The good news is that we don’t have to be at the mercy of erratic sleep patterns. With a few wise food choices in the latter part of the day, we can overcome the unruly beast of insomnia once and for all.
Food and the quest for sleep
Russell Rosenberg, Ph.D. and CEO of the National Sleep Foundation, classifies food into two categories: “sleep promoters” and “sleep stealers.” Anecdotal evidence and scientific research have found that certain types of edibles encourage a better night’s rest, while others contribute to disrupted dream time.
One of the best foods you can eat to sleep more soundly, cherries are a natural source of melatonin – a hormone that regulates sleep/wake cycles. A handful of fresh cherries or a glass of tart cherry juice half an hour or so before bedtime can help ease you into restful slumber.
Natural sugars found in honey drive tryptophan into the brain, where they are then converted to serotonin – a neurotransmitter that encourages relaxation. Liver glycogen stores are replenished as well, thereby limiting the release of sleep-disrupting cortisol and adrenaline in the early morning hours. Take two tablespoons of raw honey (away from other food) one hour before bedtime.
Ingesting small amounts of a high-glycemic food in the evening helps to foster a good night’s rest. According to Health magazine:
A 2007 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that consuming jasmine rice four hours before bedtime cut[s] the amount of time it took to fall asleep in half when compared with eating a high-glycemic-index meal at the same time interval.
The researchers speculate that high-glycemic foods, such as jasmine rice, increase the availability of tryptophan in the brain.
Rich in magnesium, potassium and sleep-inducing carbs, bananas are an excellent snack shortly before bed. As an added perk, potassium supports cardiovascular health and cognitive functioning.
Another exceptional source of potassium, sweet potatoes assist in relaxing the muscles and provide the complex carbohydrates which fuel a peaceful night’s rest. Other food-based sources of potassium include lima beans and papaya.
A solid sleep-promoting ritual, herbal teas like valerian, chamomile, catnip and motherwort can ease you into a blissful slumber. Brew up a relaxing blend and enjoy a cup or two in the evening.
Moreover, avoid sleep-disrupting foods late in the day. Steer clear of high-fat or high-protein meals, which are an absolute sleep killer. And give a wide berth to stimulants like coffee, tea, soda and chocolate. Spicy meals in the evening will disturb sound sleep as well.
Scientists could have some welcome news for insomniacs struggling to get a good night’s sleep. Researchers who presented at the Experimental Biology 2014 Annual Meeting found that tart cherry juice may help improve sleep quality, duration, reduce the severity of insomnia, and increase overall sleep efficiency.
Researchers from Louisiana State University gave insomniacs either eight ounces of tart cherry juice or an artificial cherry drink twice a day for two weeks. The Montmorency tart cherry juice was standardized to contain a set amount of proanthocyanidins and procyanidins—two naturally-occurring compounds in cherries.
The participants were assessed in multiple ways: blood work; in a sleep laboratory using polysomnography to evaluate sleep efficiency, onset, and duration; and questionnaires related to anxiety, depression, fatigue, and sleep.
The scientists found that taking the tart cherry juice for two weeks helped increase sleep time by almost an hour and a half each night in adults with insomnia. Additionally, they found that the cherry juice improved the quality of sleep each night. That’s good news for the 23 to 34 percent of the population aged 65+ who suffers from insomnia, which is defined as difficulty sleeping on average more than three nights a week, and can have serious health implications. Cherry juice has been known to contain the naturally-occurring hormone melatonin, which is frequently used in supplement form as a sleep aid.
The study, while small, provides hope for people suffering from insomnia, particularly since sleeping pills have been linked to a four-fold increased risk of falling in the elderly, which can lead to broken hips and premature death.
Montmorency tart cherries are a source of the naturally-occurring compound melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep-wake cycles. This compound has been attributed to tart cherry’s sleep-enhancing effects but the researchers believe other factors like proanthocyanidins and procyanidins also play a role. Either way, researchers found that the tart cherry juice increased the availability of tryptophan—the amino acid known for improving sleep
Co-author of the study, Frank L. Greenway, MD, director of the outpatient research clinic at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University believes that the unique combination of both melatonin and tryptophan are contributing to the juice’s sleep benefits. He and the other researchers conclude that drinking a glass of tart cherry juice in the morning and evening may be a better and a safer way to treat insomnia…and certainly it’s a better tasting way.