YMCA Healthy Living Magazine winter 2021 - Page 17

NUTS FOR LIFE Nuts for Life inspires people to enjoy a healthy handful of nuts every day by educating them on the health benefits of regular nut consumption . Follow them on Instagram @ nuts _ for _ life or Facebook @ Nuts4Life .


The fascinating science behind how nuts can promote a restful night .
Melatonin , magnesium and selenium have all been linked with getting a better night ’ s sleep – and nuts contain all three !
Melatonin is a hormone produced by the brain , mostly at night .
Studies consistently show that it helps people sleep longer and fall asleep more quickly . Melatonin has also been linked with improving sleeping disorders like insomnia , which affects one in three people .
The body ’ s melatonin levels increase after eating foods that contain melatonin .
Nuts are a top source of melatonin
A review paper which looked at the melatonin content of a large number of foods , found nuts have the highest melatonin content of all plant foods . And pistachios , in particular , contain high levels of melatonin .
Researchers from Louisiana State University , in partnership with American Pistachio Growers , analysed the melatonin content of pistachios . They found that pistachios have around 660 nanograms ( ng ) of melatonin per gram .
And roasting pistachios didn ’ t impact their melatonin content .
This is much higher than most fruits , vegetables , cereals , legumes and seeds . For example , the melatonin content of oats has been reported at around 90ng / g and tomatoes up to 24ng / g , depending on the type .
Minerals for sleep
Nuts are among the best food sources of selenium and magnesium . Researchers have begun exploring links between these minerals and a good night ’ s sleep .
One large observational study found people who only slept five to six hours a day ( termed ‘ short sleepers ’) had lower intakes of selenium , compared with people who slept seven to eight hours a day ( normal sleepers ).
Brazil nuts are one of the highest natural sources of selenium . Just three Brazil nuts a day provides 100 % of the recommended dietary intake of selenium .
Magnesium has been shown to help improve insomnia in clinical trials , especially among older people ( nearly


50 % of older people suffer from insomnia ). Magnesium is found in a variety of foods , but the best sources include nuts and seeds and green leafy vegetables .
Sleep quality and the Mediterranean diet
Often considered one of the healthiest dietary patterns in the world , the popular Mediterranean diet has been shown to reduce the risk of chronic disease and overall mortality .
But it may come as a surprise to learn that it ’ s also been linked with better sleep quality !
Plant foods ( like fruit , herbs , legumes , nuts , olive oil , seeds , vegetables and wholegrains ) take centre stage in the Mediterranean eating pattern . The healthy unsaturated fats and phytochemicals these foods offer have a beneficial effect on inflammation , which may negatively affect sleep duration and quality .
The bottom line : Healthy diet = healthy sleep
Many factors ( some of which are complex ) affect the quality of our sleep . Is there a best food for a good night ’ s sleep ? Probably not . Instead , a healthy , balanced diet will offer the range of nutrients needed to support sleep .
Enjoying a healthy handful ( 30g ) of nuts each day can boost your intake of melatonin and a host of nutrients , including selenium and magnesium – which could increase your odds of getting a better night ’ s sleep !