Getting adequate sleep is key to being healthy, happy and productive, especially if you’ve got a challenging job, are trying to lose weight or enjoy keeping active. But how can you make sure you’re getting solid shut-eye when your head eventually hits the pillow at night? As it turns out, food can have a major bearing on that, and the decisions you make about what to eat and drink in the evening can either make or break a night’s rest. To give you an idea, here are seven foods that will help you sleep better, and some you should definitely avoid at night:
These are an excellent source of potassium and magnesium, which help to relax your muscles and nervous system. They also contain the amino acid tryptophan, which is a precursor for the sleep hormone melatonin. Put simply, bananas are packed with nutrients and will help you sleep better in a number of different ways.
Did your mother ever make you a glass of warm milk as you were going to bed at night? Then she knew what she was doing, because the calcium and tryptophan in dairy products both help to induce sleep. Small amounts of plain yogurt and cheese will also work well.
Salmon, herring, trout, sardines and other types of fish are all rich in B vitamins, which are important when it comes to getting enough sleep. These vitamins are involved in the synthesis of melatonin and can relieve mood disorders like anxiety and depression, both of which are causes of insomnia.
While dairy products are probably the best-known source of calcium, leafy greens like kale and spinach are also loaded with this important mineral. Add them to your evening meal as a side salad or combine with bananas and plain yogurt for a late night smoothie that will put you out for the count.
These contain everything you need for a good night’s rest. B vitamins, calcium, potassium, magnesium, tryptophan—it’s all there. Almonds also help to regulate blood sugar levels, which ensures you don’t wake up weak and fatigued the next morning. If you’re not a fan of nuts, try sneaking a scoop of almond butter into a smoothie instead.
Cherries are one of the only foods known to contain melatonin, so eating them has a direct impact on the quality of your sleep. Tart cherries (also known as sour cherries) are better than sweeter varieties. Either eat them whole or grab a glass of cherry juice just before bed.
7. Sweet Potato
This is a complex carbohydrate food that’s low on the glycemic index, so it will digest and release glucose into your bloodstream slowly overnight. Sweet potatoes are also a source of tryptophan, and they’re rich in muscle-relaxing potassium. Add them to your evening meals in place of white potatoes or rice for a better night’s sleep.
Foods to Avoid
Alcohol is likely to disturb your sleep, so avoid drinking wines, beers and spirits before bed. Steer clear of regular coffee, sugary sodas and chocolate, all of which contain the stimulant caffeine. Whole cuts of meat like beef and chicken take time to digest; make sure you have them early in the evening to give your digestive system time to wind down for the night.
Q: What helps you sleep better? Share your tips and tricks in the comments below.
How to get the ball rolling on eating healthier
You may want to start eating healthier, but getting the ball rolling can be an uphill endeavor.
Make a List
When you get hungry, the last thing you feel like doing is running down a mental list of available healthy foods to eat. That’s why you probably end up grabbing whatever is closest to you and chowing down, vowing to start eating healthy tomorrow.
Instead, sit down and make a list of foods that you determine to be healthiest for you and your goals. Don’t just write a shopping list. Make a list of actual meals that you can prepare and eat. Include what day you’re going to have them, and what time. The more prepared you are when hunger strikes, the more likely you will be to have something ready without having to think too hard about it.
Buy a Cookbook
Flipping through a cookbook with enticing photographs of healthy food will get you inspired to start eating healthy. Buy a cookbook or two that has nothing but healthy food recipes. Make sure it has a photo for every recipe, so you can visualize yourself dining on the healthy options. Put bookmarks on pages that really make you want to get up and start cooking. These are the dishes that will offer you the best motivation to start your new healthy eating plan. Alternatively, you can create your own cookbook by searching around the internet for healthy recipes and saving them to your phone or computer.
Buy Some New Clothes
Wearing the same clothes every day when you already feel unattractive can keep you in a negative rut that’s hard to get out of. Put on your favorite pair of jeans, jacket, whatever, and go shopping for some new clothes. Buy a few that fit you now, and something special that you can work toward fitting into after you’ve achieved your weight goal. The change will help you to see yourself as someone new and fresh who is capable of switching eating habits for the better.
Stop Looking in the Mirror
If your appearance really gets you down, stop obsessing over your flaws in the mirror. Seriously, you don’t need a visual examination over every wrinkle or bulge. Just stop looking in the mirror, get dressed, and be on your merry way. Wait at least a month before you give yourself a once over again. This time, you’ll be pleasantly surprised, instead of walking away thinking how bad you look.
Buy a Cool Scale
If you’re trying to lose weight (or even gain weight), having a cool scale will make the process easier to measure progress. Get yourself a digital scale that measures ounces as well as pounds. They even have scales that speak your weight, if that’s what you need to keep motivated to eat healthier. Just don’t weigh yourself every day, because daily fluctuations in weight are normal, and have little to do with your eating habits. If you gain a couple ounces after eating healthy all day, you could lose motivation to continue to eat healthy. Every three days or so is sufficient to track your progress and measure your results.
Choose Restaurants With Healthy Food
If cooking isn’t your thing, choose some local restaurants that serve healthy foods with wholesome ingredients. Keep a list of these restaurants at hand so that when you come home late from work and don’t feel like cooking, you’ll have a backup plan that doesn’t involve Domino’s Pizza.
Invest in Partitioned Storage Containers
If you’re short on time like most of us, you need some quick options for meals every now and then. Invest in some portioned storage containers so you can make your own version of TV dinners. Instead of pudding and mashed potatoes, fill them with things like brown rice, steamed broccoli, and turkey breast. Prepare them ahead of time and stack in your refrigerator or freezer. Just pop one in the microwave when all you can think about is flopping on the couch in front of the television.
The key to getting the ball rolling to start eating healthier is to be prepared. When you stock up on the tools that will help you reach your goals, get ready for instances when there’s no time to cook, and be kind to yourself by not obsessing over your image, you stand a pretty good chance of improving your eating habits for good.
WATCH: Tips for Getting Your Significant-Other to Eat Healthier
Is Coffee Good or Bad for You? Myth vs. Fact
THIS CONTENT WAS REPUBLISHED FROM AN EARLIER DATE.
If you Google “coffee+health” and click on a random result, there’s about an equal chance you’ll be told it’s either bad for your health or that it significantly reduces your risk of some disease or other. So it’s understandable that there’s a lot of confusion about whether you should or shouldn’t be having your beloved morning cup of Joe.
The trouble is, both sides of the argument have the backing of scientific research. So what’s the truth—is coffee good or bad for us? Let’s find out by taking a look at some of the big claims:
Coffee Is Addictive
This is true to some extent, but not to the point where it would cause you the same problems as, say, alcohol or heroin. It all hinges on whether there’s some form of chemical dependence there, or whether people just drink coffee out of habit. In some cases, long-term users who attempt to give up coffee may experience withdrawal symptoms such as headache and lethargy, which might compel them to keep drinking the stuff. But the research says that coffee simply doesn’t fit the criteria to be labelled an addictive substance.
Coffee Can Help With Weight Loss
Yep, this one is true. There is plenty of evidence that caffeine consumption temporarily boosts thermogenesis (metabolism), and studies like this one show that it can increase fat burning by as much as 10-29 percent. Plus, the nervous energy you get from coffee means you’ll be more likely to drag your ass off the couch and get some exercise. With that said, don’t be fooled into thinking that more is better. Too much caffeine can cause insomnia, anxiety, adrenal fatigue and a range of other nasty side-effects.
Coffee Causes Cancer and Other Diseases
This is almost certainly myth. In fact, our most up-to-date research shows that coffee can actually help improve or protect against conditions like type 2 diabetes, liver cancer and Parkinson’s disease. The misconception about coffee and disease probably comes from the fact that previous research neglected to take associated high-risk behaviours like smoking and lack of physical activity into account, but we know better now. Too much coffee will certainly lead to negative side effects, but life-threatening diseases? Nope.
So what’s the verdict then—is coffee good or bad for you? First of all, I don’t agree with the belief held by some that drinking coffee is not a health decision; disregarding the impact it has on your physiology is simply not wise. However, unless you’re drinking silly amounts of it every day or you’re particularly sensitive to caffeine, the effect coffee has on your longevity is probably going to be quite marginal.
If you’re not a coffee drinker but you’re considering getting into it for the health benefits, I’d say don’t bother. There are far more meaningful changes you could make, such as cleaning up your diet, upping your exercise, or even substituting green tea instead. If you are a coffee drinker, just make sure you’re not using it as an energy crutch—stick to 1-2 cups max early in the day, and go decaf after that.
Q: What’s your take on the whole coffee and health argument? Give us your thoughts in the comments below!
David Carroll is a freelance writer, self-published author, and chief health-nut at thepaleotoolkit.com. Outside of work, he loves hurling (an amazing Irish sport), playing video games and hanging out with his dogs. Follow him on Twitter (@DavidAshCarroll) and Google+.
Scientists Develop New Type of Cell That Could Revolutionize the Treatment of Heart Disease
THIS CONTENT WAS REPUBLISHED FROM AN EARLIER DATE.
Heart disease has consistently been one of the biggest killers of both men and women, with hundreds of thousands of families losing loved ones to the condition every year. But now a new study published in the journal Cell Stem Cell has identified a possible breakthrough in the treatment of heart disease, offering hope to anyone suffering from a dodgy ticker. The study was conducted by a team of researchers from the Gladstones Institutes, who have discovered a way to make a remarkable new type of cell that could help damaged hearts repair themselves.
Heart failure occurs when the heart is overworked or the supply of oxygen is too low. A sudden attack can cause the loss of huge amounts of important muscle cells known as cardiomyocytes (CMs). These CMs cannot regenerate by themselves, nor can they be replaced because transplanted heart cells tend not to survive in the patient’s body. As you can imagine, this makes the treatment of heart disease quite tricky; since heart cells can’t regenerate or be replaced, the damage is usually irreversible. “Scientists have tried for decades to treat heart failure by transplanting adult heart cells, but these cells cannot reproduce themselves, and so they do not survive in the damaged heart,” said Yu Zhang, MD, PhD, one of the lead authors of the study.
To overcome this dilemma, the team investigated the possibility of regenerating the heart using progenitors—stem cells that have already been programmed to develop into a specific type of cell. In this case, they targeted cardiovascular progenitor cells (CPCs), which are produced as the heart begins to form within the embryo. Using a revolutionary technique, the team were able to produce CPCs in the lab and halt their development so the cells remained effectively “frozen” until use. They called these lab-grown cells “induced expandable CPCs,” or ieCPCs.
Unlike adult heart cells, ieCPCs have the ability to replicate. If transplanted successfully, they could replace a patient’s damaged heart cells and possibly continue to self-repair. “Our generated ieCPCs can prolifically replicate and reliably mature into the three types of cells in the heart, which makes them a very promising potential treatment for heart failure,” said Zhang. To test this theory, the team injected some of the cells into a mouse that had suffered a heart attack. Remarkably, most of the cells transformed into functioning heart cells, generating new muscle tissue and blood vessels and improving the mouse’s overall heart function.
So what does all this mean for the treatment of heart disease? Well, it’s definitely big news. The cells used to treat the mouse were derived from skin cells, which means a patient’s own cells could potentially be used to treat their heart disease. The next step is to try and form human ieCPCs in the lab, and then follow up with human trials to see if the method is as effective. All going well, this could be a viable treatment for heart disease patients within the next few years.
Q: Is this the most important breakthrough yet in the field of heart disease research? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Copyright 2016 David Carroll
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