By Collin Ruiz
“What, it’s not my insomnia but what I’m eating?” asked Bill. “Yes, that is what I’m saying!” As a Holistic Nutritionist, I have heard many people complain that by the afternoon they have trouble concentrating, their patience is growing short, and their cravings for junk food is at an all time high. Eating the right things at the right time can set you up for success, energy during the day AND a good night’s sleep!
Bill was a former weight lifter who was used to eating a high protein (animal) breakfast (what I call a Cowboy Breakfast: steak and eggs). He switched to eating oatmeal for breakfast in an attempt to lower his cholesterol. He was experiencing issues with insomnia and low energy in the afternoons.
When I met Bill he was treating his energy slump by adding vitamin supplements. After feeling an energy crash, most people reach for stimulants: caffeine, sugar, cigarettes or energy drinks. These are all Band-Aids. Matching nutritional needs and timing of meals helps maintain adequate energy reserves throughout the day.
In Bill’s case I recommended that his breakfast and lunch include high protein animal AND plant based foods while reducing his carbohydrates and eliminating fruit. I also recommended adding adaptogens for adrenal support. Adaptogens are herbs that adapt to the individual needs of the body to provide essential support for your adrenal system. For example, Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), Astragalus root (Astragalus membranaceus) and Rhodiola rosea help to manage the body’s response to stress.)
Next we looked at how to align Bill’s nutritional needs to tackle his insomnia. Popular sleep aids include melatonin, valerian root and pharmaceutical sleep aids such as Ambian. However, what people eat for dinner or take before going to bed often doesn’t help their body prepare for sleep. For example, Bill was eating between 7:30 or 8:00 p.m., when it would have been better for him to eat at 5:00 pm and then have a snack an hour before bed. That is exactly what I recommended, and the snack before bed? Oatmeal!
Oatmeal is typically recommended to lower cholesterol; however it is also a source of tryptophan. This makes oatmeal perfect for eating at night an hour before bed.
Because Bill has high cholesterol, I recommended supplementing his oatmeal with hemp hearts, chia seeds, ground flax seed and pumpkin seeds. Not only are these heart-healthy foods, they have the added benefit of considerable amounts of protein. Pumpkin seeds have significantly more tryptophan than oatmeal and they have more protein per ounce than turkey! Plus add a non-dairy milk, oat milk and cinnamon and you now have insomniacs’ oatmeal!
Not everyone is a Cowboy Breakfast person. There are others I call Sunrise Breakfast people. These people are hungry the minute they wake up and their body requires a high plant-protein breakfast such as the insomniacs’ oatmeal described above (or a grain with lots of nuts and seeds; for instance, rice porridge with hemp hearts, chia seeds and cashews).
Other foods that help the body prepare for sleep include comfort foods. Although carbohydrates (bread and pasta) are typically comfort foods, whole grains with essential fatty acids are especially comforting. That is why my insomniac oatmeal is so good for you at bedtime. Couple this with a dinner of salmon, rice and vegetables (spinach, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, yams or winter squash) is perfect for insomniacs.
Insomnia can be a difficult problem to tackle because of the wide variety of primary and secondary causes. For example the pineal gland is responsible for producing melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep. And melatonin is produced when you are sleeping. If you aren’t sleeping then you aren’t making melatonin; if you aren’t making melatonin, you aren’t sleeping! This is why nutritional balance, supplementation and timing of meals can set you up for true health.
Collin Ruiz believes holistic nutrition includes consciously eating healthy foods that promote vibrant physical and mental health, while supporting a strong immune system and preventing disease. With a Masters degree in nutrition and incorporating muscle testing to evaluate nutritional options, Collin strives to integrate a balanced eating plan into her client’s lives. www.HolisticNutritionFood.com firstname.lastname@example.org 970-631-1830