If you have heard Chef Marshall speak, chances are you have heard him share that he was sleep-deprived for years and struggled to get through the day as a result. With an increasingly busy schedule after they started a family, he decided to make sleep a priority and practice what he preaches. This is essential because getting enough high quality sleep allows your body to repair itself and eliminate waste products and excess hormones like cortisol that cause stress on the body.

While many people are aware that poor food and beverage choices, such as too much processed sugary food and too much caffeine and alcohol before bedtime can prevent quality sleep, they don’t translate awareness into action and most Americans are chronically sleep-deprived. There is an increasing amount of research showing that chronic sleep deprivation greatly increases our long-term likelihood of developing insulin resistance, obesity, heart disease and other chronic diseases. Short-term, besides being grumpy with your fellow co-workers, friends and family, a lack of sleep is tied to issues like decreased mental clarity, lower productivity and increased risk of injuries and accidents.

A big challenge for many people is that when we are tired we are likely to reach for sugary snacks and caffeine to make it through the day. This perpetuates poor sleep, putting us into a downward energy spiral. In contrast, the right food choices can help us sleep better so our bodies can fight off illness and repair themselves.

Here are 5 foods that will help you get better sleep:

  1. Turkey – Turkey is high in tryptophan which is an essential amino acid your body needs in order to create serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate (among other things) mood and sleep. Tryptophan is also found in high amounts in other animal proteins. Try our easy Turkey Bolognese recipe, which is also dairy-free!
  2. Walnuts – If you find yourself waking up hungry in the middle of the night, try a snack of walnuts and half an apple before you go to bed. The nuts are a good source of healthy fat that will help keep your blood sugar stable. You will feel fuller longer, which will help you sleep through the night. Or, if you want an awesome protein-packed salad, try our Chicken Wheatberry Strawberry Salad, with its generous portion of walnuts.
  3. Lentils – Try lentils in dishes like our popular Lentil Stew, that we showcased last month. Consuming lentils at dinner provides protein and fiber to help keep your blood sugar stable. This helps your sleep hormones to work more efficiently, so you can get more restful sleep.
  4. Romaine Lettuce – Dark leafy greens are high in calcium which helps your body generate melatonin, a naturally occurring hormone that helps regulate your body’s sleep cycle. Try our delicious Tuscan Romaine Shrimp Salad and if you want to increase the shelf life of your greens, try this tip.
  5. Brussels Sprouts – are an excellent source of magnesium, which is a natural muscle relaxer. This helps prevent the foot and leg cramps many people experience at night. Get this Sweet Roasted Brussels Sprouts recipe into your life!

Better sleep starts with what you eat. Include these five foods in your meal plan and take a big step toward better quality sleep.

You will love the way you feel!