Tina Miller, MS RD Meijer Healthy Living Advisor, www.meijerhealthyliving.com
That is the news from Researchers at UC Berkley who examined the brain regions that control food choices in a group of college students. Their findings suggest a link between sleep deprivation and cravings for junk foods such as donuts and pizza. Sleep deprivation impaired the complex decision making region of the brain (front lobe) while increasing activity in deeper brain centers that respond to rewards. The researchers found that sleep-deprived participants had greater appetites and found high-calorie foods more desirable.
Several previous research studies have suggested a link between greater calorie intake, poor food choices and inadequate sleep. The results of this new study shed light on how brain activity influences the relationship between sleep deprivation, poor diet and obesity. Getting adequate sleep may help improve diet and play a significant role in weight control.
Nutrients that help you sleep
- Eat a varied diet: Research out of the University of Pennsylvania published earlier this year suggested a link between sleep patterns and a balanced, varied diet. Those who slept 7 to 8 hours per night had diets that contained higher levels of lycopene and vitamin C (found in tomatoes, grapefruit, and watermelon). Short sleepers also consumed less selenium, an antioxidant mineral found in nuts, fish, shellfish, sunflower seeds and oats.
- If you have trouble getting to sleep: Eat magnesium rich foods such as oatmeal, dark leafy greens, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and Brazil nuts, beans and lentils and some types of fish. Magnesium helps regulate sleep. Insomnia is one of the symptoms of magnesium deficiency, and may have a link to mental health problems such as depression.
- Do you have trouble staying asleep? Potassium rich foods may help you sleep through the night. Another bonus; potassium can help reduce those annoying leg cramps some experience during the night. Citrus fruit, bananas, mushrooms, potatoes, acorn squash, beans, leafy greens, yogurt, and avocados are all excellent sources of potassium.
- If you feel sleepy during the day: A study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine (2012) found a strong relationship between vitamin D deficiency and excessive daytime sleepiness. The sunshine vitamin can also be found in fortified milk and yogurt, mushrooms, fatty fish such as salmon, and fortified breakfast cereals.
When Cravings Hit:
- Drink Water or tea: Often we mistake thirst sensations for hunger and in fact the majority of people are chronically dehydrated. When hunger strikes, down a glass of water first – if you’re still hungry, then enjoy a healthier snack.
Drinking warm teas can help to derail food cravings by helping to alleviate hunger sensations. Adding a dash of cinnamon to your tea may also help to satisfy a sweet tooth. Tea is a source of many plant nutrients that may play a role in overall health in addition to helping hydrate, which may reduce food cravings.
- Chew gum: Several research studies have suggested that gum chewing reduces food cravings and may help decrease the desire to eat sweets. In one study participants reported decreased feelings of hunger and cravings for sweets. They also reported that they maintained their energy levels and felt less drowsy. As a bonus, chewing sugar-free gum helps freshen breath and reduce cavities.
- Choose a balanced snack: When hunger hits, reach for nutrient-rich foods that balance protein (dairy, nuts, beans, meats, poultry and fish) with healthy carbohydrates like whole grains and fruit. Protein provides the “staying” power to prevent hunger from quickly returning and healthy carbohydrates provide a boost of energy to keep you going.
Top Ten 100-Calorie Snacks
Not all 100-calorie snacks are equal. Here are some tasty 100-calorie options that are loaded with the nutrients your body needs and are guaranteed to make you feel fuller for longer.
• Half an apple with 2 teaspoons of peanut butter
• An orange and 2 tablespoons walnuts
• 10 cashew nuts or 10 almonds (add a tablespoon of dried cranberries or raisins)
• 1/4 of a small avocado with 6 whole grain tortilla chips
• 1/3 cup of unsweetened applesauce with 1 slice of whole grain cinnamon- raisin toast
• 1 medium banana
• 1/2 cup mixed raw veggies with 1/4 cup light ranch dressing
• 6 whole-wheat crackers with two teaspoons of peanut butter
• 1/2 cup of non-fat vanilla yogurt with 1/2 cup sliced strawberries
• 10 mini pretzel twists and 2 (1-inch) cubes of low-fat cheese
Source: Easy Meals, Healthy Families guidebook, the Meijer Healthy Living Team, pdf available at www.meijerhealthyliving.com