Nutritionist, Hannah Brown (hannahbrownnutrition.com) believes food and drink should be considered not just as fuel, but as the best forms of natural medicine. Hannah explains that, typically, the more vibrant the colour of the fruit or vegetable, the more health-promoting phytonutrients contained inside. For example, red or black grapes and red or pink apples contain higher antioxidant levels than their green counterparts.
“Deep red cherries are one of my favourite go-to foods to recommend for post work out muscle recovery, a good night’s sleep and to lower blood pressure,” she said.
“The Montmorency cherry is an all-rounder in terms of health benefits, and it’s so versatile and easy to take. The cherries retain their bright-red colour after being harvested and are a sourer version of the cherries we typically eat in the summertime.”
It can be hard to get top quality sleep with non-stop lifestyles, high stress schedules or intense work out programmes, but getting sufficient shut-eye is essential for our physical and mental wellbeing (eight hours is recommended by The National Sleep Foundation).
Try these top dietary and lifestyle tips to help calm the nervous system and boost the body’s natural sleep hormone:
Cherries for natural melatonin
Cherries are one of the few natural food sources of melatonin – an antioxidant and a hormone that sets our body’s internal clock and helps us to synchronise our sleep-wake cycle (our ‘circadian rhythm’). Cherries also contain ‘threonine’, a protein found in the central nervous system to help regulate brain function and promote sleep. Melatonin is not only a sleep hormone, but a powerful antioxidant – which is why sleep protects from rapid aging, as well as dementia and Alzheimer’s. Extend your sleep time by drinking tart cherry juice approximately one to two hours before bed.
Sip on a soothing lemon balm tea
Lemon balm is a ‘nervine’ herb, meaning it can help to calm nerves in the central nervous system, easing tension and anxiety, and soothing a hyperactive mind. The power of lemon balm can be further enhanced with the supplementation of magnesium (200mg of magnesium glycinate). This combination successfully aids stress-reduction, relaxes muscles and enhances GABA brain chemical to help you nod off and get some good quality beauty sleep. Many clients find this brew to be far more effective for unwinding before bed than chamomile or valerian tea. Lemon balm’s delicate lemon flavour is delicious with an added slice of lemon and a teaspoon of raw or wild honey. Brew your lemon balm tea in a small cup of boiled water to avoid a night-time bathroom visit.
At least two hours before bed, stop working, stop working out, and stop watching horror movies
Busy minds and busy bodies can trigger the adrenal ‘stress’ glands to secrete adrenaline and cortisol ‘stress’ hormones. These hormones are antagonistic to melatonin, preventing the body from producing and secreting this sleep hormone. Large adrenaline surges are responsible for the ‘tired and wired’ feeling, which can leave you restlessly thrashing around in the bed or staring wide-eyed up at the ceiling. Studies have also found those who indulge in high intensity workouts, such as interval training, less than one hour before bedtime, take longer to fall asleep and have poorer sleep quality. Be strict with yourself and switch off all technology at least one hour prior to bedtime. If possible, exercise in the morning or before dinner.
Ditch the chocolate chunks late at night (yes, even the dark squares!), and reach for a banana instead. Bananas contain ‘L-typtophan’, a protein that freely crosses the blood brain barrier and is converted to serotonin (a ‘happy’ hormone that regulates mood and anxiety), and melatonin sleep hormone. Bananas are also rich in potassium and magnesium to calm and relax tense muscles and hyperactive nerves. It’s also beneficial to eat a little fruit snack about 30 minutes before bed to keep your blood sugar balanced. Many people eat an early supper (a good strategy), but then unknowingly lie awake in bed due to a drop in blood glucose levels (which signals the brain it’s time to eat, rather than sleep). If a plain banana doesn’t entice you, try blending a few bananas with cherry juice and honey, pop it in the freezer and hey presto! – a delicious sleep-inducing sorbet snack.
There are 1,500 tart cherries squeezed into every 500ml bottle of Nah 100 per cent Montmorency Cherry Concentrate. The juice can be added to porridge, smoothies and post-workout shakes, or alternatively it can be taken straight up or with still or sparkling water to create a refreshingly delicious drink. The product is available as a single purchase and on a monthly subscription which is delivered straight to the door. Nah is committed to sustainable packaging. The glass bottles and lids are fully recyclable and the sachets can be returned in a pre-paid envelope as part of a post-back recycling scheme. Nah costs £16.99 and is available via Nahlife.com.