• “Nuts contain a wide range of nutrients that have been linked to falling asleep quicker, sleeping longer and reducing the severity of insomnia.” (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
Snacking on these three kinds of nuts after dinner could be a healthy and simple way to get a better night’s sleep.
By
Yasmin Noone

15 Feb 2021 - 3:48 PM  UPDATED 16 Feb 2021 - 11:09 PM

If you’re desperate to sleep and need a nutritional nudge to help, then you may want to try having a handful of nuts before bed.

“People commonly turn to a warm glass of milk or perhaps steer clear of caffeine as a way to help them to sleep better,” says Accredited Practising Dietitian and program manager at Nuts For Life, Belinda Neville. “But snacking on nuts after dinner is actually a healthy way to get a better night’s sleep.”

Neville explains that although there are many types of nuts, there are several varieties rich in nutrients that have associated with improved sleep outcomes. “Nuts contain a wide range of nutrients that have been linked to falling asleep quicker, sleeping longer and reducing the severity of insomnia.”

Here are three types of nuts that Neville believes could help to induce some much-needed shut-eye. 

"...snacking on nuts after dinner is actually a healthy way to get a better night’s sleep.”

1. Pistachios

Eating foods that are rich in the hormone melatonin has been shown to assist with sleep. This is because melatonin helps to reset the body clock (otherwise known as our ‘circadian rhythm’) and improve sleeping disorders like insomnia.

“Among all plant foods nuts, and in particular pistachios, have the highest amount of melatonin,” Neville tells SBS.

Research shows that melatonin can help people sleep longer and fall asleep more quickly.

“Eating pistachios also provides our bodies with magnesium and calcium. These nutrients also work in combination with melatonin to aid muscle relaxation and sleep.”

Pistachio ice cream with burnt sugar

Pistachios, a mainstay of Persian cuisine, make their way into Iran's ice-cream and make for a delightfully rich and bold flavour with a wholesome creamy texture.

Pistachios, although popular throughout Mediterranean Europe, actually originated in regions of Asia including present day Iran and Afghanistan.

The versatile nut can loan itself to many cuisines and can be used to make such dishes as French iced pistachio nougat, Greek baklava, Turkish pancakes with clotted cream, Jewish olive and pistachio chicken and Indian rice pilaf.

However, if you want to eat the nut as is, a handful of pistachios are also the ultimate healthy bedtime snack. Rich in protein (5.9 grams per 30 gram serve), pistachios can help you to feel full for longer and maintain satiety overnight.

Brazil nuts are also high in magnesium and contain copper, zinc, vitamins E and B vitamins including niacin, folate, thiamin, and riboflavin.

2. Brazil nuts

Brazil nuts – found throughout the Amazonian forests of Brazil, Peru, Colombia and Ecuador – are one of the highest natural sources of selenium, a powerful antioxidant.

“Researchers have begun exploring links between sleep and selenium,” she says. “A large observational study found people who only slept five to six hours a day (short sleepers) had lower intakes of selenium, compared with people who slept seven to eight hours a day (‘normal’ sleepers).

Neville recommends consuming just three Brazil nuts a day to obtain 100 per cent of the recommended dietary intake of selenium.

Observational studies have also associated selenium with a wide range of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory health benefits and the production of active thyroid hormone, which can influence sleep if out of balance.

Brazil nuts are also high in magnesium and contain copper, zinc, vitamins E and B vitamins including niacin, folate, thiamin, and riboflavin.

Marinated zucchini with walnuts and stracciatella

Marinated and grilled tender zucchini on a bed of straciatella - a blend of fresh mozzarella and cream - topped with nuts and herbs.

3. Almonds

Almonds provide a double benefit, containing high amounts of both melatonin and magnesium: two key nutrients for a good night’s sleep.

“Almonds contain more magnesium that most nuts, second only to Brazil nuts. Why does this matter? Magnesium [along with melatonin and vitamin B] has been shown to help improve insomnia in clinical trials, especially among older people (nearly 50 per cent of older people suffer from insomnia).

“If you are older or have dentures, and find the thought of eating nuts daunting, try an almond butter. Now readily available at supermarkets, pure nut butters (those without added sugar, salt, oil and flavours) are full of the protein, fibre and nutrients you find in whole nuts.”

Almonds, which originate from Iran, date back to Greek mythology and the Christian bible.

Sugared and given as a bonbonniere at weddings in various cultures, almonds used to be considered a fertility charm and given to newlyweds in ancient Rome. For a less romantic use of the delicious nut, try almond recipes from Spanish, Moroccan, French, Iranian or Italian cuisines.

Take the Mediterranean diet for example – it’s one of the healthiest in the world and nuts feature as a strong component.

Neville notes that although nuts naturally play a vital role in many international cuisines – from peanuts and cashews in Asian food to almonds in Italian and French dishes – in Australia, where nut consumption is not as integral, people without nut allergies may need to work on incorporating a handful of nuts into their nighttime ritual.

“Nuts have a large role to play in many traditional diets throughout the world. Take the Mediterranean diet for example – it’s one of the healthiest in the world and nuts feature as a strong component.

“I’d like to see people living in western countries like Australia, who are able to safely eat nuts, following international examples and incorporating more nuts into their diet. There are just so many health benefits associated with them, including sleep.”

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