If you’ve been working late, partying hard or just had a rough night with the kids, the following day can be a challenge in terms of healthy eating. As you struggle through a day punctuated by yawns and wooziness, you find yourself craving foods which you can usually resist. Your brain goes into overdrive to try and keep you awake, and it finds help in the form of Tryptophan.

Tryptophan is an amino acid (a protein building block) which helps in the formation of the hormone Serotonin. This ‘happy hormone’ keeps us firing on all cylinders, jolly, up for it, the life and soul.

Hmm, it’s not all good news. Scientific research suggests that the production of this Tryptophan (and therefore of Serotonin) can be increased by raising the levels of SUGAR in our blood.

Hold the front page…!

Bread, butter and jam“Does that mean sinking my teeth into doorsteps of white bread with jam on will help me stay awake?”

“What’s that going to do to my trouser overhang? I have a two-year old son and a husband who snores. I NEVER get any sleep.” 

Wait, there’s more.

The brain doesn’t like us to be tired. Sleep is its nutrition. To counterbalance the fatigue, the body makes more of the hormone GHRELIN. This little fluffy hormone tells us to eat.

Uh oh.

But it’s not over yet. Its partner in crime, the hormone LEPTIN (which tells us to stop eating) puts its brakes on, folds its metaphorical arms and goes on strike. Leptin levels drop and we have no idea if we are full or not. We just keep eating.

WalnutsSleep deprivation is a regular occurrence amongst many families.But all is not lost. If your sleep is disturbed on a regular basis and you find yourself crawling through the day, then resist the sugar and focus on foods which are high in Trytophan. The resulting rise in serotonin will help you feel calmer with fewer mood dips (even though your eyelids may still be dropping). Turkey, eggs, bananas and walnuts are great examples.

So, when the next snooze snack attack hits, maybe 10 walnut halves rather than 10 Cadbury’s chocolate fingers. Just saying…

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