EATING the right foods can be the recipe for a good night’s sleep, according to a new book.
Heather Thomas, the co-author of Eat To Sleep, says ingredients including chicken, prawns and even chocolate have special powers to help us rest.
Not getting enough kip can make it hard to concentrate and lead to memory problems. Research also links it with Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity.
In an exclusive extract, we choose five recipes from her book that promote a healthy diet and sleep.
- Eat To Sleep by Heather Thomas and Alina Tierney is out Thursday (Vermilion, £12.99).
Seedy crisp cracker thins
TOP these with hummus or cheese, which contain tryptophan, an essential amino acid which regulates our mood and has a natural sedative effect.
The healthy carbs in the crackers will help speed up its absorption into your bloodstream.
(Makes 12 crackers)
150g rye flour; 100g wholemeal flour, plus extra for dusting; ½ tsp baking powder; 1tsp fine sea salt; 5 tbsp olive oil; 150ml water; 85g pumpkin seeds and/or sesame seeds.
METHOD: Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas 6. Heat some non-stick baking sheets in the preheated oven. Put the flours, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in 4 tbsp of olive oil and the water. Mix to a soft dough. Knead with your hands on a floured surface until smooth.
Roll out as thinly as possible with a rolling pin, brush with remaining olive oil and sprinkle with seeds.
Fold the dough over and roll the seeds into it. Knead lightly and divide into 12 pieces. Roll out each one thinly again.
Remove the hot baking sheets from the oven and arrange the dough thins on them. Bake in batches for ten to 12 minutes.
Cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight container for up to five days.
Classic chicken soup
THIS provides vitamin B6, which is vital for stress-controlling melatonin.
1 x 1.5kg oven-ready chicken; 1 large onion, diced; 3 carrots, diced; 2 leeks, trimmed and shredded; 4 celery sticks, diced; 2 garlic cloves, crushed; 2 bay leaves; 3 fresh thyme sprigs; 1.8 litres water; 225g vermicelli noodles; Juice of ½ lemon (optional); 1 large bunch flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped; sea salt and black pepper.
METHOD: Put chicken in a large saucepan. Add the veg, garlic, bay leaves and thyme. Pour in water, season and bring to the boil on high heat.
Reduce to a simmer and partially cover with a lid. Cook gently for two hours, until veg is tender and the meat falls off the bone.
Remove chicken from pan and set aside until cool enough to handle.
Discard skin, cut meat into pieces and return it to soup with the noodles and most of the parsley.
Simmer until the noodles are cooked. Remove bay leaves, stir in lemon juice and serve with remaining parsley.
Prawn and spinach linguine
PRAWNS contain the calming amino acid tryptophan, while spinach provides a good source of magnesium, which relaxes the muscles and helps steadies the heart’s rhythm.
500g wholemeal linguine; 2 tbsp olive oil; 4 garlic cloves, crushed; 1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped; grated zest and juice of a lemon; 120ml white wine; 400g raw, peeled large prawns; 300g baby spinach leaves; salt and black pepper.
METHOD: Cook pasta to the instructions on the packet and drain. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large frying pan set over a low heat.
Cook the garlic for one minute. Add half the parsley, plus the lemon zest, juice and wine. Turn up the heat and bubble until the sauce reduces (about five minutes).
Add the prawns and cook for one to two minutes.
Turn and cook the other side. Stir in the remaining parsley and spinach. Season to taste.
Add the cooked linguine and gently toss everything together.
Cherry, oat and almond crumble
CHERRIES boost melatonin levels which regulate your sleep cycle and help relieve insomnia. Oats are a good source of magnesium.
900g cherries, stoned – keep a little juice; 4 tbsp caster sugar; 3 tbsp water; 2 tsp cornflour; lemon juice; creme fraiche or ice cream. For the crumble: 85g butter; 150g plain flour; 60g rolled oats; 4 tbsp ground almonds; 60g brown sugar; 2 tbsp; pumpkin seeds; 3 tbsp flaked almonds.
METHOD: Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4. Put the cherries, sugar and water in a pan over a low heat and stir to dissolve the sugar.
Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for ten minutes. In a bowl, stir the cornflour into the reserved bit of cherry juice until smooth.
Add to the cherries and stir until it starts to thicken. Add a dash of lemon juice and spoon into a baking dish.
For the crumble, rub the butter into the flour with your fingers until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the oats, ground almonds, sugar and pumpkin seeds.
Sprinkle with 2 to 3tsp cold water and stir to create small clumps. Spoon on top of the cherries and sprinkle with flaked almonds.
Bake for 30-35 minutes. Serve with creme fraiche or ice cream.
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Hot chocolate with honey
PLAIN chocolate is a good source of magnesium, which helps us unwind, as well as reducing and regulating the body’s levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
480ml almond or soya milk; 85g plain chocolate, chopped cinnamon; clear honey to taste.
METHOD: Pour a third of the milk into a saucepan over a medium heat. Stir in the chocolate until melted.
Add the remaining milk and whisk in the cinnamon.
When it is hot, remove from the heat before it boils and give it a good whisk until frothy.
Then pour into mugs and serve, sweetened with honey to taste.
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