Traveling to faraway places is great. But, dealing with the jet lag that often comes along with it? Not so great. While a few days of grogginess and a whacked-out sleep schedule is certainly a minor inconvenience in comparison to the privilege of being able to travel somewhere outside of your timezone, it’s a hassle nonetheless — and if you’re someone who struggles with sleeping in general, it can seriously throw a wrench in your itinerary and mood. Thankfully, there are foods that help with jet lag naturally that can be total lifesavers when it comes to getting you back into a healthy sleep/wake rhythm during your travels.
Snacking thoughtfully on naturally energizing or sleep-promoting foods always beats trying stay awake on caffeine alone (which can make it even harder to sleep later on), or trying knock yourself out at the end of the night with a sleeping pill (which can often leave you feeling even groggier the next day). Foods on this list should be relatively easy to find in many places — and they’re all nutrient-dense, too, so you’ll be reaping their other nutritional benefits while you’re at it. Win win!
And remember, food can be thy medicine — but certain things can also whack out your sleep cycle even more. As tempting as it is to chug caffeine while you’re jet-lagged, it might be best to avoid it, as it’s likely to keep you up awake later in the end.
Here are a few foods that are total powerhouses when it comes to beating jet lag naturally and adjusting your sleep cycle smoothly when traveling to a new timezone.
Cherries are a triple threat: cute, delicious, and helpful in fighting jet lag. In an interview with the Daily Mail, nutritionist Lily Soutter noted that tart cherries are one of the only natural food sources of melatonin, which is a naturally-occurring hormone that regulates our circadian rhythms and can help you fall asleep. So go ahead, put a cherry on top, cause it’s a legit defense against jet lag. Dried cherries or cherry juice are helpful substitutes, too.
Ah, ginger, the root that has my heart. Ginger is already a go-to travel supplement for me, as it helps to relieve nausea and travel sickness, and can settle an upset stomach. But ginger also contains melatonin, so have a ginger broth with dinner, drink a ginger tea before bed, or snack on candied ginger to help you catch some zzz’s.
Bananas are easy and healthy travel snacks, and they’re also ideal when it comes to helping you wind down before attempting to fall asleep when you’re jet lagged. "The magnesium and potassium [banana] contains are electrolytes that can balance the salts in your body, helping you relax and get a better night’s sleep," explained Greatist. Snack on one an hour or so before hitting the hay.
Superfood alert! We know goji berries as those lil’ nutrient-packed nuggets of our fancy fro-yo and açai bowl dreams, but apparently they can also help you sleep more soundly. "Some studies using goji berry juice found possible benefits that included a feeling of well being and calmness, better athletic performance and quality of sleep," explained WebMD. Snack on this superfood or chug some goji berry juice to reap the benefits.
This cute little fruit is another one that’s packing a punch when it comes to being delicious and nutritious. According to the Daily Mail, eating even a single kiwi a day has been linked to improvements in sleep. This is likely because they contain a healthy dose of serotonin, one of our "happy" hormones, and our body can convert serotonin into melatonin, which helps regulate sleep cycles. If you can find any, grabbing a few kiwis at the market when you get to your destination is a good choice.
Let’s talk about trusty whole grains. Quinoa is a complex carb and is full of protein and fiber, which will keep you full without feeling stuffed and sleepy. Instead of chowing on quinoa closer to bedtime, as recommended for a lot of these other foods, you should instead opt for this energy-boosting grain around lunchtime or as an early dinner, when the midday slump hits. It’ll help keep you going through bedtime without relying on caffeine, which can wreak havoc on your ability to fall asleep at a reasonable time later on.
Staying hydrated is a huge part of keeping your system running smoothly, and making sure you’re doing so can help you adjust to a time change more quickly. Chugging H2O throughout the day is a must, but choosing foods that are super high in water content — like celery, for example — will help ensure your hydration, too. Other foods that are great for this are watermelon, lettuce, and cucumbers, so incorporate these into your diet as soon as you can to beat the lag.
I’d be nuts to not put nuts on this list. Nuts are a great go-to snack choice while traveling for so many reasons — they’re shelf-stable and easy to carry around, and they pack a major nutritional punch in each small serving size. But many nuts, Brazil nuts in particular, contain a healthy dose of selenium, which is known to promote better sleep.
Cumin may be a simple, humble spice, but its powers when it comes to beating jet lag are anything but. It’s reportedly been used as a sedative in Ayurvedic medicine for years, and is known to be very calming and sleep-inducing. If you have the spice, you can easily make it into a savory, flavorful tea by stirring it into warm water — but it’s also commonly found in curry dishes, so keep it in mind when it comes to meals, too.
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