Why Chickpeas Are The Best Bedtime Snack, According To A Dietitian
Food and sleep are deeply intertwined. Just as some eats can keep you from catching Z's (like, say, sugar and caffeine), other foods can help enhance your shut-eye. Perhaps the most popular instance is Thanksgiving: Ever notice how you feel blissfully sleepy after a few servings of turkey? That's because the meat contains high levels of tryptophan, an amino acid that's a precursor to serotonin (which, as you'll see, plays a significant role in our sleep).
While Thanksgiving turkey seems to gain all the hype, registered dietitian Jessica Cording, M.S., R.D., CDN, reminds us that we can find tryptophan in a host of other sources: "It's in pretty much all animal protein," she says on the mindbodygreen podcast. "But you are also going to find it in some plant foods."
One of her favorite plant-based sources? Chickpeas. Here's why a handful of chickpeas should be your bedtime snack.
Chickpeas and sleep.
Chickpeas are complex carbs, which as Cording notes, "help our body produce serotonin." While you might associate serotonin more with mood, the neurotransmitter actually converts to melatonin in the brain's pineal gland—that said, it's necessary for sleep.
In fact, "low levels of serotonin can prevent us from falling asleep and staying asleep," functional medicine doctor Tiffany Lester, M.D., previously tells us about supporting serotonin. But pause before digging into a late-night bowl of pasta: You still want to choose foods with a low glycemic index to avoid spiking your blood sugar levels. (Which can have the opposite effect on your shut-eye.)
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Chickpeas also contain high levels of magnesium, which plays a role in more than 300 diverse biochemical reactions in the body that control everything from blood sugar and blood pressure regulation to energy production to—you guessed it—sleep.* Research has shown how magnesium can support restorative, deep sleep, specifically by maintaining healthy levels of GABA—a neurotransmitter that promotes relaxation and a good night's rest.*
If you're not typically a late-night snacker, even adding chickpeas to your dinner menu can help support deep, restful sleep once you hit the hay. Consider Cording's go-to meal as inspiration: "I love to make falafel bowls," she notes.
The next time you're feeling a bit peckish before bed, you might want to opt for some hummus with multigrain crackers. Or perhaps whip up Cording's favorite crispy snack: a batch of whole roasted chickpeas. No matter how you prepare them, those little legumes have quite the impressive résumé. Protein, fiber, even minerals to help promote faster sleep—it's no wonder we consider them a shelf staple here at mbg.