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When you think back on your dream last night, do you remember it pretty vividly? Was it perhaps a bit bizarre or even nightmarish? If so, that chocolate you had right before bed could be the culprit.
How Food Affects Your Dreams (Slideshow)
Chocolate contains compounds that are known to have psychoactive effects on the brain, causing enhanced dreams — good or bad. Other foods, like cheese and milk, are believed to help you sleep better and promote pleasant dreams.
Determining how different foods influence our dreams isn’t always cut and dried, though.
“In terms of good and bad dreams, and how different foods affect them, it varies from person to person and what their body is used to,” says Dr. Lori Shemek, author Dr. Lori’s Healthy Living Blog and How to Fight FATflammation!.
The varying ways your body processes certain foods, such as spicy foods that overheat or sugary foods that fatigue, can manifest itself during sleep just as a simple offshoot of all of the neuronal activity that occurs. Because your brain activity is so high during sleep, especially during the rapid eye movement (REM) phase, it is extremely influenced by the digestion process.
Of course, the kind of food you eat isn’t the only dream instigator. Your genetic makeup, your tolerance for what you eat, and the quantity you consume are all factors that play into whether a food might make dreams more vivid, promote sweet dreams, or give you nightmares. Other circumstances, like your sleep environment — the temperature of your room, for instance — and body temperature (maybe you have a fever) can also affect your dream scenarios.
Read on to find out what to eat for a good night’s sleep, and how to avoid a food-induced nightmare.
Haley Willard is a contributor for The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @haleywillrd.
When Do We Dream?
When we think back on a night’s sleep, some dreams are usually more vivid than others, and many people can barely remember their dreams at all. But we are always dreaming — usually three or four times a night. We dream during several phases of sleep, but most dreams that we remember happen during the rapid eye movement (REM) phase, when the brain is the most active.
Eating Before Bedtime
Dr. Lori Shemek recommends avoiding heavy meals within an hour before bed because the stomach needs time to digest. A heavily portioned meal before bedtime can cause indigestion, which may disrupt sleep and instigate dramatic scenarios in dreams — or even nightmares.
Foods That Might Stimulate Dreams
The question of whether what you eat or drink just before going to bed influences the quality of your nocturnal escapades hasn't been well researched. Psychiatry professor Tore Nielsen, director of the University of Montreal's Dream and Nightmares Laboratory, hopes to remedy this with a study investigating the relationship between foods and dream content. In lucid dreams, the holy grail of serious dreamers, the dream self takes control of the action and influences the outcome. "Lucid nutrition" is the name given to foods and supplements alleged to promote better dreaming.
In 2002, a double-blind study revealed that participants who took a daily 250mg B6 supplement reported a significant increase in dream content - as measured in dream vividness, bizarreness, emotionality and color.
This is actually greater than the recommended maximum daily intake for healthy adults, which is 100mg. In fact, you only need about 1.3mg of vitamin B6 each day, and you usually get that from the foods you eat.
So 100mg a day is a sizeable dose. In the study above, participants took the 250mg dose for just 3 days. This is not a long term experiment and should be maintained at your own discretion.
How much is too much? Doses of 500-1,000mg, taken daily for several months, can lead to sensory neuropathy (pain and numbness of the extremities).
To get started, know this: casual experiments by other dreamers have shown the amount of B6 needed to increase dream intensity varies from 100-500mg depending on the person.
I suggest starting with a 100mg supplement like Nature Made Vitamin B6 about two hours before bed for just a few nights in a row, then have a break. If you don't see any benefit, increase the nightly dose at your own risk, but remember not to do this on a prolonged basis.
Unfortunately, there are no foods sufficiently rich in vitamin B6 to noticeably affect your dreams. A cup of rice bran contains only 4.8mg, while yellow-fin tuna offers 0.88mg in a 3-ounce serving, which is why a supplement is the way to go.
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Happiness Quotient high. Tastes great but in moderation
Paediatrician now 83 hence geriatrician in a retirement facility
This article mentioned cocoa-which is the processed cacao which has a different nutritional value as raw cacoa. I thought the benefits often cited relate to cacoa and not cocoa, which because it’s been roasted at high temperature, lowers the entire nutritional value and enzyme content. I make my own chocolate using cacoa butter, raw cacao powder and fruits and nuts without sugar. Tastes amazing!
Haha! Rob, this article is worth reading(ofcourse a chocolate lover).
But apart from a healthy and sharp brain, there are other mind-boggling benefits of eating chocolates like killing obesity, increasing the life expectancy etc.
I knew it all along! Chocolate (dark, 70 % and up ) is food for the Gods! I’m sure it helped scientists and writers win the Nobel prize. Indeterminate studies to the contrary, I will continue to savour this delectable treat!
This Is Your Brain On Cheese
The earth-bending pull of cheese is hard to break free from.
Which one torments you the most? Polly-O string cheese? The Cheddar Lovers Cheeseburger from Wendy’s? The Stuffed-Crust Pizza from Pizza Hut? All of them? You’re not alone. Cheese is one of the hardest habits to regulate day to day. What keeps most vegetarians from going whole-hog vegan? Not eggs. It’s the cheese. The salty, fatty goodness that makes you salivate should you get even a tiny whiff. It’s just so good, many will say. Well, there’s more to the story. You may, in fact, be hooked, so to speak.
It turns out there’s a reason behind our cravings. Cheese contains casein. It also contains casein fragments called casomorphins, a casein-derived morphine-like compound. Basically, dairy protein has opiate molecules built in. When consumed, these fragments attach to the same brain receptors that heroin and other narcotics attach to.
'These opiates attach to the same brain receptors that heroin and morphine attach to. They are not strong enough to get you arrested, but they are just strong enough to keep you coming back for more, even while your thighs are expanding before your very eyes.' - Dr. Neal Barnard, author of The Cheese Trap
Some researchers believe this occurs as a way to ensure babies (humans, cows, etc.) continue to nurse during infancy, which helps the survival of the species. That helps explain why we look so happy when nursing and also why it feels so good to eat cheese. For perspective, a cup of milk contains 7.7 grams of protein, 80% of which is casein. When converted to cheddar, for example, the protein content multiplies 7-fold, to 56 grams. It’s the most concentrated form of casein in any food in the grocery store. Basically, if milk is cocaine, then cheese is crack.
Our brain's ‘reward center’ releases dopamine when we eat salty foods like cheese in order to encourage us to eat more of it (many addictive drugs increase dopamine activity). Dopamine makes our bodies become attracted to whatever produced it, including cheese. Which is why so many people crave it, talk about it, and why even animal-loving vegetarians have a hard time giving it up.
Cheesy breadsticks are one of the many weapons food companies have deployed to keep you hooked.
Companies that sell cheese are well aware of these stats, and leverage our addiction to their benefit. Back in ‘00, at a presentation by Dairy Management Inc. (collects approximately $140 million each year from dairy companies to promote dairy products), they suggested that the key to increasing demand was to ‘trigger’ cheese cravings. The presenter broke cheese consumers into two categories: enhancers, those who sprinkle cheese on pasta, salad, etc. from time to time (not worth targeting), and cravers, people who LOVE cheese and will consume it whenever possible. This meant working with Fast Food companies to promote more cheese heavy products on their menus (Cheddar-Lovers sound familiar? Stuffed Crust pizza too!).
Why am I telling you all of this? Well, no one wants to tell someone else that they might have a problem. And there’s no cheese-anonymous support group to run to. Given the prevalence of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease in America, something has to give. If you have some vices in your life, you might want to add cheese to the list. And like the others, it’s something you should probably avoid to lead a long healthy life.
I am a Wealth Advisor at Alpenrose Wealth Management, advising a global clientele on multi-generational wealth management, with a passion for impact investing. I was…
I am a Wealth Advisor at Alpenrose Wealth Management, advising a global clientele on multi-generational wealth management, with a passion for impact investing. I was selected for Investment News' 40 Under 40 list and Forbes' inaugural list of America's Top Next-Generation Wealth Advisors. As an extension of this work, I’m particularly excited about companies that offer innovative solutions to reduce the impact that agriculture has on human health, climate change, water scarcity, and animal welfare.
Explore Other Food Features:
Use healthy oils (like olive and canola oil) for cooking, on salad, and at the table. Limit butter. Avoid trans fat.
Drink water, tea, or coffee (with little or no sugar). Limit milk/dairy (1-2 servings/day) and juice (1 small glass/day). Avoid sugary drinks.
The more veggies &mdash and the greater the variety &mdash the better. Potatoes and French fries don’t count.
Eat plenty of fruits of all colors
Choose fish, poultry, beans, and nuts limit red meat and cheese avoid bacon, cold cuts, and other processed meats.
Eat a variety of whole grains (like whole-wheat bread, whole-grain pasta, and brown rice). Limit refined grains (like white rice and white bread).
Incorporate physical activity into your daily routine.
A monthly update filled with nutrition news and tips from Harvard experts—all designed to help you eat healthier. Sign up here.
Explore the downloadable guide with tips and strategies for healthy eating and healthy living.
Foods to Eat for Sleep
Now that you know eating cheese at night is not going to induce insomnia or severe nightmares, consider some other foods that can encourage healthy sleep.
Some of the best nighttime foods include:
- Lean proteins: Turkey and chicken both include high tryptophan content just like soft cheese does, and tryptophan encourages serotonin release.
- Herbs: Sage and basil can help relieve tension that can keep you awake. Try sprinkling these herbs over some pasta for an evening meal option that will aid with sleep.
- Nuts: Almonds, cashews and walnuts all help to boost serotonin levels in the body.
- Bananas: High in magnesium and potassium, which are both key minerals relating to the relaxation of overstressed muscles. Not only can they help you sleep, they count toward your fruit intake.
- Fish: High in vitamin B6, which promotes melatonin production, allowing for healthy and regulated sleep cycles.
- Milk: A warm mug of milk has long been recommended before bed to aid sleep, but there is science behind it. The high levels of calcium in the drink are stress relieving and nerve stabilizing.
- Green leafy vegetables: High in calcium and also help to reduce stress in muscles and nerves.
If you're extra thirsty all the time, consider how much water you're drinking throughout the day. It's necessary to drink enough to keep your urine light yellow or clear, which is a sign you're hydrated.
But if no amount of water quenches your thirst, diabetes might be to blame. "A person who is always thirsty and urinates frequently may be demonstrating early signs of high insulin levels," Kouri says. "When there is excess glucose in the blood, the kidneys attempt to get rid of it in the urine. This leads to excess urine production and dehydration."
So if you're craving water in an intense way, let a doctor know.
Over-the-counter and prescription drugs that may have caffeine in them include pain relievers, weight loss pills, diuretics, and cold medicines. These and other medications may have as much or even more caffeine than a cup of coffee. Check the label of nonprescription drugs or the prescription drug information sheet to see if your medicine interferes with sleep or can cause insomnia.
Mac And Cheese Before A Colonoscopy? Yep! You Can Eat Solid Foods The Day Before Getting Scoped
If you've ever had a colonoscopy, you'll appreciate this news. If you've never had a colonoscopy, trust me, this is life-changing, or at least one-day-in-your-life-changing:
You can eat solid foods the day before you undergo the procedure!
That's right. You don't have to starve yourself by consuming only clear fluids like broth and Popsicles (and not even cherry-flavored, because they're the color of, well, you know) to prepare for a colonoscopy. Even the professional organization of doctors who perform colonoscopies says so.
Who knew? I didn't, until I talked with Dr. Jason Samarasena, director of advanced endoscopic imaging at the University of California Irvine's H.H. Chao Comprehensive Digestive Disease Center. Samarasena presented research findings (see page 60 here) about dietary prep for a colonoscopy Monday afternoon in San Diego at "Digestive Disease Week," an annual scientific meeting sponsored by four professional organizations of doctors who screen for and treat such ailments.
"If you ask a lot of gastroenterologists, they would be surprised as well," he said.
Samarasena pointed that the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy's most recent guideline on the matter, published in January 2015, doesn't mandate that patients consume only clear liquids before a colonoscopy.
"Most commonly, a clear liquid diet is advised for the day before colonoscopy," according to the guideline. "However, it is not clear whether a clear liquid the day before colonoscopy offers advantages over a low-fiber diet in terms of preparation quality." A low-residue diet, which is virtually the same thing as a low-fiber diet, "has been shown to be at least as effective as a clear liquid diet and associated with increased patient satisfaction," the organization notes.
Doctors are now saying you can eat "low-residue" foods such as mac and cheese the day before . [+] undergoing a colonoscopy. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)
Excluding skin cancers, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both U.S. men and women, according to the American Cancer Society . The society predicts that this year 95,270 Americans will be diagnosed with colon cancer, 39,220 with rectal cancer. And colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of U.S. cancer-related deaths when you consider men and women separately, second leading cause when you combine them.
But the death rate has been falling for several decades, in part because of screening by colonoscopy, which can find colorectal polyps and remove then before they have a chance to progress to cancer. Those polyps are pretty common--a third of Americans over age 65 have them, according to the Health Resources and Services Administration, part of the Department of Health and Human Services. Colonoscopy also can detect early cancers, improving the chance of recovery. In a draft document posted last October, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force reaffirmed its 2008 recommendation that adults at average risk of developing colorectal cancer get screened beginning at age 50 and continuing until age 75.
The clear liquids mantra stems from the need to make sure that nothing obstructs the doctor's view during the colonoscopy, which would kind of defeat its purpose. But requiring clear liquids might also contribute to the fact that screening for colorectal cancer lags behind screening for other cancers. In 2012, more than one in four Americans 50 to 75 had never been screened for colorectal cancer, according to a 2013 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Many people find that preparing for a colonoscopy--subsisting on only clear liquids and drinking a large quantity of a bowel-cleansing solution or taking special laxatives--is worse than the procedure itself.
"I think there's a combination of reasons why people don't want to get a colonoscopy," Samarasena said. "Some people really don't feel good if they don't eat."
Patient dissatisfaction spurred him to examine whether a clear liquid diet before a colonoscopy was really necessary, Samarasena said. "We've heard so many complaints about clear liquids for years and years."
He and his collaborators randomly assigned 83 adults to a clear liquid diet or a low-residue diet ("residue" refers to undigested food, such as fiber, that makes up stool) for the full day before they underwent a colonoscopy at either of two hospitals, one of which was a Veterans Affairs medical center.
The patients assigned to the low-residue diet were told they could eat moderate amounts of such popular foods as eggs, lunch meat, white bread, plain bagels and cream cheese, ice cream, butter, chicken breast and white rice. They weren't supposed to eat whole grain bread or cereal, fruits, vegetables, nuts, popcorn and other high-fiber foods.
Not surprisingly, the patients assigned to the low-residue diet reported being less hungry the evening before their colonoscopy and less fatigued the morning of the procedure. And a whopping 97% of them said they were satisfied with the diet, compared to only 46% of the clear liquid diet group.
"As a less restrictive dietary regimen, low-residue diet may help improve patient participation in colorectal cancer screening programs," the researchers noted.
Best of all, the low-residue diet group actually had cleaner colons, as judged by doctors not otherwise involved in the study who watched videotapes of the procedures without knowing which diet the patients had followed the previous day. Samarasena speculates that people on clear liquids might end up not drinking a lot of liquid. "They're not really stimulating the bowel" as much as the people who eat low-residue foods.
In March, a couple of Samarasena's collaborators, Dr. Douglas Nguyen and Dr. M. Mazen Jamal, coauthored a meta-analysis of nine other studies comparing clear liquids only with a low-residue diet on the day before a colonoscopy. They concluded that those studies showed patients preferred the low-residue diet, which was just as safe and effective in clearing out the colon as the clear liquids.
"I think now I'm definitely a believer (in the low-residue diet before colonoscopy), and many of my colleagues are," said Samarasena, who is continuing to conduct research in this area. "Patients, they just love it. It's really like night and day."
5 Foods That Negatively Affect Your Child’s Mood
Parents intuitively know that food can impact their child’s behavior and mood. We know that sweets, for example, can cause bouts of hyperactivity. But mood-altering food isn’t limited to sugar – there are other culprits in the snacks and meals that we feed our little ones. The following five foods are the most common contributors to mood and behavioral changes in children.
- Dairy. If your child is lactose intolerant or allergic to the proteins found in dairy, you may see changes in her mood and behavior. Many children become irritable, cranky, or aggressive. Children with dairy allergies or intolerance also tend to suffer from frequent colds and ear infections. Babies may exhibit colicky symptoms, whereas toddlers and older children may become inconsolable and irritable.
- Artificial Coloring. Many countries have banned artificial coloring due to the detrimental effects these chemicals have on children. Linked to ADHD, anxiety, hyperactivity, and headaches in children, artificial coloring can also cause significant behavioral changes. Because artificial coloring is in many sugary foods, parents often blame behavioral changes on sugar. Artificial coloring is often hidden in unexpected foods such as bread and yogurt. Avoid products with yellow No. 5, red No. 40, and blue No. 1 if you’re concerned about your child’s mood swings after consuming food with artificial coloring.
- Sugar. Sugar can cause a child to be hyperactive. Unless they’re eating a whole foods-based diet, sugar is in just about everything the average child eats. Sugar has been shown to cause long-term health damage, and a diet high in processed foods has been linked to depression, cognitive delay, and sleep problems.
- Preservatives. Several preservatives may cause behavioral problems in children. They include but are not limited to nitrates, nitrites, and sodium benzoate. Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a flavor enhancer that also causes mood and behavior changes, including headaches and hyperactivity. Sodium benzoate is commonly found in juice products marketed toward children.
- Food Allergens. Common food allergens are dairy, nuts, eggs, soy, and corn. When a child has an intolerance or an allergy to a particular food, it can cause significant health and behavior issues. However, it can be difficult to pinpoint which allergen is making your child sick without the help of an allergist. A food intolerance, for example, is often missed and a child is instead diagnosed with ADHD.
If you notice behavior changes or mood swings in your child, consider keeping a food journal. Track what they eat and when they exhibit concerning behavior. Try eliminating suspicious foods to see if the behavior changes. While food isn’t the cause of all behavioral issues and conditions, it’s important to make sure that your child is not suffering from something that can be easily remedied.