Dump the sleeping pills; get yourself popcorn, sesame seed and red sweet pepper. Before you know it, the sheep will be doing the counting for you.

David Zinczenko, author of “Eat This Not That!” recently added a list of eight sleep-better foods to his library of health tips – with popcorn, sesame seed and red sweet pepper among those making the cut.

Zinczenko, who is also the editor in chief of Men’s Health, uses a bit of science to create his list.

According to Zinczenko, popcorn, particularly the low-fat variety, has good carbohydrates that induce serotonin production, which happens to have a calming reaction in the body. Pretzels have a similar effect.

Eating sesame seeds give the benefits of tryptophan without having a large meal. This chemical is the same amino acid that produces sleepiness after a big lunch or turkey on Thanksgiving.

Red sweet peppers happen to have one of the highest concentrations of vitamin C, an antioxidant that reduces the production of cortisol, a hormone that is released in stress and can keep people awake.

Whereas cortisol may prevent sleep, melatonin helps induce it. Oatmeal with slices of banana, rich in melatonin, makes for a good bedtime supper.

Zinczenko’s list also includes alternative methods recommended by dietitians to induce sleep that do not necessarily involve a change in diet. These dietitians recommend moving workouts to earlier in the day, learning calming and breathing techniques like practicing Yoga and consuming green tea.

Not all foods are sleep-friendly, however; some increase stress and may eventually lead to depression.

In “Unstuck,” James Gordon – founder of the Center for Mind-Body Medicine and a professor at the Georgetown Medical Center – further supports the concept that food has a stronger link to daily life than just nutritional value.

“Some people can eat anything and it won’t bother them,” Gordon said, “but a number of people are sensitive to large number of sugars or simple carbohydrates which are only short term mood lifters.” Gordon emphasized examining the entire diet before arriving to conclusions about certain trends. “Eighty percent of Americans are deficient in one or more essential nutrients, according to the Department of Agriculture,” Gordon said.

Everyone should make an effort to avoid certain ingredients, according to Gordon. Monosodium glutamate, also known as MSG, has a trend of causing overall downward shift in mood, a precursor to depression. Gordon also recommended decreasing stress on the nervous system by avoiding excessive consumption of additives like NutraSweet.

Coffee was at the top of the list of foods to avoid. “Studies show people who stop drinking coffee feel better than they did before,” Gordon said.

Although Gordon did support the consumption of complex carbohydrates, such as those described by Zinczenko, and other foods that studies have shown to produce a positive effective, he ultimately emphasized eating things that are enjoyable to eat rather than to sacrifice them altogether. In the end, a balanced diet is essential.

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