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melatonin foods: woman looking in fridge at night

7 Foods That Offer Melatonin For Nighttime Snacking

Whether you hopped on the bandwagon after hearing about their health perks or simply like the way they taste, tart cherries have always gotten shine for containing the sleep-regulating hormone melatonin. But these tart little beauties aren’t the only food out there that provides the circadian rhythm-loving substance. In fact, plenty of other equally delicious eats just so happen to offer melatonin! Ahead, a buffet of options to consider when seeking out a late-night snack. 

  • ABOUT OUR EXPERTS: Michelle Saari, R.D., is a registered dietitian with the EH Project. Nichole Dandrea-Russert, R.D., is a plant-based dietitian who specializes in sleep and mood. Kelsey Costa, M.S., R.D.N., is a registered dietitian and nutrition consultant for the EH Project.

Tart Cherries and Melatonin

There’s a reason tart cherries are often dubbed the queen bee of better sleep. “Many people do not want to reach for medication first, so tart cherries are a wonderful option,” says dietitian Michelle Saari, R.D., of the EH Project. With interest in food-first approaches to health rising, tart cherries are a no-brainer for anyone seeking assistance in the sleep department.

Research shows that tart cherries contain 13 nanograms of melatonin per gram, meaning your average cherry (which weighs about 4.8 grams) offers about 62.4 nanograms.

Another perk of eating your melatonin in cherry form: fiber. “Fiber helps to fill up your stomach, and can also help you sleep better,” Saari says.

And, according to Nichole Dandrea-Russert, R.D., a plant-based dietitian who specializes in sleep and mood, phytonutrients (like anthocyanins, catechins, and ellagic acids) found in tart cherries may also support better sleep by working against oxidative stress and the inflammation it causes.

Read More: Make These Changes To Your Evening Routine To Sleep Better

With all of these cards stacked in their favor, it’s no wonder tart cherries are a celebrated hero for helping you snooze. In fact, research has shown that drinking tart cherry juice can improve both sleep time and efficiency.

Other Melatonin-Containing Foods

If you’re not a tart cherry fan, though, no sweat. There are other melatonin-containing foods out there! And though many of them provide less melatonin than tart cherries, that doesn’t necessarily take away from their sleep-loving effect. After all, research shows that even small amounts of melatonin can be as effective as higher amounts for supporting sleep, suggests Kelsey Costa, M.S., R.D.N., a registered dietitian and nutrition consultant for the E-Health Project.

Bananas

“Bananas contain small amounts of melatonin and are a good source of potassium and fiber,” says Saari. Your average banana contains 0.059 micrograms of melatonin, she adds. Bananas can be enjoyed on their own as a snack or as an oatmeal topping. They can even be used in baking. Protein-packed banana bread, anyone? 

Eggs 

You already know that eggs are nutrient powerhouses, providing protein, healthy fats, and a number of vitamins. Interestingly, they also contain some melatonin. “Fresh, whole eggs contain about 1.54 nanograms of melatonin per gram,” Costa says. If your average egg weighs about 60 grams, that’s about 0.0924 micrograms of melatonin a pop.

Of course, eggs are incredibly versatile and can be enjoyed boiled, scrambled, or in omelets or salads.

Goji Berries

You’ve probably heard that goji berries are packed with antioxidants—and they also happen to be a natural source of melatonin. According to Costa, goji fruit contains 530 nanograms per gram of fresh weight. That’s 0.53 micrograms per ounce (about two tablespoons) of this pretty sweet fruit, making it one of the more impressive food sources out there, she says.

In addition to trail mix, try goji berries as a topper to chia seed pudding, oatmeal, or yogurt. You can even use them to make sweet tea!

Pistachios

If you enjoy snacking on nuts before bedtime, consider yourself in luck. “Pistachios are rich in fiber, healthy fats, and protein, making them a great addition to salads or as a standalone snack,” notes Saari. Plus, they provide some melatonin! Specifically, 3.5 ounces provide a notable 0.023 milligrams of melatonin. 

Read More: 5 Nutritionist-Approved Snacks To Stuff In Your Travel Bag

In addition to munching on plain pistachios, Dandrea-Russert likes to add them to plant-based yogurt or blend them into pistachio butter.

Cranberries

According to Costa, cranberries are one of the best food sources of melatonin you can nosh on, offering between 25 and 122 micrograms per gram of dry weight. (FYI, a cup of fresh cranberries is about 100 grams, offering between 0.025 and 0.122 milligrams of melatonin.) 

Though not as melatonin-rich as tart cherries, cranberries have a high concentration of this sleep-loving hormone compared to other foods. To enjoy them, Dandrea-Russert suggests making cranberry sauce or tossing some fresh cranberries onto a salad for a punch of tartness.

Lentils

In addition to their other nutritional perks, lentils also contain melatonin. In fact, your average half-cup serving provides about 1.09 micrograms of melatonin, according to Dandrea-Russert. That’s a nice perk, on top of their impressive fiber and protein content, which make them stellar for digestion and a great way to support a healthy weight and healthy muscles.

Lentils are a staple in grain bowls and salads—and you can even use them as a base for plant-based burgers.

The Bottom Line

Although tart cherries are one of the most popular foods to eat for better sleep, other delicious foods out there are natural sources of melatonin. While the amounts of melatonin in these different foods certainly vary, experts and research suggest that consuming even teeny-tiny amounts of melatonin can have benefits, so nosh on!

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