They’re one of the world’s favourite snacks, but prunes have a surprising number of benefits other than their ease to munch on. In fact eating prunes before bed could help you fall asleep, and that’s directly down to the nutrients contained within them.
They also boost your immune system and can potentially protect you from disease. We explain how, next.
Eating prunes before bed: The surprising sleep aid
As early as the 13th century monks in France were eating prunes, after discovering that the dried out plums were still edible months later. However it’s in the 21st century that we’ve discovered just how good the fruit is for our health.
In particular they can help us sleep. That’s because prunes are a good source of tryptophan – an essential amino acid that we don’t produce naturally, and which we must obtain through diet. Supplementing with this amino acid appears to decrease the time it takes to fall asleep as tryptophan helps your body produce an important sleep hormone called melatonin.
Melatonin regulates the sleep-wake cycle, and is so important to our sleep health that often individuals who are struggling to sleep – or have been diagnosed with insomnia – are prescribed melatonin. Therefore eating prunes before bed could be a great way to top up your natural melatonin levels at the right time.
Tryptophan also helps your body produce serotonin – a hormone that helps with our mood, well-being and happiness. Serotonin has a role to play in inducing sleep, and is needed in order for the body to produce that all-important sleep hormone – melatonin!
It doesn’t end there either. Prunes also contain magnesium. Why’s that notable? Well supplementing with magnesium has been shown to help relieve symptoms of insomnia and improve sleep efficiency, sleep time and sleep onset. It’s also been shown to reduce anxiety – one of the leading causes of insomnia.
Eating prunes before bed could help sleep quality and onset due to the presence of tryptophan, serotonin melatonin and magnesium. All of which have been shown to have a positive effect on sleep quality.
Eating prunes before bed: What are the HEALTH benefits?
This remarkable food is also an anti-inflammatory, and is loaded with antioxidants. Both are crucial to keeping your health in check, and can even reverse damage done to your body.
The anti-inflammatory nature of prunes has been studied before, and is important to note as many major diseases like heart disease, arthritis, diabetes and Alzheimer’s are often linked to chronic inflammation. Therefore incorporating anti-inflammatory foods into your diet – like pumpkin seeds or prunes – is a no-brainer.
Prunes are also packed with antioxidants. That’s important as antioxidants appear to have a direct effect on sleep quality, as they support the immune system and help promote restfulness at night.
Antioxidant foods also help protect your body and can even reverse damage that has been done by oxidative stress. Oxidative stress comes about when there’s an imbalance between free radical molecules (which can cause harm) and antioxidants – that imbalance then causes illness and tissue damage. The result can be the development of diseases such as cancer, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease and many others. Therefore eating antioxidant foods – like prunes or garlic – should be a priority.
The science has been backed up too. Anthocyanins – an antioxidant that is found in prunes – was concluded in one study to have a potential role in cancer prevention, another stated that prunes had ‘potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidative agents’, whilst another saw promising signs that prunes could even help with anxiety disorders.
Prunes have powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities. Because of that, several studies have shown prunes to have a positive effect on health, potentially protect against disease, and boost the immune system.
Prunes for sleep: Incorporating them into your diet
Prunes can be found in shops and supermarkets around the world. They are delicious and can be eaten in their natural form, and so are easy to incorporate into your diet.
There are many different ways to incorporate prunes into your diet too. You can use them as a topping for porridge, yoghurt or muesli, or even eaten with ice cream.
For full sleep benefits, eating 3-5 prunes in the evening should suffice.
Prunes before bed: What about side effects?
If you don’t have a prune allergy then moderate consumption of prunes shouldn’t cause any side effects. However eating prunes in excess could lead to side effects like bloating, gas, and diarrhoea.
As always, we recommend consulting with your doctor if undertaking a diet change, or if you have concerns about how a specific food may interact with any preexisting conditions or medicines.