Walnuts are said to be the richest dietary source of the compound serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter in the brain that provides two particularly desirable effects. First, it promotes feelings of relaxation and well being. Second, it gives a feeling of satiety, that is, it makes you feel less hungry and gives you a feeling of being full and satisfied. Walnuts can help you lower cholesterol levels, lose weight, fight depression, and sleep better.
As you might recall, the amino acid L-tryptophan also increases levels of serotonin in the brain. Before the FDA took it off the market, it was a favorite sleep aid. Prozac, the antidepressant drug, also works by helping to keep serotonin levels in the brain elevated (though it has many more undesirable side effects than L-tryptophan does).
You can make a sleep-inducing "serotonin shake" (or walnut milk) simply by blending 1/8, to 1/4 cup of walnuts with an equal amount of skim milk about 30 to 45 minutes before bedtime. For even greater benefits, you could also include a teaspoon of ground flaxseeds and/or raw sunflower seeds, a tablespoon of lecithin granules, and a dash of powdered cinnamon and vanilla extract. The walnuts alone will do the trick, but you can experiment a little with the other items to come up with your own personal formula. However, it's best to try and keep the finished mixture around 1/2 to 3/4 cup. You'll be surprised how effectively this little shake can take the place of those late-night food cravings and help improve your sleep as well.
Now It's Your Turn: Do you have any bedtime snacks that help you fall asleep?