Picture this: Here you are rummaging through your kitchen at 10 p.m. looking for a bedtime snack. You’re hungry, but can’t stop doing that thing where you dead-stare into the fridge as you contemplate what you “should” eat. We’ll save you some time and brain power: Grab a banana.
Yes, a banana.
Why is a banana before bed a good snack?
First of all, banish those misconceptions that all late-night food is a bad idea. “Going to bed too hungry can disrupt the quality of your sleep, just the same as going to bed too full,” says Lisa Moskovitz, RD, CEO and founder of NY Nutrition Group in New York City. A piece of fruit can be the perfect antidote to late-night tummy rumbles because it’s light while still offering filling nutrients like fiber.
As for bananas, they have very specific properties that make them perfectly suited for nighttime nibbling. For one, the fruit contains tryptophan, Moskowitz says. Tryptophan is an amino acid that helps increase to production of serotonin, which can help calm and relax you, says Moskovitz. Serotonin is also a precursor to melatonin (meaning that it helps make melatonin), the neurotransmitter that helps you feel sleepy.
Bananas do a double-whammy at bedtime because of their carb count—per the The National Sleep Foundation (NSF), carbohydrates help ferry tryptophan into the brain where it can get to work to up your serotonin levels. And what does a banana have? Lots of good carbs (27 grams to be exact).
Sure, a banana is a bit higher in carbs and sugar than some other fruit. But it’s also a good source of fiber at three grams (women are advised to eat 25 grams per day), and considering most of us don’t get enough, it’s a last-chance in the day to add in a few extra grams. “Fiber is also a source of prebiotics that help feed the probiotics that are so good for gastrointestinal health,” says Moskovitz. And there’s something to be said about how bathroom regularity just makes you feel better.
The sugars in a banana are also natural sugars (versus added) and come wrapped up in that package of fiber and other nutrients, like blood-pressure regulating potassium and magnesium, which is a natural muscle relaxant that’s also been found to help prevent headaches, adds Moskovitz.
If you want to build one of the more perfect bedtime snacks, the NSF suggests combining a half of a banana with a handful of almonds for a nice balance of carbs, protein, and healthy fats.
So say yes to that banana before bed if you’re hungry. “Yes, they contain more sugar and carbs compared to some fruits. You still want to practice portion control, especially if you’re watching your blood glucose level,” says Moskovitz. That’s another beauty of the banana: it comes in its own prepackaged, portion-controlled container. You’re just a few bites away from a restful sleep.
Originally published August 4, 2019. Updated October 9, 2020.
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