Health & Spirit

Nutrition News: Sleep to Eat Better

Charlyn Fargo on

Sleep to Eat Better

Here's an interesting finding -- sleep a little bit more and you'll crave sugar less and eat fewer carbs.


I call it foggy brain. When we are tired or starving, we don't make good food decisions. Missing out on the recommended minimum of seven hours of sleep is also linked to various health conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and stroke, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

In the study, the researchers recruited 21 individuals to participate in a 45-minute sleep consultation designed to extend their sleep time by up to 1.5 hours per night. Another group of 21 participants were also recruited but did not receive intervention in their sleep patterns, therefore serving as the control group.

Participants were asked to record their sleep and dietary patterns for seven days. During this time, the participants also wore motion sensors on their wrists that measured the exact amount of sleep they got each night, as well as the amount of time they spent in bed before they fell asleep.

Researchers found that the participants who increased the amount of sleep they got each night reduced their added sugar intake by as much as 10 grams the next day compared with the amount of sugar they consumed at the beginning of the study. These participants also had a lower daily carbohydrate intake than the group that did not extend their sleep patterns.

Earlier research has shown that more than one-third of U.S. adults get 6 hours or less of sleep each night -- less than the recommended 7 to 9 hours. With that in mind, the researchers chose to examine whether a sleep consultation could help adults get more shut-eye and how doing so might affect their daily nutrient intake.

"The fact that extending sleep led to a reduction in intake of [added] sugars, by which we mean the sugars that are added to foods by manufacturers or in cooking at home, as well as sugars in honey, syrups and fruit juice, suggests that a simple change in lifestyle may really help people to consume healthier diets," wrote study author Wendy Hall, a senior lecturer in the Department of Diabetes and Nutritional Sciences at King's College London.

Researchers also surmised that the results also suggest that increasing time in bed for an hour or so longer may lead to healthier food choices.

The bottom line? Your sleep is linked to making better food choices. Get a few extra zzz's each night.

Q and A

Q: How do cereals like oatmeal reduce LDL cholesterol?

A: The soluble fiber in many fruits, vegetables and grains - called soluble because it dissolves in water -- is known to slightly lower blood levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol. Normally, the liver uses cholesterol to make bile acid, which helps to break down dietary fats in the small intestine. After the bile is finished doing its job, the body recycles it. However, soluble fiber prevents bile from being recycled. In response, the liver grabs more cholesterol from the bloodstream and uses it to make bile. Studies suggest that soluble fiber can lower LDL cholesterol slightly. According to one study, adding 3 grams of soluble fiber from oats (3 servings of oatmeal, 28 grams each) to your diet can reduce your cholesterol by a few points - for example, from 100 to 97 mg per deciliter. So, if your LDL is significantly elevated, fiber alone won't solve the problem. But fiber is important for other reasons. Whole foods that people eat to get fiber are also nutritious in other ways. The benefits include increased insulin sensitivity and lower triglycerides. You can get fiber from a variety of whole foods and grains. For example, an apple, a half-cup of cooked carrots or broccoli, two slices of whole grain bread, or a half-cup of serving of whole-grain breakfast cereal or cooked oatmeal all provide 1 gram of soluble fiber. -- Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter.

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This is the month we're all trying to work out more, so after that work out or for an on-the-go breakfast, try this smoothie from Cooking Light magazine. It offers 100 percent of your vitamin C and one-third your calcium for the day.

Citrus Sunrise Smoothie

1/2 cup unsweetened refrigerated coconut milk or skim milk

1/4 cup fresh orange juice

1 small banana, frozen

1/2 cup frozen mango

1/2 cup plain 2 percent reduced-fat Greek yogurt

2 teaspoons chopped walnuts

Place milk and orange juice in a blender. Add banana, mango, and yogurt; process until smooth. Pour into a glass; top with walnuts. Serves 1, serving size: 2 cups.

Per serving: 307 calories, 14 g protein, 48 g carbohydrate, 33 g sugars, 0 added sugars, 8 g fat, 4 g fiber, 59 mg sodium.


Charlyn Fargo is a registered dietitian with Hy-Vee in Springfield, Ill., and a spokesperson for the Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. For comments or questions, contact her at or follow her on Twitter @NutritionRD. To find out more about Charlyn Fargo and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at



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