kris ulland

Your Nutrition Partner

Are you getting enough sleep?

We all live busy lives made more complicated and nerve-racking by working from home, adding “teacher”, “chef”, “cleaner” to our resumes, missing our friends and family, and yearning for the old days when travel and a little adventure wasn’t impossible to reach for on the weekend.

Here are six good reasons to get a good night’s sleep.

  • Your Mood – A solid 7-8 hours of sleep allow your brain time to process your emotions.

After a sleepless night, you may be more irritable, short-tempered, and vulnerable to stress. Once you sleep well, your mood often returns to normal.

Studies have shown that even partial sleep deprivation has a significant effect on mood. University of Pennsylvania researchers found that subjects who were limited to only 4.5 hours of sleep a night for one week reported feeling more stressed, angry, sad, and mentally exhausted. When the subjects resumed normal sleep, they reported a dramatic improvement in mood.

Not only does sleep affect mood, but mood and mental states can also affect sleep. Anxiety increases agitation and arousal, which make it hard to sleep. Stress also affects sleep by making the body aroused, awake, and alert. People who are under constant stress or who have abnormally exaggerated responses to stress tend to have sleep problems.

  • Your Heart – Your blood pressure drops when you sleep, giving your heart a much-needed rest. The less sleep you get, the longer your blood pressure stays elevated.

Poor sleep has been linked to high blood pressure, atherosclerosis (clogging or hardening of the arteries that is associated with coronary artery disease), heart failure, heart attack, stroke, diabetes and obesity.

Poor sleep also appears to increase the amount of certain substances in your body, such as C-reactive protein, that indicate inflammation is a problem. So, inflammation, which is how the body responds to injury, infection or disease, may be part of the reason poor sleep affects your cardiovascular system. Poor sleep also causes the body to produce more stress hormones, which may contribute to cardiovascular disease.

On the other hand, sometimes symptoms related to cardiovascular disease can be the cause of poor sleep. Conditions that may disrupt your sleep include: angina, arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms), sleep apnea (a series of breathing pauses during sleep that stress your cardiovascular system), and a build up of fluid in the lungs due to heart failure.

  • Your Immune System – The immune cells of a well-rested body are better equipped to present a healthy response when faced with immune challenges.

Studies show that people who don’t get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus, even the common cold. Lack of sleep can also affect how fast you recover if you do get sick.

During sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines, some of which help promote sleep. Certain cytokines need to increase when you have an infection or inflammation, or when you are under stress. Sleep deprivation may decrease production of these protective cytokines. In addition, infection-fighting antibodies and cells are reduced during periods when you don’t get enough sleep.

  • Your Muscles – If you hit it hard on your treadmill in the basement or take a run after work, you need to give your muscles time to adequately repair. Otherwise, you probably will wake up with sore muscles aching for a day off.

Short-term recovery is crucial to maintaining and improving performance and preventing injury in all levels of athletic training. Short-term recovery, sometimes called active recovery, includes the lower intensity cool-down phase after a tough workout as well as an entire rest day that involves low-intensity exercise like walking, stretching or yoga or other cross training. Short-term recovery also requires replenishing energy and fluid lost during exercise and getting adequate sleep.

Sleep quality before and after exercise is important. Researchers suspect that it is deep sleep that helps improve athletic performance because this is the time when growth hormone is released. Growth hormone stimulates muscle growth and repair, bone building and fat burning.

  • Your Diet – It is easier to say “no” to sweets when you are saying “yes” to a healthy sleep regime. When you are not getting enough restorative rest, you are more likely to be swayed by the hormones that control your appetite.

Some foods can actually cause trouble sleeping. Foods that can interfere with sleep include high-sugar, high-carbohydrate, heavily-processed foods. The same junk food that’s problematic for your waistline can also be troublesome to your sleep. Eating sugary foods throughout the day can cause pronounced changes to blood sugar, which can bring on feelings of fatigue that can alter your daily routine and your sleep patterns at night. Large meals high in carbohydrates can have a similar effect on blood sugar. Eating heavy meals close to bedtime interferes with the body’s process of winding down for sleep.

  • Your Brain – A well-rested brain is better at learning and remembering than one that needs a break. It is simply harder to think clearly when you are tired.

Sleep affects our overall health, including our hormones and immune system. Neurobiological processes that occur during sleep have a profound impact on brain health, and as a result, they influence mood, energy level, and cognitive fitness. Numerous studies have shown that structural and physiological changes that occur in the brain during sleep affect capacity for new learning, as well as the strength of memories formed during the day. Sleep promotes the consolidation of experiences and ideas; it plays a pivotal role in memory, and has been shown to enhance attention, problem solving, and creativity.

Sleep doctors recommend a variety of measures to help adults and children achieve adequate sleep. In general, all of these approaches are intended to help with relaxation as the desired sleep time approaches, to maintain a comfortable sleep environment, and to encourage a healthy balance of nutrition and exercise. Their recommendations include:

  • maintaining a regular sleep-wake schedule
  • avoiding caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and other chemicals that interfere with sleep
  • making your bedroom a comfortable sleep environment
  • establishing a calming pre-sleep routine
  • going to sleep when you are truly tired
  • not watching the clock at night
  • using light to your advantage by exposing yourself to light during the day and limiting light exposure in the evening
  • not napping too close to your regular bedtime
  • eating and drinking enough – but not too much or too soon before bedtime
  • exercising regularly – but not too close to bedtime

Tarragon

Tarragon is a popular herb in cooking. In fact, tarragon is such a vital part of French cuisine that it is one of the “Fines Herbes.” These are the four most commonly used herbs in French cuisine, which also includes parsley, chervil and chives. Tarragon is known for its slightly bittersweet flavor, with an aroma similar to anise.

Artemisia, tarragon’s genus, comes from the Greek goddess Artemis (of the moon), known as Diana by the Romans, who was said to have given tarragon and other artemisias to Chiron, the centaur. Other tarragon histories compare the colorization of tarragon leaves to the moon.

Tarragon is thought to be a native of Siberia and Mongolia. The word tarragon additionally has ties to the French, Herbe au Dragon and references to “a little dragon”. Much of this association with dragons comes from the serpentine shape of the herb’s roots. As with the other Dragon herbs, tarragon is believed to cure the bites and stings of venomous beasts and mad dogs.

Tarragon contains various nutrients and essential oils that can provide a multitude of benefits. The most well-known ones include:
  • Pain Relief – In traditional folk medicine, tarragon has been used to treat pain for a long time. Chewing the leaves can help relieve pain, especially in the mouth. You can consume tarragon tea to get the same benefit. Cytokines are proteins that can play a role in inflammation. One study in mice found a significant decrease in cytokines after tarragon extract consumption for 21 days. One 12-week study looked at the effectiveness of a dietary supplement called Arthrem – which contains a tarragon extract – and its effect on pain and stiffness in 42 people with osteoarthritis. Individuals who took 150 mg of Arthrem twice per day saw significant improvement in symptoms, compared to those taking 300 mg twice per day and the placebo group.
  • Induce Sleep  – Drinking tarragon tea can help those with insomnia. The calming effect of the herb’s compounds can help you rest well at night. In one study in mice, Artemisia plants appeared to provide a sedative effect and help regulate sleep patterns.
  • Increase Appetite  – If you’re having trouble getting your appetite up, try consuming tarragon. It’s been reported to have stimulating properties for your stomach. Loss of appetite can occur for various reasons, such as age, depression or chemotherapy. If left untreated, it can lead to malnutrition and a decreased quality of life. An imbalance in the hormones ghrelin and leptin may also cause a decrease in appetite. These hormones are important for energy balance. Ghrelin is considered a hunger hormone, while leptin is referred to as a satiety hormone. When ghrelin levels rise, it induces hunger. Conversely, rising leptin levels cause a feeling of fullness.
  • Promote Reproductive Health in Females  – Tarragon can help maintain a healthy female reproductive tract, and may also help women deal with suppressed menstruation.
  • Improve Intestinal Function  – Tarragon is a vermifuge, meaning it can help expel parasitic worms from the intestines. As a result, this lowers your risk of developing intestinal ailments and malabsorption.
  • Improve insulin sensitivity –  One seven-day study in animals with diabetes found that tarragon extract lowered blood glucose concentrations by 20%, compared to a placebo. A 90-day, randomized, double-blind study looked at the effect of tarragon on insulin sensitivity, insulin secretion and glycemic control in 24 people with impaired glucose tolerance. Those who received 1,000 mg of tarragon before breakfast and dinner experienced an ample decrease in total insulin secretion, which can help keep blood sugar levels balanced throughout the day.
  • Cardiovascular Health – Your heart and arteries can benefit from tarragon greatly, because it acts as an inhibitor of platelet aggregation. As a result, the risk of developing a heart attack or a stroke is potentially lower.

Tarragon is low in calories and carbs and contains many nutrients. Just one tablespoon of dried tarragon provides:

  • Calories: 5
  • Carbs: 1 gram
  • Manganese: 7% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
  • Iron: 3% of the RDI
  • Potassium: 2% of the RDI

Manganese is an essential nutrient that plays a role in brain health, growth, metabolism and the reduction of oxidative stress in your body.

How to Buy

Tarragon comes in three different varieties  – French, Russian and Spanish:

  • French tarragon is most widely known and best for culinary purposes.
  • Russian tarragon is weaker in flavor compared to French tarragon. It loses its flavor quickly with age, so it’s best to use it right away. It produces more leaves, which make a great addition to salads.
  • Spanish tarragon has more flavor compared to Russian tarragon but less than French tarragon. It can be used for medicinal purposes and brewed as tea.

Fresh tarragon is typically only available in the spring and summer in cooler climates.

How to Store

To store, wrap a bunch of leaves in a damp paper towel and place it the refrigerator. You can also put the leaves in a jar filled with water. It’s important that the leaves are not dried, because they will lose their flavor and nutrients.

Fresh tarragon will typically last in the fridge for four to five days. Once the leaves begin to turn brown, toss it into a stir-fry or make a pesto sauce.

Dried tarragon can last in an airtight container in a cool, dark environment for up to four to six months.

How to Cook

The pungent, bittersweet flavor of tarragon is often compared to licorice, anise, and fennel, thanks to the presence of methyl chavicol, a naturally occurring compound found in many plants and trees with a distinct licorice-like taste and fragrance. Tarragon pairs particularly well with acidic flavors like lemon and vinegar, and is commonly combined with vinegar to make salad dressings and marinades.

  • Use it into sauces, such as pesto or aioli.
  • Mix it with olive oil and drizzle the mix on top of roasted vegetables.

Although best known for its use in French cooking, tarragon is also used around the world in a variety of traditional dishes.

  • In Slovenia, tarragon is used in a sweet nut roll cake known as potica.
  • In Persian cuisine, tarragon is part of the sabzi knordan, a platter of vegetables and herbs that is traditionally served with meals.
  • In Armenia and Eastern European countries like Georgia, Russia, and Ukraine, the herb is consumed via a popular bright green carbonated drink called Tarkhuna, which is made with sweet tarragon concentrate.

 

Pasta with Fresh Herbs, Lemon and Peas

Martha Rose Shulman/ Photo credit: Julia Gartland for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Barrett Washburne

4 Servings

Ingredients

  • ½ cup finely chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, basil, tarragon, mint and chives
  • Zest of 1 lemon, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • ¾ pound gluten-free pasta, any type
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • ¼ cup Parma – Vegan Parmesan Alternative 

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, in a large bowl or pasta bowl, combine the herbs, lemon zest, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil.
  2. When the water comes to a boil, salt generously and add the pasta. A few minutes before the pasta is done, add the peas to the water. When the pasta is just about al dente, remove a half cup of the cooking water and add to the bowl with the herbs. Drain the pasta and peas, toss with the herb mixture and the Parma, and serve.
  • Advance preparation: The herbs can be chopped several hours ahead, but don’t combine the ingredients until you’ve put the water on for the pasta.

Resources

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