sleep

Video: Rachelle for Well+Good on the benefits of cacao and how to make herb-infused dark chocolate (includes recipe!)

Things that have never been more popular: CBD and cauliflower—and now cacao. The superfood is a staple in healthy recipes, snacks, and desserts. But beyond the taste, are there any legitimate benefits of cacao?

Enter Well+Good’s new video series, Plant-Based, which aims to dig deep (pun intended) into all things that grow in the ground and how they impact your health and nutrition. For the first episode, we talked to herbalist and holistic nutritionist Rachelle Robinett to get the goods on all things cacao and, TL;DR, I really want to run to Whole Foods and grab some cacao nibs right now.

Cacao is not the same as chocolate. Like cocoa powder and chocolate, it comes from the cacao bean, but cacao is made from unroasted, cold-pressed beans and without added sugar. This helps it preserve a very impressive nutrient profile, says Robinett.

“Cacao is very nutrient dense,” says Robinett. It’s high in antioxidants as well as nutrients like magnesium (which can help reduce stress), potassium, and iron. Cacao is also high in healthy fats to help us stay satiated and energized, she adds.

Another perk to cacao is its alkaloid content. Alkaloids are naturally-occurring compounds often found in plants; the alkaloids in cacao, Robinett says, “interact with different neurotransmitters in our body and help us feel good.” So, yeah, there’s a reason why eating a piece of dark chocolate makes you feel so damn good.

All of this makes cacao a great before-bed snack. “I am a huge fan of cacao or dark chocolate before bed,” Robinett says. Cacao has only minimal amounts of caffeine and considering its magnesium and alkaloid profile, it’s something to try when you want to calm down, she says. Yet another reason to look forward to bedtime, IMO!

For more on the benefits of cacao, plus a delicious dark chocolate recipe straight from Robinett, be sure to watch the video above.

this story originally appears on Well+Good

A Science-Driven Guide To A Good Night's Sleep | written for Buffy

Photo by Kevin Buitrago.

Photo by Kevin Buitrago.

As a holistic health practitioner certified in both complementary and integrative health and Clinical Herbalism, Rachelle Robinett knows how sleep can impact everything from productivity to neuroprotection. While she knows the plant for just about any ailment (she’s the founder of herbal cafe Supernatural, after all), she’s the first to confirm that how we sleep at night depends on how we spend our day. Syncing circadian rhythms won’t take long with the right routine—and she has a few notes to get us started.

Tune into nature.

If the goal is to feel tired when it’s time to fall asleep, we need to activate the parasympathetic nervous system—aka our “rest and digest” state—and minimize the “fight or flight” of the daily grind. The proof is in biology: we respond to daylight and nightlight at a cellular level.

Natural light (or absence of it) triggers the release of hormones that dictate how alert we are. The hormone cortisol is like our body’s morning cup of coffee, and a tuned-in body will release it in the morning to help wake us up. Melatonin is like our evening chill pill, which we get a shot of when our body senses that the sun is setting and the day is winding down. One study found that just a few more hours of light could shift a body clock by six hours in one week, making it essential to be sensitive to nature’s rhythms.

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FYI: St. John's Wort for Sleep

One of St. John's wort's major advantages over prescription antidepressant medications is its ability to promote a better quality of sleep. Unlike St. John's wort, most antidepressants lengthen the time it takes to enter the REM (rapid eye movement) sleep phase, reducing or even eliminating REM sleep. Far from inactive during sleep, the subconscious mind is busy analyzing the day's events and processing feelings during the dreaming or REM phase. This is essential for mental health.

source: healthy.net