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How Eating White Rice May Help You Get a Better Night’s Rest

It turns out this starchy side is a sleep-enhancing food.

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When you think of sleep-enhancing foods, examples like pistachios, kiwi, or chamomile tea may come to mind. Each of these delicious items are packed with nutrients that promote rest — but it turns out, they’re not your only option. In fact, you can probably find a surprising sleep-food staple in your pantry right now: white rice. Beyond being a versatile side dish, this type of rice — when consumed as part of a balanced diet — has the potential to put an end to your restless nights. 

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The Studies on White Rice Consumption and Sleep Quality

Research offers answers as to why white rice is associated with helping improve rest. A study published in PLOS ONE examined how common starchy foods such as rice, bread, and noodles affect sleep quality. A total of 1,848 Japanese men and women between the ages of 20 and 60 participated in the study, and participants completed questionnaires recalling their diet history and sleep quality during the previous month. Ultimately, researchers found that rice consumption was linked to good sleep quality, in comparison to bread and noodle intake.

The authors credited this to white rice, in particular, accounting for 59 percent of the glycemic index (GI) in a typical Japanese diet. They concluded that a high GI diet increases the availability of tryptophan (an essential amino acid) in the brain. This amino acid converts into serotonin and then the sleep-inducing hormone known as melatonin.

Similarly, a 2020 study conducted in Japan revealed another way a rice-based diet supports healthy sleep. For this study, 60 women and men (aged 40 to 60 years old) were asked to either consume rice or alternative grains. These instructions had to be followed during three daily meals for eight weeks. However, the alternative grain group was allowed to consume rice during dinner. During the study period, participants completed questionnaires about their eating habits, depression status, anxiety, and sleep quality. The findings revealed that rice consumption may be a factor in reducing sleep disturbances, because it helped lower blood oxidative stress levels

What This Means for You

Well, you can now enjoy white rice with a meal knowing it may help you get plenty of shut-eye later on! The USDA recommends consuming 5 to 7 ounces of grains each day: with ½ cup of cooked rice equaling a one-ounce serving. Just keep in mind that as a high GI food, white rice can trigger blood sugar spikes. So, always speak with your doctor before making any dietary changes. Here’s to a better night’s sleep.

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

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