What is Melatonin?– a hormone secreted by the pineal gland that inhibits melanin formation and is thought to be concerned with regulating the reproductive cycle
Melatonin in Food
Since melatonin is one of the oldest molecules on the planet and every life form is dependent on the light/dark cycles, it is not surprising that melatonin is found in almost every plant. Some plants actually have quite a bit of melatonin and can be used very successfully (instead of resorting to a supplement).
In a study at M.I.T., researchers discovered that tart cherry juice was an effective sleep tonic. In a previous study, while measuring the effects of tart cherry juice for its anti-inflammatory benefits as a sports recovery drink, some of the subjects reported better sleep. (3) Further studies revealed that the tart cherries were very high in botanical melatonin! (2)
One study measured two groups of older men. One group received tart cherries and the other group received a placebo. The tart cherry juice group fell asleep faster and woke up less during the night compared to the placebo group. (2)
To follow up that study, researchers measured melatonin levels after drinking the Montmorency tart cherry juice and, once again, saw improvements in sleep time, quality and efficiency that were very likely due to a boost in melatonin levels. (4) Since this study was published, tart cherries have become quite famous for boosting melatonin and sleep quality, but there are many additional foods to consider to amp up your melatonin levels naturally!
According to Dr. Michael Greger, walnuts, flaxseeds and tomatoes are high in melatonin. Fenugreek and mustard seeds, as well as raspberries and almonds are very high, but the highest of all are goji berries or lycium berries. (5)
Foods With Melatonin Table (ng/100g*):
|Tart (sour) cherry juice concentrate||17,535|
|Tart (sour) cherries||1,350|
|Underripe banana (pulp)||31.40|
|St. John’s wort||19.61|
|Ripe banana (pulp)||18.50|
|Concord grapes (skin)||3.24|
|Red grapes (pulp)||2.27|
|Red grapes (whole)||1.94|
|Concord grapes (pulp)||1.92|
|Concord grapes (whole)||1.71|
|Red grapes (skin)||1.42|
In general, diets rich in vegetables, fruits and grain products contain considerable levels of dietary melatonin. Vitamins and minerals from these foods contribute to the synthesis of endogenous melatonin.
Coffee and Melatonin
The studies on coffee are mixed. Coffee is a stimulant from the effects of the caffeine, and melatonin is the body’s sleep hormone. Logic will tell you that caffeine will inhibit melatonin production—and it does. Many of the constituents in coffee actually help boost melatonin levels by as much as 32 percent, but other studies suggest that at night the caffeine will block melatonin production—neutralizing the naturally-occurring melatonin in coffee.