He’s Nutty – and Seedy – and a Bad Apple. It’s Just Bananas!

He’s nutty – and seedy – and a bad apple. It’s just bananas! Since when did nuts and seeds – and apples and bananas get such a bum rap? Apparently, a long time ago. Online Etymology Dictionary indicates that “nutty” goes back to 1846 when “off one’s nut” meant being crazy in the head – nut and head being synonymous. “Seedy” was also used back in the 1800’s and referred to something “no longer fresh or new”…like a plant that has gone to seed. In 1736 Benjamin Franklin stated that “a rotten apple spoils its companion.” “Bananas”- referring to crazy – is much more recent…maybe the 1960’s and connected to “going ape.”

But let’s put these common expressions aside and instead focus on all that’s good about nuts, seeds, apples, and bananas. In fact, let’s narrow it down even more. How about a little research into how nuts, seeds, apples and bananas can help us sleep better (and I’ll bet there are a lot of you out there craving a good night’s sleep)?

AARP (whose writers probably know something about sleep issues) published an article on the seven “Superfoods” that can help you sleep better. Pumpkin seeds and nuts were among those seven. The Cleveland Clinic suggests a bedtime snack of bananas or apples – or maybe some sour cherry juice.

(A personal aside: a small study from LSU showed that adults with insomnia who drank 8 ounces of tart cherry juice twice a day for 2 weeks slept 84 minutes longer and reported better sleep quality compared to when they didn’t drink the juice, so we dutifully bought our first-ever bottle of sour cherry juice. I’m still working on convincing myself I’ll like it, but Andy is practically addicted. In fact, he ran into the Sonoma Market just yesterday to pick up another bottle. Try it when you need some sleep!)

I wanted dried sour cherries for my mix – and it’s next to impossible to find them without added sugar. These are pricey but delicious.

The key seems to be what has the most melatonin, selenium, zinc, and magnesium. There are numerous studies published online that verify their effectiveness – not only for sleep but for many other ailments. As part of the NIH website, the National Library of Medicine is a good source for reliable data on all of this.

In looking at specific nuts and seeds, one question is whether roasting them decreases some of their nutritional value. While it appears most nuts and seeds lose some nutritional value after roasting, an LSU study showed that pistachios contain exceptionally high amounts of melatonin, whether they’re roasted or not. Other studies indicate peanuts actually have more melatonin after roasting.

The only catch remaining, as I worked toward putting together the perfect sleep-inducing trail mix, was that I wanted the ingredients to be eco-friendly. That’s why you don’t see almonds appearing on my list. Living in California and being hyper-aware of drought make me think we need to avoid these water-needy trees (and 82% of the world’s almonds come from here! Shocking?!).

Walnuts growing in California. Walnuts are not only a great health food, but in this water-stressed state, UCDavis research indicates that walnut trees may actually produce BETTER if water-stressed.

The data on nuts and seeds is all over the place, depending upon whether you’re researching health benefits, or water usage, or labor issues. Here’s how a recent paper, entitled “Environmental, nutritional and social assessment of nuts” from researchers at The Institute of Environmental Sciences in the Netherlands ranked nuts and seeds:

Whoops. I did have one last desire in finalizing my recipe. And that was that it be gender-neutral :). I was searching for a good pre-made mix at our local market and came across the package pictured below (mind you, I didn’t see one that said “Women’s Energy Mix”). I figured it must contain some ginger or pomegranate…or maybe even dried oysters, since they all boost testosterone levels – but no. It remains to be seen why this is for men.

Listed ingredients: Raisins (raisins, sunflower oil), Pumpkin Seeds, Sunflower Seeds, Papaya (papaya, cane sugar), Dry Roasted Almonds, Cranberries (cranberries, cane sugar, cranberry seed oil), Dry Roasted Cashews, Dark Chocolate Raisins (dark chocolate [unsweetened chocolate, cane sugar, cocoa butter, soy or sunflower lecithin {emulsifier}, vanilla], raisins [raisins, sunflower oil], pure food glaze), Cherries, Walnuts, Organic Pineapple, Apples, Pine Nuts.

Putting together your own mix is cheaper and gives you the ability to pick and choose your favorites, but if you insist on buying a packaged trail mix Consumers’ Reports has some brand suggestions and even two recipes. Their advice is to always check the sugar and salt content.

We like dark chocolate chips in our trail mix – but don’t let the trail mix sit in the sun!

Are you sleepy yet?

If you’re still not convinced you need to improve your sleep, there is research hot off the press from UC Berkeley (Go Bears!). This new study verifies that those who are sleep-deprived show a decreased desire to help others. Eti Ben Simon, a scientist at the university who co-wrote the study, states in a news release, “If you’re not getting enough sleep, it doesn’t just hurt your own well-being, it hurts the well-being of your entire social circle, including strangers.” We could speculate on some politicians who are not getting enough sleep! 🙂

Speaking of politics – which we don’t really do much on BigLittleMeals – be sure to check out Andy’s Corner for today. He’s got another video to share, and it’s perfect…and funny.

Gender-Neutral Eco-Friendly Sleep-Inducing Trail Mix

Gender-Neutral Eco-Friendly Sleep-Inducing Trail Mix

The perfect mixture for one and all – when you’re not out hiking on the trail but need a healthy melatonin-filled snack while you’re watching TV – just before hitting the sack. We suggest making it easy – use 1/2 c of each ingredient, aiming for 5-6 cups of trail mix.

  • Pumpkin seeds (the best! Roasted is okay, preferably unsalted)
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Walnuts or Pecans (walnuts may be more beneficial health-wise)
  • Pistachios (roasted is fine…still healthy)
  • Brazil nuts (helps to cut them in half)
  • Hazelnuts
  • Peanuts (roasted is fine…still healthy, preferably unsalted)
  • Dried sour cherries (we love the Herbaila brand; no sugar added)
  • Dried apples
  • Dried bananas
  • Dark chocolate (70% or more cocoa is best); if it’s in squares, chop them up.

Mix all the the ingredients. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator – where it will keep for a month.

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.

If you have more trail mix than you’ll use, here’s a fun recipe for the remaining. Maybe it’s not quite as healthy as the trail mix, but it’s still a d-lish snack.

More-Healthy-Than-Some Fruity, Seedy, Nut Bars

More-Healthy-Than-Some Fruity, Seedy, Nut Bars

  • Servings: Makes 12 bars
  • Print

The recipe can be easily doubled. Recipe adapted from Nigella Lawson

  • 2/3 c sweetened condensed milk (use all of a 14 oz can, if you’re doubling the recipe)
  • 1 1/4 c quick-cooking oats (not instant)
  • 1/2 c shredded, unsweetened coconut
  • 1 1/2 c Gender-Neutral Eco-Friendly Sleep-Inducing Trail Mix (or trail mix of your choice)

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Generously butter an 8″x8″ baking pan.

Warm the condensed milk in a medium pan. While it’s heating, mix together all of the other ingredients, then add that to the warmed condensed milk.

Spread the mixture into the pan, smoothing the top with a spatula.

Bake for 50-60 minutes (the edges should be browned). Cool for 15 minutes and then cut into 9 bars (it’s important to do this while it’s still warm – and it helps to have a sharp – maybe serrated – knife, since you’ll be cutting through big chunks of nuts, etc.). Cool completely in the pan before serving.

These bars will keep well for several days at room temperature. They’ll be chewy, but delicious. And maybe a little healthy.

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals and Andy and Ann.


      • Anonymous says:

        I use SKRATCH in my bottles for the electrolyte’s, but they actually flavor their mix with dried fruit. Maybe they should develop a tart cherry flavor. But then, I might fall asleep on the bike!


  1. Robert Carleton says:

    Melatonin! Oof da! I tried some of it a few decades ago and had a traffic incident because I couldn’t stay awake (took the capsule at 10:00 p.m. and had the accident 14 hours later). I’ve avoided it since. David Ewing also offers sound advice on sleep. Greeks and Romans of the classical period wrote of having a “first sleep” followed by a period of study or other activity, followed by a longer sleep. I find 7 hours does it, unless I’ve allowed myself to become bored. Falling asleep usually takes a minute or maybe two.
    A true question: How did those folks back then manage to read or do anything at night with just one or two oil lamps? We had a blackout some years ago, and I found that it required 13 candles to enable me to read.


    • theRaggedys says:

      Andy here: I think we all have different sleeping patterns. Ann is an early-to-bedder, but usually wakes up a number of times during the night to check out the world on her iPad. I am a late-to-bedder and, dogs willing, usually sleep until the 5:45 magic moment when the timer on the coffee begins and the dogs alert me to that fact. I do like a tart cherry juice nightcap though, and will claim its merits despite the lack of empirical verification of its effectiveness. Regarding candles during blackouts – blackouts are so yesterday in our Tesla solar battery powered house. But then, I usually read after I get in bed and seldom finish a page or two before falling asleep, so the question of lighting is somewhat moot. Good to hear from you.


    • David N. Ewing says:

      Most of them couldn’t read anyway. And they were a lot younger than us on average. Maybe this explains the higher birthrate back in the day. Gotta do something.


  2. David Ewing says:

    Well, I’m sure it is delicious. But as the biggest nutritional peril for the likes of us is that we are over-fed, it would be far healthier to eat neither any of this calorie-dense stuff nor any other kind of snack. Even better would be to figure out how to subtract an equivalent amount of calories from what you are already eating (not that I’ve been able to do that). As for sleeping, the main cause of “insomnia” for many folks is that they spend too much time in bed. An hour spent lying awake in bed trying to sleep can be experienced as interminable. Get up. You won’t be sleeping but you won’t be suffering nearly as much. And it turns out that sleeping more than seven hours may be a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. (BTW, healthy old people NEVER sleep seven hours in a row. For me, a good night’s sleep is to sleep from 9:00 to 2:00 or so, get up and read or study the fire in my wood burning stove for an hour or two, then if I’m yawning, go back to bed and doze off and on until 6:00. Many people who sleep about like this call it “insomnia,” but it is not…unless you define insomnia as complaining about how you sleep.) And don’t get me started about melatonin. It is not effective and it is not benign. Thankfully, whatever amount there may be of this in food is irrelevant, but no one should be taking pills of the stuff.


    • theRaggedys says:

      Thanks for your relevant advice, Dr Ewing! (I want our readers to know you’re speaking as a medical authority). Your comment about melatonin is especially interesting, since I know lots of folks who take the pills. I also like your advice that we need to redefine what a “good night’s sleep” actually is. I’m sorry I didn’t get to enjoy the much-acclaimed meal you fixed for the “sisters” in Albuquerque.


  3. Janet says:

    If you’re wanting to sleep, better leave out the chocolate (NY Times): “Theobromine, which increases heart rate and causes sleeplessness, is found in small amounts in chocolate, especially dark. The National Sleep Foundation recommends avoiding chocolate — as well as coffee, tea and soft drinks — before bedtime.”


    • theRaggedys says:

      Thx, Smithy, for that good info. As with so many things, if you read enough you get more and more conflicting advice. I had found this from the Cleveland Clinic: Dark chocolate is packed full of important minerals, including iron, magnesium, zinc, copper and phosphorus. In your body, these minerals are used to support factors such as immunity (zinc), can help keep your bones and teeth healthy (phosphorus), and contribute to better sleep quality (magnesium).


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