7 Foods that Contain Melatonin

We are going to tell you which foods contain melatonin, a neurohormone capable of modulating sleep and wake cycles and acting as an antioxidant.
7 Foods that Contain Melatonin
Saúl Sánchez

Written and verified by el nutricionista Saúl Sánchez.

Last update: 11 June, 2023

Melatonin is a neurohormone responsible for the control of sleep and wake cycles. It also has a powerful antioxidant effect, so it’s associated with a lower risk of developing chronic and complex diseases. It’s essential to stimulate its endogenous synthesis but also include it in the diet, eating foods that contain melatonin, to increase its circulating dose.

Before starting, it should be noted that there are precursors that can increase the production of the substance. Among them, special mention must be made of tryptophan, an amino acid present in many foods, such as nuts. Its regular administration is related to fewer sleep disturbances and homeostasis as far as mental health is concerned.

Melatonin-containing foods

Next, we’re going to tell you which foods contain more melatonin in them. Most of them also contain the precursors of the hormone. However, this doesn’t mean that after consuming them you’ll fall asleep instantly, as endogenous synthesis can be blocked from exposure to blue light.

1. Eggs

Eggs contain melatonin.
There are many diets that allow the incorporation of eggs in their nutritional guideline. These are very versatile from a culinary point of view and provide many nutrients.

Eggs are very dense foods from a nutritional point of view. They’re capable of providing proteins of high biological value, which contributes to improving muscle health and achieving hormonal balance. This way, they have enough tryptophan to ensure the necessary substrate for the endogenous synthesis of melatonin and serotonin.

As we’ve commented, both elements are related to a higher quality of rest. This is stated by research published in the Journal of Food Science. Therefore, it’s important to ensure that their concentrations in the body are sufficient. Otherwise, the recovery processes that take place during the night could be jeopardized, damaging health.

2. Legumes

Legumes are also foods that contain tryptophan and melatonin inside. In addition, they stand out for providing high-quality fiber. This compound contributes to increasing the density of the microorganisms that are part of the intestinal microbiota. This effect can also be related to better rest and mental health.

According to a study published in the journal Gastroenterology Clinics of North America, there’s very strong two-way communication between the gut and the brain. In this regard, alterations in the composition of the microbiota could negatively affect the functioning of the central nervous system, increasing the risk of suffering from depression or problems related to anxiety.

Although pre and probiotic supplementation can help ensure better intestinal function, it’s best to resort to the regular presence of foods with fiber and fermented dairy products in the diet. In this way, diversity and density at the bacterial level in the microbiota will be guaranteed.

3. Oats

Oatmeal is the best grain that can be included in the diet. The sugars it contains are long-chain, that is, of the complex type. Therefore, their absorption will be gradual, which will avoid causing pancreatic stress that could endanger the proper functioning of the metabolism. This prevents complex and chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes.

In addition, this cereal provides melatonin and a significant dose of tryptophan, as well as soluble fiber, an essential element to avoid constipation and achieve the survival of the bacteria that inhabit the digestive tract. Among all the fibers found in oats, special mention should be made of beta glucans, as they’ve been shown to be very beneficial.

4. Walnuts

If what you want is an extra supply of melatonin before going to bed, don’t forget to consume a handful of natural walnuts. These foods concentrate in their interior the necessary nutrients to promote relaxation and to help achieve good health in the medium term. Among them, not only melatonin and tryptophan stand out, but also magnesium, another element closely related to the quality of sleep.

At the same time, keep in mind that there’s always the option of supplementation to enhance the effects and achieve a more restful rest. Current evidence supports the inclusion of a melatonin supplement in the bedtime regimen. Not only is it possible to reduce sleep interruptions, but aging could even be prevented due to the antioxidant power of the substance.

5. Cherries

Some fruits, such as cherries, can provide a significant amount of melatonin. In addition, these foods contain many other phytochemical compounds with antioxidant properties. All of them neutralize the formation of free radicals and their subsequent accumulation in the body’s tissues, which is associated with a lower risk of becoming ill.

It must be taken into account that both inflammation and oxidation are mechanisms that are underlying a lot of different chronic diseases. Among the most prominent, cancer and cardiovascular diseases could be highlighted. This is confirmed by an investigation published in the journal Molecules. An optimal supply of phytochemicals and melatonin could be decisive in terms of prevention.

6. Rice

Rice is another of the foods capable of providing high-quality, long-chain carbohydrates. Above all, wholegrain rice is beneficial, as it has a greater amount of fiber inside. This food helps prevent intestinal problems and is also a source of essential nutrients.

Among all of them, tryptophan must be highlighted, as this amino acid is very present in each grain. Melatonin is also a neurohormone that can be found in this food. For this reason, it may be a good idea to consume it before sleeping, although its presence in the diet on a regular basis will be enough to experience positive effects.

7. Tomatoes

Tomatoes not only contain melatonin, but also other antioxidant compounds that help prevent the development of complex diseases. Among them, we must mention lycopene.

Also, tomatoes are fruits that are available throughout the year. There are very different varieties. Although they have diverse properties, they have the necessary nutrients to help control oxidative and inflammatory mechanisms, thus promoting better health.

Don’t block melatonin synthesis

A man with insomnia.
Many times, we make certain mistakes in our daily routine that negatively condition our ability to sleep peacefully.

Introducing foods with melatonin into the diet is optimal to improve the quality of rest. However, as important as this is to avoid blocking the endogenous synthesis of the substance. Therefore, good habits related to sleep hygiene will have to be promoted. Among them, going to bed early stands out, as the production of the hormone respects a circadian cycle.

Likewise, it’s crucial to avoid exposing oneself to the light of electronic and mobile devices in the moments before rest. This blue-type radiation has been shown to be capable of blocking the synthesis of melatonin, thus causing alterations in the hormonal balance and in the ability to sleep. In the medium and long term, significant alterations in the state of health can be generated due to this harmful habit.

On the other, it’ll be essential to practice physical exercise on a regular basis. Through sports activity, inflammation of the body is reduced, thus promoting balance at the hormonal level. This habit will improve the quality of the night’s rest and the state of health over time. Specifically, it’s a good idea to prioritize strength work, although always accompanied by an aerobic component.

Is it better to consume foods with melatonin or to supplement?

In recent years, supplementation with melatonin has become trendy. There’s recent research that speaks of the health benefits derived from the inclusion of the substance in the regimen in large quantities. Now, many people wonder if it’s necessary to resort to these supplements or if including the foods that we’ve discussed in the diet will suffice.

The truth is that foods, despite containing melatonin inside, contain a low dose of it. When we resort to supplementation, we’re talking about an amount of the hormone that can multiply by many times that which is contained in a handful of walnuts, for example. It’s from this high dosage that the greatest benefits are extracted.

The intake of this element isn’t dangerous for health at all. The safety profile of melatonin is very high, being a hormone that doesn’t generate tolerance, dependence, or harmful effects on the body.

Now, it’s true that you shouldn’t consume too much melatonin if you’re under a certain type of pharmacological guideline. The substance can interact with certain antidepressants, increasing their effects or creating a state of drowsiness. For this reason, it’s important to ask your doctor before including a supplement if you take medications.

Include foods that contain melatonin in your diet

Melatonin foods are often characterized by being healthy. They contain antioxidants and other phytonutrients that help ensure the proper functioning of the body. In the same way, they can provide high-quality proteins, nutrients necessary for the maintenance of muscle mass and to promote sports performance.

However, it’s also necessary to propose good habits that manage to increase the endogenous synthesis of melatonin. To do this, it’s best to go to bed early and avoid using mobile devices frequently before bed. In the case of doing so, you should use special glasses that block the blue light emitted by said devices, so as not to interfere with the ability to rest.

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