Eat green. Get lean. Sleep better?
Scottish tennis stud Andy Murray made headlines last week when he announced he was drastically changing his diet for upcoming tournaments. He’s now following the “traffic light” diet, which has him avoiding some foods, like yogurt and bagels (red light), eating less of others, like meat (yellow light), and increasing his consumption of leafy greens (green light).
While it’s too soon to say if it’s had a direct impact on his performance, Mr. Murray is already reporting that he’s feeling fitter, recovering from matches faster and sleeping better.
He’s not the only athlete to sing the praises of a diet with more veggies. Professional Ironman athlete and Vancouver native Brendan Brazier attributes much of his success to his vegan diet.
But the jury is out on whether a high dose of plants has some sort of sleep superpower.
There don’t appear to be special nutrients in greens that send us into a restful state, but dietitians agree that better sleep might be the result of side effects that can accompany switching to a herbivorous lifestyle.
“A lot of it can be psychological,” said Halifax-based sport dietitian Angela Dufour.
The psychosomatic effect of feeling more revitalized when consuming more vegetables can be due to the fact that vegetarians and vegans, especially recent converts, take time to balance their diet. A balanced diet – with or without meat – can contribute to overall health, including improved shuteye.
“Absolutely a diet can impact your sleep,” said Tristaca Caldwell, a registered dietitian and professor in the School of Nutrition and Dietetics at Acadia University.
“But research does show that people who follow a vegetarian diet tend to look at other areas of their life as well … like getting enough sleep.”