Feijoa's Contribution To Better Sleep

  • Muna Hassan Bachelor of science in molecular biology and Genetics Üsküdar Üniversitesi
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Introduction

Definition of feijoa

The feijoa (Acca sellowiana), or pineapple guava, is a soft, green juicy fruit native to South America.1 Although this subtropical fleshy fruit is widely distributed and grown in countries such as Australia, it remains unknown in most parts of the world.1 

Brief overview of feijoa's nutritional profile

This unfamiliar fruit contains a wide collection of vitamins and essential minerals (e.g. vitamin C, magnesium, dietary fibre and potassium) that can enhance your sleep potential and improve overall health. This article will explain the following:

  • Why is sleep important?
  • What nutrients in feijoa can promote better sleep?
  • What role does melatonin play?
  • What other nutritional benefits can increase sleep quality?
  • How to incorporate feijoa into a sleep-friendly routine?
  • What precautions should you consider in the consumption of feijoa?

It is well known that sleep quality is impacted by many factors including stress, exposure to light and dark, and diet. These can affect your body’s internal clocks (circadian clocks) which control your 24-hour repeat of the circadian rhythm. Ensuring that you sleep well is vital in maintaining biological processes and preventing the development of chronic (long-term) health issues.2 Incorporating feijoa into your diet can help to maintain your circadian rhythm and thus your well-being. 

Value of sleep

Insomnia describes a condition where the quality or quantity of sleep is severely reduced. A lack of sleep can affect the following:2

  • Ability to focus
  • Hormone production
  • Metabolism
    • Increase hormone levels that control hunger
    • Decrease ability to respond to insulin
  • Immune system
    • Increase susceptibility to infection
  • Increase the risk of chronic health issues
  • Long-term memory

Nutrients in feijoa promoting better sleep

Magnesium content

Importance of magnesium for sleep

Supplementing your diet with the essential ion magnesium (Mg2+) can aid sleep regulation and reduce insomnia.3 Mg2+ plays a key role in hundreds of physiological processes, including cellular communication in the central nervous system (CNS) for healthy brain, skeletal and heart function.4 Food processing in the Western diet results in a loss of 80-90% of Mg2+ leading to a significant rise in magnesium deficiency.4

How feijoa contributes to daily magnesium intake

The NHS recommended daily intake (RDI) of magnesium is 300 mg for men and 270 mg for women. Nutritional analysis of feijoa shows the presence of several essential minerals.1 Potassium is the most abundant mineral followed by calcium and magnesium.1 The fruit also contains several other important minerals including zinc, sodium and iodine. In terms of dry weight, feijoa contains 614 mg of magnesium per kg1. Incorporating feijoa into your diet can increase your daily intake of magnesium and other crucial minerals to improve sleep regulation.

Antioxidants

Role in reducing oxidative stress

Oxidative stress is an imbalance between the production and accumulation of oxygen-based molecules called reactive oxygen species (ROS). These molecules cause cellular and molecular damage leading to the development of age-related diseases.5,6 Environmental stresses (e.g. UV, pollutants) can increase ROS production resulting in cell and tissue damage.6 Certain antioxidants such as vitamin E and flavonoids (naturally occurring compounds found in fruit and vegetables) are beneficial in reducing oxidative stress and protecting your overall health.6

The connection between oxidative stress and sleep disturbances

An important function of sleep is to protect against oxidative stress.7 Chronic sleep loss can reduce your ability to detect and respond to severe oxidative damage in tissues leading to the triggering of cell death.7 Including feijoa into your diet can help alleviate health-related issues linked to oxidative damage such as neurological diseases. Plant polyphenols found in feijoa including procyanidin B2 and quercetin-3 galactoside, have antioxidant properties that can effectively counteract oxidative stress.8 

Vitamin C

Immune system support

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant. The main advantage of its consumption is maintaining a healthy responsive immune system. Our immune system is intricate and consists of 2 major components; the innate and the adaptive immune response. Specific immune cells within these 2 branches protect the host by removing foreign pathogenic substances such as viruses or bacteria. Immune cells use a process called phagocytosis to surround, engulf and destroy foreign material.9 Supporting the immune system can reduce the risk of developing serious health issues. Immune-boosting properties of vitamin C include;9

  • Stimulation of phagocytic cells (e.g. neutrophils) to the site of infection
  • Enhanced phagocytosis to destroy pathogens
  • Microbial killing
  • Protection from tissue damage by increasing neutrophil apoptosis (programmed cell death)

If you would like to read more about the different types of immune cells, please click here.

Relation to improved sleep quality

Increasing your consumption of vitamin C can improve sleep quality. Low vitamin C levels have been associated with short sleep duration.10 The major sources of dietary vitamin C are fruits and vegetables. Research has shown that 100g of fresh feijoa fruit provides 140% (62.8 mg) of the RDI for vitamin C in adults (45 mg/day).1 Consumption of feijoa can increase your vitamin C intake, resulting in more restorative sleep. 

Impact on melatonin production

Presence of natural melatonin in feijoa

Melatonin's role in regulating sleep-wake cycles

The hormone melatonin is crucial in regulating your circadian rhythm. At night, in response to darkness, melatonin levels in the brain rise and then return to normal during the day. This sleep hormone is produced in the brain's pineal gland according to the light-dark cycle over 24 hours. To reach all of the tissues it is then released into the bloodstream.11 Local synthesis allows it to function as an antioxidant in the gastrointestinal tract, the retina and the innate immune system.11 Monitoring your sleep behaviour, such as reducing the level of blue light exposure emitted from electronic devices, can positively impact melatonin production and increase sleep quality.12 

Feijoa is a natural source of melatonin

There is limited scientific research on the content of melatonin in the fruit feijoa. Research has found that certain fruits such as cherries, strawberries and grapes are great sources of naturally occurring melatonin.13 Melatonin is found in a range of fruits and vegetables, but the extent to which it is present in feijoa has yet to be widely studied or recorded in literature. For more information on natural sources of melatonin, please consult a health professional. 

Other sleep-inducing properties

Serotonin and feijoa

Serotonin's role in mood and cognition

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid and the exclusive precursor to enable the production of the neurotransmitter, serotonin.14 Tryptophan can directly affect sleep by increasing drowsiness and improving morning alertness and attention.14 Serotonin influences a range of physiological processes including neuron and secretory cell activation, and smooth muscle contraction or relaxation.15 Smooth muscle is located in various parts of the body including the stomach and intestines. Serotonin is a precursor molecule for melatonin in the pineal gland. Low serotonin levels are also associated with poor memory and depression.14 Depletion in tryptophan can have a knock-on effect on serotonin and thus melatonin levels reducing sleep quality. 

How feijoa may influence serotonin levels

Depression is a common mood disorder that is associated with high morbidity and mortality.16 Feijoa has been shown to have significant antidepressant activities, particularly in the leaves.16 Compounds in feijoa such as flavonoids can positively influence serotonin levels thus helping patients with depression. 

Low-calorie and high-fibre content

The connection between digestion and sleep

Research has highlighted the strong connection between digestion and sleep disturbances.17 Poor sleep heightens health-related digestive issues and conversely gastrointestinal diseases can decrease sleep quality. This interplay between sleep dysfunction and gastrointestinal disease is affected by levels of cytokines which are small proteins secreted by cells. Sleep problems have been associated with proinflammatory cytokines such as tumour necrosis factor (TNF) and interleukin-6 (IL-6).17 These particular cytokines not only promote sleep by increasing fatigue but also play a major role in the regulation of the immune system by controlling inflammation.17 

Feijoa's contribution to a light and digestible evening snack

Feijoa is considered a nutritious, hydrating and easily digestible evening snack to aid sleep quality and duration. This nourishing fruit is high in dietary fibre and water content, low in calories and fat, contains natural sugars and is gentle on the stomach.18 Introducing feijoa into your diet at the end of the day can provide many sleep-friendly nutrients. 

Incorporating feijoa into a sleep-friendly routine

Feijoa recipes suitable for evening consumption

Feijoa smoothies

Incorporating this nutritionally packed fruit into your diet is easy when you have a multitude of different recipes at your disposal. Adding a feijoa into your smoothie is a simple way to boost your vitamin C levels to improve immunity and have 1 of your 5-a-day. However, it is important to note that smoothies are not a shortcut to a healthy balanced diet as they can be high in sugar as blending fruit releases the sugar from the cell walls. Consult a health professional if you are uncertain how to alter your diet to include the necessary nutrients for your overall health.

Feijoa-infused bedtime snacks

To reap the benefits of consuming feijoa to improve sleep quality, it should be consumed in the evening to increase circulating levels of magnesium, vitamin C and other nutrients that are key for restorative sleep. Considering the optimal time for dietary sources of vitamins and melatonin is vital to have any real impact on sleep. Feijoa-infused bedtime snacks represent a valuable way to ensure your body has what it needs for a good night's sleep. 

Avoiding excessive intake before bedtime

The relationship between food and sleep is complex. Excessive intake of large meals or consumption of food high in artificial sugars before bed can disturb your sleep. Studies have shown that consuming the majority of your daily nutrient intake in the evening can increase susceptibility to obesity.19 Limiting food intake before bedtime has been proposed as a weight loss strategy to improve overall health.19 However, research has shown that a light sleep-friendly snack before sleep can be valuable to stabilise blood sugar levels and provide additional melatonin to manage sleep dysfunction. In patients with type 1 diabetes, it is crucial to eat before bedtime to prevent nocturnal hypoglycemia. Feijoa-infused bedtime snacks can be highly beneficial in aiding cardiometabolic health and improving sleep quality.

Considerations and precautions

Allergies and sensitivities

A food allergy is an immune response to a specific food item. Symptoms can range from mild (e.g. itchiness around the mouth, throat or ears) to serious (e.g. anaphylaxis). Certain food or pollen allergies can result in cross-reactivity to particular food items. For instance, in latex-fruit syndrome, 88% of latex-allergic adults show cross-reactivity with plant-derived foods. When introducing new food items into your diet, it is important to take care as tropical fruits such as feijoa lack allergen investigation.20

Moderation in consumption

A varied diet in which particular food groups such as carbohydrates, fats and sugars, protein, fruit and vegetables are eaten in moderation, is highly recommended for public health.21 The rates of obesity have increased in recent years mainly due to the consumption of too much energy-dense food and large portions.22 Monitoring your energy intake and increasing energy expenditure (e.g. exercise) are crucial to achieving a healthy balanced lifestyle. 

Consulting with healthcare professionals for personalised advice

If you are considering making changes to your diet to increase your well-being and reduce the risk of long-term health issues, it is important to seek advice from a healthcare professional. Different aspects influence our overall health such as metabolism, genetics, environment, lifestyle and diet. These factors can differ depending on your age, sex and body type. Deciding which healthy fruits and vegetables to incorporate into your daily intake of nutrients can also depend on whether you have any ongoing health conditions. Consulting a professional about your specific nutritional requirements (e.g. naturopathic therapist) can be useful to gain personalised advice. 

FAQ’s

How should I consume feijoa for better sleep?

Consuming feijoa a few hours before bedtime can be beneficial to avoid any digestive discomfort.

Are there any side effects of consuming feijoa?

Feijoa is considered generally safe to consume for the majority of people. If you are concerned about an allergy or sensitivity then consult a health professional.

How much feijoa should I eat to improve my sleep?

A specific recommendation for the amount of feijoa required to improve sleep has yet to be discovered. Moderation is crucial when incorporating a new food item into a balanced diet. 

Can feijoa interact with sleep medications?

There is no scientific research that confirms that feijoa and sleep medications interact. However, if you are taking any medication it is always advised to check with a healthcare provider.

Where can I find Feijoa?

Depending on the season and region it is available in some supermarkets. Feijoa can be found easily in countries where the climate supports its growth or in speciality grocery shops. 

Summary

Inadequate sleep quality and duration represent a major public health issue.10 Sleep disturbances can be influenced by a range of factors including stress, exposure to light and dark, health conditions and diet. The incorporation of fruits that are nutritionally packed with different vitamins and minerals and are sleep-friendly can positively impact your sleep and overall health. Feijoa is a prime example of a unique food that can have a restorative effect on your immune system, boost sleep quality by providing vitamin C and magnesium, increase serotonin levels, and reduce oxidative stress. Further research into the impact of consuming feijoa on our circadian rhythm is crucial for raising awareness of ways to help alleviate chronic health issues such as insomnia or depression. Establishing a positive cycle where a healthy balanced diet promotes a rejuvenating sleep pattern is vital in improving our overall well-being.

References

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This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Sophie McCafferty

Taught MSc, Cancer Cell Biology, University of Sussex

Sophie is an Associate Medical Writer with several years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry developing orally administered vaccines and writing articles on topics related to healthcare. She has a strong academic background with a BSc in Biology and an MSc in Cancer Biology.

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