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For a Good Night's Sleep, Try Steak

By , Melissa Rudy, Health & Fitness Journalist
Out of all the nutrients, protein arguably gets the most attention—and for good reason. It's pretty powerful stuff. Its most important job is building and repairing muscles, which is why athletes and bodybuilders are so adamant about getting enough protein in their diets. Protein also creates antibodies to fight off disease and infection, hemoglobin to ensure adequate oxygen supply and hormones to keep bodily functions humming along smoothly. What's more, it keeps you feeling fuller longer, which aids in weight loss. As if that wasn't enough, a new study from Purdue University suggests that protein may also help you sleep better.
The four-month study followed a group of 44 overweight or obese people between 35 to 65 years old, many of whom reported having difficulty sleeping. Half of the group consumed a regular diet with recommended daily protein amounts, while the other half ate higher-protein foods. The results, which were published in the The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, indicate that the high-protein group reported not only greater weight loss, but also a higher quality of sleep based on the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index. To assess how well each person is sleeping, the index measures seven key components: Subjective sleep quality, sleep latency, sleep duration, habitual sleep efficiency, sleep disturbances, use of sleeping medications and daytime dysfunction over the last month.
Nutrition science professor Wayne Campbell, lead author of the study, points out that the research didn't use any extreme weight loss plans or fad diets. Participants followed a dietitian-endorsed meal plan that cut 750 calories of fats and carbs while maintaining either a regular or elevated level of protein, which came from a variety of beef, pork, legumes, soy and milk protein.
This is likely the first of many investigations into protein's impact on weight loss and overall health. "Most research looks at the effects of sleep on diet and weight control, and our research flipped that question to ask what are the effects of weight loss and diet—specifically the amount of protein—on sleep," Campbell said in a statement. "We've showed an improvement in subjective sleep quality after higher dietary protein intake during weight loss, which is intriguing and also emphasizes the need for more research with objective measurements of sleep to confirm our results."
Healthy sleep has a myriad of benefits, including better memory, a healthier heart, more efficient metabolism, a stronger immune system and greater weight loss.
What do you think of the study's findings? Have you found that high-protein foods help you sleep better?