We all know the story by now, carbs, insulin, tryptophan, serotonin, drifting off to la-la land… or do we? I'm not talking about carbs and the various allergies and intolerances that lead to bloating, indigestion or reflux problems, I'm thinking more of how eating certain healthy whole foods can calm your nervous system and prompt a sleep inducing hormonal response to help you rest better at night.
The glycemic index is a rating system for food that refers to the speed with which the food we eat gets processed. Food that is processed more slowly keeps us fuller longer and tends to be healthier overall, so this food has a low glycemic index. Low glycemic foods maintain a better sugar level, helping us to feel better or balanced and not tired during the day. By bedtime a day of low glycemic index foods leaves you naturally tired and ready for sleep.
Whole grain couscous is a low to medium GI food and complex carbohydrate that gives you a more consistent serotonin elevation over a longer period of time.
This simple to cook starch is easy to prepare and versatile, I typically use fine or medium grain semolina couscous but I wanted to try a little something different so I used the larger pearled couscous often called "Israeli couscous".
Pearled couscous is cooked like a pasta then drained, as opposed to the fine grain semolina couscous which is cooked in just simmering water for barely five minutes and fluffed with a fork. Because of its size, pearled couscous has a slightly chewy texture similar to barley and is rather bland on its own so we're incorporating some fun flavorful ingredients here to bring flavor to the couscous. Olives, capers, raisins, pine nuts, parsley and red bell pepper are all healthy whole foods whose unprocessed nature promotes positive moods, longevity and low rates of disease.
Couscous contains about 36 grams of carbohydrates in one cup, 6 grams of protein 60% daily allowance for selenium to help cognitive function. Wheat based couscous provides about 12% of your daily protein and carbohydrates with around 9% fiber. Magnesium, potassium, zinc and folate are also present.
An Eastern Perspective on Couscous for Sleep
From an Eastern perspective whole wheat's healing properties are a cooling thermal nature with a sweet and salty flavor that "tonifies" the kidneys, builds the "yin" and is one of the few foods which Chinese medicine attributes with directly nourishing the heart and mind by calming and focusing the mind which can help with palpitations, insomnia, irritability, menopausal difficulty and emotional instability.
- 1 cup Couscous
- 1 ¼ cup Water or Vegetable stock
- ¼ cup Kalamata Olives quartered
- ¼ cup Capers
- ¼ cup Golden Raisins
- ¼ cup Pine Nuts lightly toasted
- ¼ cup Parsley rough chop
- ¼ cup Red Bell Pepper small dice
A good water to couscous ratio is 1 and 1/4 cup water or vegetable stock to 1 cup couscous. Bring water to a boil, add your couscous reduce heat and simmer covered until tender about 10 minutes, set aside. This should yield about three cups. For more flavor, toast the dried pearls for a minute or two with a bit of olive oil before cooking just as you would do if you were making a risotto.
Once the couscous has cooled, mix in the remaining ingredients and season with a bit of fresh cracked black pepper you shouldn't need to add any more salt, as the olives and capers provide a nice amount of salt. This is a simple dish and as I mentioned earlier the pearled couscous is fairly bland especially if you cooked it in water and not vegetable stock. If your looking for a bit more flavor, stir together a quick vinaigrette with equal parts lemon juice, virgin olive oil and a teaspoon of dijon mustard and add this to the mix.