If there’s one thing that’s a pain about traveling (aside from airport security lines), it’s the jet lag. You know the feeling: that debilitating sleepiness in the middle of the afternoon, the frustration of being wide awake at 4:00 a.m., the brain fog that inevitably descends in the early evening. However temporary they may be, the effects of jumping time zones are real and can range from being a minor nuisance to a severe pain in the a.
While there’s no magic cure-all for “flight fatigue,” as it’s also called, there are certain things you can eat that will make it feel like less of a drag, helping your body readjust faster so you can move on with vacation, work, or whatever you were traveling for in the first place.
Whether you’re getting acclimatized to your new time zone or trying to re-set your body clock back home, chow down on these nine foods to make sure jet lag doesn’t get the better of you.
As a complex carbohydrate—and a complete protein to boot—quinoa can help keep energy levels up when that dreaded mid-afternoon cloud of jet lag hits. While rich in fiber, the superfood is also relatively easy on the digestive system, so it’s perfect to take in-flight or to eat as a light meal upon arrival at your destination.
Try this: The only part of this recipe you have to cook is the quinoa itself, making this an easy, portable, energy-lifting meal when you’re in transit.
These ruby-red fruits are one of the best food sources of melatonin, an antioxidant that helps to regulate sleeping patterns, and a blessing when time zone troubles have you wide awake at bedtime (and they’re a better-tasting, more natural alternative to sleeping pills).
Enjoy them an hour or two before you hit the hay. If toting fresh cherries to your destination isn’t practical, they’re great in dried or juice form (just watch out for hidden added sugars).
Try this: These very cherry and low-sugar granola bars, which also contain quinoa, another jet lag-fighting food!
Ever woken up in the middle of the night with a snack attack because your jet-lagged body still thinks it’s dinner time? Beat both insomnia and the munchies with a serving of Brazil nuts. They’re packed with selenium, which promotes better sleep, and their healthy fats will keep your hunger pangs at bay.
Try this: The raw nuts taste great on their own, but for something more fun, these chocolate and nut balls make for a perfect bite-size treat before bed.
Cumin is more than just a flavorful addition to curries. Thanks to its calming properties, it’s been used for years in Ayurvedic medicine as a tranquilizer and can be an effective way to induce sleep when you’re too wound up at night from jet lag.
Try this: Ground your own cumin powder, add it to some boiling water, and drink the strained mixture as a tea a few times a day.
To combat the restlessness that can accompany jet lag, reach for a good ol’ banana an hour or two before bed. The magnesium and potassium it contains are electrolytes that can balance the salts in your body, helping you relax and get a better night’s sleep.
Try this: You’re never too old for a PB&J. Swap out the bread for banana slices in these quick and easy bites, where the nut butter adds healthy fats to keep you perfectly satisfied but not stuffed.
Queasiness and out-of-whack digestion can both be unpleasant symptoms of jet lag. Calm your stomach and ease it back into your current time zone with ginger; the root is commonly used to stimulate gastric motility and mitigate nausea. Can’t find the fresh root? The powdered version works too.
Try this: This stomach-settling tea has only three main ingredients, including ginger, rehydrating lemon, and insomnia-reducing honey. Sip on it when those gross feelings of nausea or indigestion persist.
The tryptophan in turkey that’s largely responsible for that drowsy, post-Thanksgiving feeling is also what makes it effective for staving off the sleeplessness that can accompany jet lag. Turkey also provides lean protein that’s easier on your stomach than heavier meats while your digestive system adjusts to the time change.
Try this: Not only is this turkey taco salad super easy to prep in advance, but it also includes black beans, another tryptophan-rich food that’ll help you catch those nighttime zzzs.
Known to improve how well and how long you sleep, kiwi can come in handy during those bouts of jet lag when you’re waking up after only three measly hours of shut-eye. Kiwi also scores major points for easing constipation—a common jet lag-induced problem—and for being abundant in vitamin C, which is essential for keeping your immune system in top form even as you jet-set through climates, time zones, and altitudes.
Try this: This super-green smoothie is a vitamin C powerhouse, including kiwi along with other immunity-boosting ingredients like ginger, fresh orange, and greens.
The levels of magnesium in your cells organically increase and decrease throughout the day, but that natural seesawing can get disrupted when you switch time zones, throwing your sleep patterns and internal body clock—also known as your circadian rhythm—out of whack.
Maintain those magnesium levels by filling up on dark leafy greens like kale, collards, and spinach, all of which also contain folate to help you maintain focus when your brain’s in a fog of jet lag.
Try this: These curried collard greens and kale are sautéed in coconut oil and coconut curry, both of which provide healthy fats to help your body better absorb the veggies’ jet lag-fighting nutrients.
One last note:
While it’s important to pay attention to what you eat to minimize jet lag, don’t forget that it’s also about what you don’t eat, what you drink, and when you eat. Our three final tips:
• Avoid too much caffeine and alcohol, which can exacerbate the dehydrating effects of flying, and drink as much water as you can instead.
• Stay away from greasy foods and sugar, which can increase feelings of lethargy.
• Re-regulate your body clock by operating according to the time zone of your destination, not your origin city. It may be time for dinner at home, but if it’s 8:00 a.m. where you are, stick to breakfast food. Similarly, if it’s the middle of the afternoon in your origin city but you land at home at midnight, go to bed.