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    Ask the Chef: Are there some superfoods that can help me sleep better?

    By Julie Morris, Superfood Chef | January 11, 2016

    Are there some superfoods that can help me sleep better?

    If you have trouble sleeping, you're not alone: a staggering 50-70 million US adults have sleep disorders. Aside from the severe ramifications that may result from insufficient sleep, such as compromised driving, accidents in the workplace, and inability to perform daily tasks, a lack of adequate sleep has further medical consequences too. People who regularly suffer from lack of sleep are more likely to suffer from many chronic diseases, including diabetes, depression, and even cancer. And anyone who has experienced poor quality sleep knows that even from just a daily perspective, productivity and mood is drastically marginalized!

    Of course, the answer to this problem is not to just “drink more coffee.†While that may help in the immediate moment, it's far from solving the problem of a tired body (and actually adding to the stress by taxing the adrenal glands further). There's only one remedy to feeling tired: sleeping. But what happens if you're struggling to do so in the first place?

    Though there are many estimations as to why so many North Americans have insomnia, we have many proactive things we can do to remedy the problem. Common lifestyle suggestions include avoiding caffeine after noon; forgoing difficult-to-digest foods like meat and dairy, as well as alcohol, late in the evening; and turning off technology like the TV, computer, or smart phone close to bedtime to allow the body to unwind without being stimulated. But there's more you can do too, and that includes consuming sleep-inducing superfoods. Here are some varieties to consider:

    Walnuts - These nuts are an easy-to-digest form of tryptophan, the amino acid that famously puts people to sleep after feasting on turkey at a Thanksgiving meal. A handful of walnuts near bedtime can help promote a similar feeling.

    Cherries - As an excellent natural source of melatonin, a hormone that is essential for sleeping, cherries are a smart food to consume near bedtime. When not in season, you can also just drink cherry juice, or snack on dried cherries instead.

    Chia Seeds - Chia seeds are exceptionally high in calcium, which helps the brain use tryptophan to make melatonin! Additionally chia seeds have many other important minerals, including magnesium, which evokes a state of calm and relaxes muscles.

    Maca - All to often, maca is pinned as an energy food, and nothing more. But the reason why it's an energy food is because it one of the worlds' most powerful adaptogens - a food that helps the body adapt, adjust, and re-balance. Hence, while maca may energize you during the day, it's not a stimulant like caffeine, and can help normalize glands and hormones like raised cortisol or lack of melatonin, which may be keeping you awake.

    Goji - Like maca, goji berries are also an adaptogen. Additionally, goji berries, often called the “happy berry,†have the ability to help promote serotonin production, which can put you in a relaxed, happy state at bedtime. Try steeping some goji berries in hot water for 5 minutes to make a tea - a great alternative to chamomile.