Good health is not just about eating the right foods. It’s about eating the right foods — in the right proportions at the right time. A heavy meal at night can put a strain on your digestive system and disrupt your sleep. Plus, it may contribute to weight gain because you aren’t likely to burn that many calories while you sleep.
Skipping dinner altogether is also not a good idea. The hunger will keep you awake and encourage late-night snacking.
And remember, sleep deprivation alters the way your genetics influence your body mass index (BMI), thus leading to weight gain. Studies have also found that it tends to compromise weight loss efforts by causing your body to burn more muscle instead of fat.
Here are some of the worst possible foods that you can eat late at night.
Caffeine can keep you tossing and turning in your bed for hours due to its temporary stimulating effect. It has also been found to alter the normal stages of sleep and compromise deep sleep. Lack of quality sleep at night can hinder cognitive functions and contribute to daytime tiredness.
If you are thinking about switching to decaffeinated coffee, be aware that most decaf coffees are not completely caffeine-free. Instead of clinging to your coffee, try an herbal tea. For example, you can enjoy a soothing cup of chamomile tea, which will also aid digestion and promote sleep.
Alcohol can cause a drowsy effect but it does not produce revitalizing sleep. According to a 2013 review of 27 studies on the effect of drinking on nocturnal sleep, although alcohol reduces the time it takes to fall asleep and even increases deep sleep, it tends to reduce REM (rapid eye movement) sleep that influences your memory and serves restorative functions.
A refreshing, good night’s sleep includes 6 to 7 cycles of REM sleep. With alcohol in your system, it can be reduced to just 1 or 2. Alcohol can also cause snoring as it relaxes all the body’s muscles, including the throat muscles, thus reducing your defenses against airway obstruction.
3. Red Meat
Eating steak or other red meat products can keep you tossing and turning in bed at night. Due to their high fat and protein content, these foods take time to digest and thus keep the body awake throughout the digestion process. They also make you feel sluggish the next morning.
Instead of relishing that thick, juicy steak, opt for lean meat and vegetables. However, avoid cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage as they can cause abdominal gas.
Though healthy, beans should also be avoided at night. The jingle “Beans, Beans, The Musical Fruit” best describes the reason. Being high in soluble fiber, beans can cause flatulence and tummy troubles late at night.
In fact, increased abdominal gas is a common side effect of most high-fiber diets. Both soluble as well as insoluble fiber cause gas, but soluble fiber has a higher gas-producing potential because it slows the passage of food through the intestine where the gut bacteria break down carbohydrates and cause fermentation and gas.
Lentils, peas, nuts and seeds are also rich in soluble fiber. Foods that contain insoluble fiber include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and other cruciferous vegetables. Garlic, onions, shallots, chicory root and leeks may also contribute to gas and flatulence.
5. Super Cheesy Foods
Greasy toppings on your pizza are delicious but can leave you lying awake, feeling too full. Cheese is good for your health and even promotes sleep because as it contains the sleep-inducing amino acid tryptophan.
However, eating high-fat cheeses, especially at night, can make digestion terribly uncomfortable. Plus, they are loaded with calories.
You can have non-fat cottage cheese and low-fat mozzarella or ricotta cheese, but remember moderation is the key.
6. Fried and Fatty Foods
Constantly grazing on chips, fries, cheeseburgers and other high-calorie junk food is a strict no-no for your health, particularly at night.
They are rich in fat that takes a longer time to digest and slows down the overall digestive process, thus leaving excess acid in the stomach and wreaking havoc on the digestive tract. Those who suffer from acid reflux should definitely stay away from fried foods.
Also, avoid spicy foods that may cause physical discomfort like heartburn. Plus, they tend to give you a rush of endorphins that can make it harder to sleep.
Sodas are not only filled with empty calories, they are also acidic in nature. Drinking soda at night can increase stomach pressure and cause stomach discomfort.
Also, the high amount of sugar in many carbonated drinks causes your energy levels to spike and disrupts your sleep. Plus, certain sugars and artificial sweeteners can give you gas and bloating. Some sodas, especially diet sodas, also contain caffeine that disrupts sleep.
8. Chocolates and Candy Bars
Although it contains antioxidants, eating chocolate, especially dark chocolate, at night is not a good idea. It contains stimulants like caffeine and theobromine that can keep you awake longer. The common milk chocolate, though lower in caffeine, is loaded with sugar and fats.
Avoid candy bars, pastries and other sugary treats as well. In addition to causing energy spikes, these simple-carbohydrate foods contribute to weight gain by causing a spike in your blood glucose level, most of which your body does not need, especially at night. Thus, the body stores excess glucose as fat.
Sorry to say, but high-fat and high-sugar ice creams are also a no-no. Don’t reach for that box of sugary cereal, either. You can eat a healthier cereal snack, though.
- Eat your dinner at least 2 hours before going to bed.
- Avoid late-night snack attacks.
- Do not eat too much fruit at night as most fruits are high in sugar. You can eat a small serving, but not more than 1 cup.
- Manage stress and anxiety as they may disrupt your sleep cycle and encourage late-night snacking.