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Late night snacks: what you can eat before bed and what you shouldn’t?
It is often tempting to eat something right before bed, but too much processed food before bed can lead to weight gain or digestive problems. However, a light, healthy snack may just stabilize blood sugar levels and promote your sleep.
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The effects of eating before bed
- Your weight may increase. Eating in the evening is not necessarily unhealthy as long as you choose nutritious foods and stay within your daily calorie needs. But if you eat processed foods in the evening, the leptin hormone can get out of control. That hormone gives you a signal when you are full. If leptin no longer tells you to stop eating, your weight will likely increase over time. Feeling tired also affects your appetite, making you crave high-calorie foods like chips, pizza, and ice cream.
- Your digestion may suffer. You digest best when you sit upright, so gravity can help move food through your digestive system. Therefore, lying in bed after a late meal can cause your stomach acid to back up into your esophagus, causing acid reflux. It can feel annoying and prevent a good night’s sleep.
- Your blood sugar levels may fluctuate. Eating processed, carbohydrate-rich foods in the evening can cause unhealthy blood sugar spikes, especially in people with diabetes. Diabetic patients cannot produce enough insulin to balance their blood sugar levels. High-protein and fiber-rich foods help limit nighttime fluctuations in blood sugar levels.
- Your growth hormone level may drop. Your pituitary gland secretes human growth hormone (HGH), which stimulates growth and builds and repairs tissues such as muscles and bones. A large part of this growth and recovery process happens during your sleep. But if you eat processed carbs and sugary snacks right before bed, your blood sugar will rise and your HGH levels will be suppressed.
- Your sleep may also improve. Eating certain healthy foods such as complex carbohydrates and lean proteins can promote the production of serotonin, a hormone that improves your mood and sleep.
Also read: 10 fiber-rich food sources
Also read: Which carbohydrates are healthy and which are (allegedly) fattening?
How do you avoid snacks before bed?
- Eat enough during the day. Your eating plan during the day determines your hunger at night. Choose protein-rich meals and snacks to avoid overeating late at night.
- Put away your snacks. After dinner, clean up the kitchen, put away all readily available snacks, and stay out of the kitchen for breakfast the next morning to avoid mindless eating. If you want to snack, set aside a portion of something nutritious.
- Solve sleep problems. Not getting enough quality sleep can cause you to eat too many unhealthy foods at any time of the day.
- Try to eat mindfully. Before eating the evening snack, consider whether you are really hungry, or whether you just want to snack out of boredom or stress. If you’re really hungry, eat a light, healthy snack.
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Healthy snacks in the evening
- Kiwi is a healthy, low-calorie snack. They are also a natural source of serotonin, which promotes relaxation and reduces appetite.
- A banana with some almond butter provides serotonin and magnesium, substances that increase the sleep hormone melatonin.
- A handful (28 grams) of shelled pistachios contains as much melatonin as a dietary supplement and is relatively low in calories.
- A milk-based smoothie provides protein for muscle recovery and tryptophan, which produces sleep-promoting substances in the brain.
- Yoghurt (or Skyr) is a good source of protein that helps to satisfy hunger. It is also rich in calcium, which has been linked to better sleep.
- Whole grain, fiber-rich grains such as oatmeal keep you full for longer and are a source of melatonin.
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