Posted by Nicole on April 7
Whether or not you have a habit of snacking before bedtime, chances are good you have heard that it is a bad idea. Indeed, most sources advise that you avoid it, though there are a couple potential benefits alongside the possible drawbacks. Let’s go over both so you can make an informed decision about your own late night snacking.
The Cons of Late Night Snacking
Basically, because you have circadian rhythms, your metabolism speeds up during the daytime and slows down during the night.
It probably doesn’t take a lot of consideration to realize why you would not want to eat during a time of the night when your metabolism is slow.
Cleveland Clinic explains, “So what happens is the fats hang around longer in your blood than they’re supposed to — and that cannot be good for your heart, your kidneys and your other organs.”
As you might expect, along with a reduction in cardiovascular health, there is another potential drawback as well. The Atlantic writes, “In a study on mice, researchers found that metabolism is linked to the time of day. Eating late, when your system's slowed down, may lead to weight gain.”
One more disadvantage of late night eating is that the process of digestion could keep you awake, especially if you are prone to acid reflux.
The Pros of Late Night Snacking
It might surprise you that late night snacking can have any advantages at all, but there may be a couple.
Keck Medicine of USC once recommended some nighttime snacks to help you sleep (the post is gone now). They included cherries, cherry juice, walnuts, chamomile or green tea, or a bowl of cereal.
Also, there is some research that suggests that some patients with migraines might benefit from snacking at night. This article explains, “Nighttime snacking was associated with a 40% reduction in the odds of experiencing a headache compared to having no food (p = 0.013) … These results demonstrate the potential for eating behaviors to be targeted in headache management, as regulated eating habits may have the potential to reduce the occurrence of headache.”
So, if you get these types of headaches, consider small late night snacks to prevent them. The benefits might outweigh the drawbacks.
What Foods Are Best for a Late Night Snack?
If you do decide to eat late at night, what should you eat? Obviously, you should avoid calorie-rich snacks (put that ice cream back in the freezer). You also are going to want to steer clear of anything spicy or acidic if you have issues with reflux.
Along with the recommendations from Keck Medicine of USC, some additional ideas from WebMD include half a turkey sandwich, whole grain crackers with cheese, popcorn, a granola bar without a lot of sugar, Greek yogurt, and oatmeal.
So, what’s the verdict on late night snacking? If you can avoid it to spare your heart health and weight, you probably should. But if it helps you sleep or you have migraines, it might be worth it. Just keep your portions small and stick with healthy choices.