Lots of roots for the health benefits of eating an early dinner. But is stopping eating after 7 p.m. healthy?
Ask any fitness enthusiast about the right time to eat the last meal of the day, and they’ll list all the health benefits of eating an early dinner. They weren’t wrong, as eating late dinner is associated with weight gain and high blood sugar levels, according to a 2020 study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. Read on to see what the experts say about not eating after 7 p.m.
Should you stop eating after 7pm?
The time of your last meal is only one aspect of your overall diet. The quality of your meals and snacks throughout the day is also important. There isn’t really a universal rule that sets a specific time limit for eating, says Deepika Vasudevan, a Bengaluru-based sports and performance nutritionist. Whether it’s healthy to stop eating after 7pm depends on many factors, including your lifestyle, dietary preferences and health goals. So all you have to do is listen to your body’s hunger and fullness cues. If you’re really hungry after 7pm, it’s better to have dinner later. If you are someone who stays up late, having an early dinner can indeed lead to hunger pangs later on. It’s important to strike a balance that suits your lifestyle and preferences. If you are prone to late night hunger, you may consider having small, balanced snacks to prevent overeating and possible overeating.
The health benefits of eating an early dinner
Some suggest that eating earlier may be beneficial for weight management, but there is no hard evidence to conclusively prove significant weight loss based on meal time alone. But there are some benefits of eating early:
1. Alignment of circadian rhythms
Our bodies are set up to follow circadian rhythms, which regulate various bodily functions. Eating in sync with this rhythm can optimize digestion and metabolism, give the digestive tract a rest, allow the liver to rest and detoxify without overly stressing it. This rest period also contributes to a healthier gut microbiome and better digestion, says the expert.
2. Control blood sugar
Eating an early dinner helps increase insulin sensitivity, which means your body’s cells become more responsive to insulin. This can help regulate blood sugar levels more effectively and reduce the risk of insulin resistance, which can eventually lead to type 2 diabetes. In addition, it can lead to less and more controlled insulin spikes after eating. This can prevent rapid and excessive fluctuations in blood sugar levels, supporting better overall glycemic control.
3. Improved sleep quality
Eating too close to bedtime can cause sleep disturbances due to discomfort or indigestion. Eating an early dinner allows your body to settle down for the night, leading to better sleep, the expert tells Health Shots.
4. Heart health
Eating late at night, especially high-calorie and unhealthy foods, can negatively impact heart health. Conversely, eating an earlier dinner can contribute to better heart health by reducing consumption of heavy and fatty foods before bed.
5. Hormonal harmony
Our hormones, including insulin and cortisol, follow a daily rhythm. Eating earlier aligns with the body’s natural hormonal patterns, potentially supporting healthier metabolism and hormone regulation.
Vasudevan says there should be a minimum of two hours before bedtime. You can also take a slow walk for 20 minutes after dinner to help your digestion better.
But if you eat before bed, it can cause digestive discomfort, including indigestion, acid reflux, and bloating. When you lie down after eating, gravity doesn’t help move food through your digestive system, which can cause this problem. In addition, it can cause spikes in blood sugar levels, especially if the food is high in carbohydrates. These spikes can interfere with your body’s natural overnight blood sugar regulation.
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