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Does It Matter How Late We Eat?

Jul 25, 2011

Does It Matter How Late We Eat?

By: Dr. Edward Group

From Japan, China, India and the ancient Mayan cultures, many traditional societies intuitively knew that eating late at night was not good for our digestive systems.

Our medical science has repeatedly attempted to show that it shouldn’t matter how late we eat just as long as we are burning the calories. Well I think we all know by now how wrong the information provided by our modern medical system can be. We currently have more digestive and health problems than anytime in recorded history!

Ancient cultures on the other hand, tell us that our ideal digestion requires us to eat an earlier, lighter dinner.

How Eating Late Affects Your Body

Eating late affects the body in a different way than eating a larger meal at mid-day. If we consume most of our calories at night, our bodies are not able to process the food as efficiently as we do during the day.

Furthermore, unless you work the night shift, most of us are tired after a hard day of work. After dinner, we want to rest and settle in for the night. This is a good idea! It prepares our bodies for sleep and relaxation. Unfortunately, if we lie down with a huge belly full of food, we are putting a strain on our system.

This usually leads to a feeling of lethargy in the morning. We also experience disrupted sleep if the body is working so hard to digest what we ate the night before.

Red meat is an especially toxic food to consume late at night. Meat takes longer than any other food item to digest. We should particularly avoid the intake of meat late at night, as it tends to stay in our digestive track longer than grains, fruits or vegetables.

Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine believe the late evening and early morning hours are the time for cleansing and healing the body from the day before.

If we are using the body’s energy to digest food (which should have occurred during the active day-time hours), we are not giving the body that precious cleansing time that it needs to help fight off disease, as well as help heal ourselves naturally.

Research Into Late Night Eating

Studies by Dr. Louis J. Aronne, director of a weight control program for the Weill Cornell Medical Center, have shown that people who eat late, eat more than they would during a day-time meal.

Furthermore, these studies found a link between larger evening meals and an increase in triglyceride levels associated with diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and overall weight gain.

When our triglyceride levels are high, our body thinks that it needs to store the fat from this excessive night-time eating for later use. Quite literally, when we eat large meals at night, we unwillingly inform the body that there will be a shortage of food soon, so it needs to make us fat in the mean time!

Many people complain that they are able to eat healthy meals all day long, but at night they begin to crave sweets and heavy foods. This may involve an emotional component to eating. Are you stressed from a long day? Are you left exhausted? Look at how you missed out on areas of “sweetness” in your own life. What emotional comfort are you seeking from large amounts of late night food? Try taking a warm bath with essential oils to comfort yourself.

Tips to Avoid Eating Late At Night

  • Eat a moderate breakfast and a heavier lunch.
  • Try eating a light dinner that still fulfills a healthy emotional “nourishing” component. A good dinner food is soup. It is warming, filling, and easy on our digestive tract. Particularly in the winter and fall, it is the perfect later meal.
  • If you aren’t a fan of larger lunches, go for a larger dinner before 6 PM.
  • When you feel like eating late at night, drink a cup of warm lemon water or an herbal tea with raw honey. Hot liquids are soothing, warming and nourish the emotions.
  • Remember that if you have habitually eaten late over a long period of time, you will have to retrain your body not to crave that habit. Start slowly by reducing your portion sizes and choosing healthier meals.
  • Stop eating foods that cause high energy peaks, followed by large energy plummets. Trade in junk food, white sugar, processes foods and white flour for whole grains, warming soups, fruits and vegetables.
  • Brush your teeth earlier! It may sound too simple, but some people find that if they just brush their teeth, they are less likely to indulge in late-night eating patterns.
  • Turn off the tube. Studies have shown that the television can subconsciously trigger our desires for more food, too late.
  • Take a warm bath before bed. Turn on some soothing music. Read a light book. Enjoy some new night-time rituals that don’t involve heavy eating.
  • Go on a brisk walk after dinner. Ayurvedic medicine says that we should eat no later than six o’ clock, and afterwards take a walk of at least 108 steps!


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