Are you one of those people who feel peckish shortly before it is time to go to bed? You are not alone. Many of us feel the need to eat something later in the evening. And although the current thought is that you should eat three square meals a day, nothing in between, and certainly nothing later in the evening, the truth is that you can indulge in healthy late-night snacks without excess weight gain. In fact, if you have certain health conditions, you may even need that snack.
There are a number of reasons why you might feel the need to visit the refrigerator or pantry for a late-night snack. And all of these are science-based.
Probably the main culprit is your internal clock, also known as your circadian cycle. It can prompt us to want starchy, salty, or sweet foods later in the evening. Although reaching for food in the evening may contribute to weight gain, it was a survival mechanism for our ancestors who needed the stored fat so that they could survive during times when food was not easily come by.
Sleep deprivation is another culprit. Not getting enough sleep affects your body’s glucose metabolism and affects the production of hormones that regulate your appetite. So, you tend to feel hungry even though you have eaten enough.
Lastly, stress can also lead to imbalances that make you hungry at night. Raised cortisol levels tend to lead to carbohydrate, salt, or fat cravings. An increased cortisol production also corresponds with a decrease in the production of your brain’s "feel good" hormones. We then crave foods that boost the production of these "feel good" chemicals, such as chocolates or sugar.
In fact, people who suffer from chronic conditions related to stress, such as Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS) actually benefit from eating late night snacks.
People with adrenal fatigue often feel worse if they do not eat frequent meals. This is because their bodies are often depleted of key nutrients due to the resource-heavy work of dealing with chronic stress.
AFS is also caused by chronically high cortisol levels, which then deplete the body's ability to make other key hormones and leads to hormone imbalance. This can also affect the hormones that control blood sugar and your sleep-wake cycle.
Healthy late night snacks could help regulate your blood sugar levels at bedtime and help increase "feel good" hormones in your brain. In so doing, they could help you get a better night’s sleep. It may also help address the natural rise in cortisol levels one experiences during the earlier part of the evening.
The term "bioenergetics" refers to the flow of energy throughout your body. This flow of energy is important for every organ, system, and function in your body. The various nutrients derived from your diet compose the main fuel for this system. Your metabolic processes deliver these nutrients to the cells. When things go wrong, however, you may find the development of health issues associated with the Bioenergetics Circuit: the liver, pancreas, or thyroid gland. Trouble here could cause a variety of symptoms including sleep disorders, blood sugar issues, and gut health issues, to name a few.
Furthermore, proper energy flow is essential for proper metabolism and brain function, especially concerning the release of certain brain hormones. Healthy late night snacks, on the other hand, may help promote proper bioenergetics function and thus metabolism and brain health as well.
If you do have a nightly urge to eat, consider some of these healthy late night snacks. Ideally, healthy late night snacks should promote adrenal health, help you sleep better, and most of all, not contribute to an expanding waistline.
Most people tend to consume high-fat or sugary foods before bedtime. Late night snacking could also influence your metabolic health, especially with those suffering from type-2 diabetes, or hinder your body’s ability to break down fat while your sleep effectively. This is why many diets recommend you stay away from food close to bedtime. So if you do decide you need to eat before bed, try to choose high fiber and high protein foods and stay away from processed foods high in unhealthy fats or sugar.
Fortunately, many healthy late night snacks are still satisfying and taste great, while supporting your body with some lasting nutrients too.
Opt for air-fried popcorn. It does not have the sodium and chemicals of pre-packaged popcorn. Also, you can add a healthy seasoning of your choice. Cinnamon or fresh herbs make great seasoning. For more zing, try a little red pepper. Popcorn is one of those filling, crunchy, healthy late night snacks that everyone enjoys. It is also relatively high in fiber.
When choosing nuts, be aware they can be high in salt and fats, so be sure to check the serving size on the label.
Yogurt contains a variety of probiotics that promote gut health, while the protein content helps with blood sugar regulation. Try to opt for low-sugar yogurt, plain yogurt, or Greek yogurt, because it is higher in protein and lower in sugar. For an antibiotic boost, you can even add some honey. You can also make a dip from it by adding some herbs or spices of choice. Add it to slices of fruit or a bowl of granola. If vegan, you can try plant-based yogurt. Just check whether it contains live active cultures before purchasing.
Fruits and vegetables contain an amazing amount of nutrients and antioxidants. They are relatively low in calories too!
Although you may consider it a breakfast cereal, oatmeal triggers serotonin release because of its complex carbohydrate content.
Eggs, besides having a high protein content, also contain tryptophan which your body needs for melatonin production. Turkey, also high in tryptophan, is another good protein option. It is also low in fat.
And lastly, if you really crave chocolate at night, there is hope. Dark chocolate contains theobromine which induces sleep. But do remember to limit yourself to one or two blocks. Most types do contain quite a large quantity of sugar.
Healthy late night snacks get a bad rep, but they can be good for you. They may fill that hole in your tummy while helping you fall, and stay, asleep.
If you are often hungry at night, be aware that this and sleep issues are often symptoms of adrenal fatigue. Following a healthy diet is one of the best ways of supplying adrenal support.
If you would like to know more about healthy late night snacks and how they can help promote adrenal health and a good night’s rest, the team at Dr. Lam Coaching can help. We offer a free** no-obligation phone consultation at +1-626-571-1234. We will privately discuss your concerns with you. You can also send us a question through our Ask The Doctor system by clicking here.
Depending on what you eat, then yes, healthy late night snacks can promote adrenal health. They could promote the release of hormones in the brain that help you sleep, help regulate blood sugar levels, and even promote weight loss. Making the right food choices is key.