Research seems to suggest that it doesn’t only matter what you eat, it also matters when you eat. Late-night eating has been linked with higher rates of obesity, even when all other factors are controlled.
Nina Vujović, a researcher in the Medical Chronobiology Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, helped to lead one such study on the subject. “We found that eating four hours later makes a significant difference for our hunger levels, the way we burn calories after we eat, and the way we store fat,” she told Harvard Health Publishing in 2022.
So where does that leave you if you find yourself hungry at the end of a long day? Janine Bowring, ND, a naturopathic doctor and content creator, recently shared on TikTok that there are just three foods you should be eating at night that won’t negatively impact your weight or health. In fact, they come with major benefits that you probably don’t want to miss. Read on for her favorite late-night snacks.
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Vujovic’s study found that eating later in the evening can have significant effects on hunger due to how it impacts the appetite-regulating hormones leptin and ghrelin. In particular, her team learned that the levels of the hormone leptin, which signal satiety after eating, decreased in the 24 hours after eating late-night meals.
In her recent TikTok post, Bowring agrees that eating late in the day can “mess up your leptin signaling,” and adds that “it can also alter your thyroid hormone secretion.” She notes that this “can lead to weight gain and affect your sleep because you can’t secrete your proper melatonin if your blood glucose levels are too high.”
That’s why, in general, she says it’s best to avoid after-hours snacking: “We know that late-night eating is not what I recommend.”
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If you do plan on snacking late at night, it’s important to choose that snack carefully. Bowring recommends eating a small handful of nuts—in particular, almonds, macadamia nuts, or hazelnuts. These are “all great because they give you a bit of protein and satiating fat as well so you’re not going to be hungry before bed,” she explains.
According to the Mayo Clinic, there are several ways incorporating nuts into a healthy diet can improve your heart health and overall health. “Research has found that frequently eating nuts lowers levels of inflammation related to heart disease and diabetes,” their experts explain.
Specifically, nuts may improve artery health, reduce inflammation related to heart disease, slash the risk of blood clots, lower your risk of hypertension, and lower your “bad cholesterol” levels.
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Next, Bowring recommends eating seeds if you feel the need to snack before bed. These are similar to nuts in their nutritional profile: high in fiber, healthy fats, protein, vitamins, and more.
The naturopathic doctor notes that tahini or sunflower seeds can be especially beneficial, as these are “loaded with minerals, and can help with sleep.”
Being mindful of portion sizes can help you enjoy these calorie and nutrient-dense foods without exceeding a healthy daily calorie intake.
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Finally, Bowring says that drinking “golden milk” at night can be beneficial before bed. This is usually a homemade blend of plant-based milk, turmeric, and other spices.
“I love my golden milk, made with turmeric, cinnamon, and my nut milk,” she says, noting that she usually uses almond milk for her own recipe.
“Heat it up and drink this right before bed. It’s fantastic for a great night’s sleep, has those beauty benefits of antioxidants in the turmeric (which I love as well), and it’s a powerful anti-inflammatory,” she says.
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