Turns out, you can ignore the “no food after dinner” rule if hunger keeps you up. The right late-night snack can promote better sleep, improve your mood, and prevent overeating the next morning.
It is 3 am. Sleep seems to drift further away as you toss and turn under the covers. Your tummy is grumbling, triggering hunger cues. Granted, your first instinct could be to grab that packet of chips or salted biscuits, but there is a more satisfying choice. Reach for nutrient-dense, low- energy foods. A study titled The Health Impact of Nighttime Eating: Old and New Perspectives reports positive findings with eating low fat, low-calorie nighttime snacks. It says that given that there is typically a long duration between eating dinner, sleep, and the next main meal (i.e., breakfast the following morning), the overnight period may represent a 6–8 h window of opportunity to potentially optimise health, metabolism and overall human performance. So, midnight snacking isn’t all that bad.
Another positive thing about midnight snacking is its insignificant effect on weight gain. What really matters in the end is a person’s total calorie intake across the day (and across weeks and months). Ignoring your hunger at midnight and overeating at breakfast will increase the overall calorie intake, whether you eat at midnight or ignore it. The bottom line: If you are hungry at night, eat. Don’t feel guilty about it. The study Influence of night-time protein and carbohydrate intake on overweight and obese says that embracing smart food choices as opposed to the typical high fat/high-calorie food options at midnight makes all the difference.
Dr Priyanka Rohatgi, Chief Clinical Dietician at Apollo Hospitals, Bengaluru adds that the key is to consume well-balanced midnight snacks that have good concentrations of protein, fibre and MUFA (Mono-Unsaturated Fats).
Related Story: Foods That Help You Sleep Better (https://urlife.co.in/articles/foods-that-help-you-sleep-better)
Picked from different food groups, the snacks below are light, but delicious. The goal is to eat something to curb your cravings, so that you can go to bed with a satisfied feeling.
1. Granola bar: Made with ingredients like rolled oats, dried fruits, nuts, seeds, honey, coconut, and chocolate chips, granola bars are power packed with nutrition. The nutrients in granola bar help the body to absorb tryptophan (an amino acid required to make serotonin and melatonin) quicker, which also enables you to fall asleep faster. Granola bars offer essentials like iron, magnesium, calcium and B vitamins and also contain phenolic compounds and vitamin C—antioxidants—that both contribute to fullness and appetite control, says a study in Journal of Food Science and Technology.
2. Nutty smoothie: Try a sleep-inducing, brain-boosting smoothie. Grab some toasted walnuts halves, almonds, and dates. Put in some orange juice, frozen mango cubes and ice-cubes to get a creamy texture. Blend and process until smooth. Packed with natural sweetness, Omega-3s and antioxidants, this dairy-free smoothie can improve your skin, keep your digestive system happy and improve your sleep. Walnuts have melatonin, serotonin and total polyphenols, all of which contribute to sleep—finds a report Strategies of functional foods promote sleep in human beings.
3. Pistachios: Pistachio, the member of the cashew family, can help you mitigate your midnight hunger and enable you to sleep better. About 20 grams of pistachios have roughly 5 mg of melatonin, the sleep promoting hormone. Keep a bunch of them handy at your bedside table so that when your stomach signals hunger, you can have them quickly and get back to sleep.
4. Kiwi: Ever tried kiwi at midnight? Besides relishing your taste buds with its tart sour taste, the fruit helps you drift off to sleep. Kiwis have an abundance of serotonin ( a chemical precursor to melatonin, the main hormone involved in sleep) and antioxidants that help with sleep onset, duration and sleep efficiency. One of the best ways to consume this fruit is to eat it individually. Just grab a knife, cut the fruit in half, scoop out the flesh with a spoon to have it.
5. Phool makhana: Used in some savouries like raita, kheer or curry, you can also have phool makhana as a midnight snack, says Dr Rohatgi. Phool makhana contains protein, magnesium, potassium, manganese, and phosphorus. Mainly, the nerve stimulating properties of phool makhana helps reduce stress and induce sleep. Have a handful of them at midnight to crunch your hunger and improve your sleep pattern. Alternatively, either roast on a low flame for 15 minutes or fine ground to add in milk.
6. Popcorn: Nutrient-dense, easy to prepare, popcorn offers fibre, complex carbohydrates and protein. It acts as a sleep aid at midnight. The complex carbs in popcorn boosts the serotonin levels in the body. This corn kennel also contains tryptophan, an amino acid that signals the body to help feel calm—a state favourable for sleep.
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