My husband and I both lead hectic lives with full on careers. Increasingly we have been arriving home from work later and later, and because I am not overly fond of processed food or take-aways it has meant that one of us has had to cook a decent dinner. Decent dinners take time to prepare so we sometimes haven't managed to sit down to eat before 9 in the evening. Given that the morning alarm is set for 6 a.m and we do need to get some sleep, this has never really given us much time to digest our food. As a result I have been prone to waking up still feeling full from the night before and feeling very uncomfortable.
Now I know that eating dinner earlier has to be better for my health, but it has only been recently that I've taken action to do something about it. We now have a more substantial breakfast and always have a lunch of some description rather than coffee and biscuits or a high sugar snack. This means we can have a lighter meal in the evening. Added to this, we've made the effort to find meals that don't take so long to prepare. Here are my top ten reasons for eating an early dinner.
The biggest factor for me has to be heartburn. Both my husband and I get this at some stage during the week. Heartburn is that tight or burning sensation that you get in your chest, just behind your breastbone. The way to avoid heartburn is of course to avoid large meals, which have a high fat content, late in the day. We need to give our food time to digest properly before we get into bed and so by eating an early dinner we can do this. If your body can take its time to digest food properly, this will lower the risk of stomach acid rising back into your oesophagus (we would recognise this as acid reflux). Lying down quickly after a meal only makes this worse.
We sleep better! Late night eating leads to an increased risk of indigestion and heartburn and so you end up not sleeping as well as you might. This is because all that digestive activity can affect your REM sleep and you're less likely to sleep deeply and more likely to wake up often. My husband and I don't get enough sleep as it is; we certainly can't afford to lose any more.
If you eat too much food late in the evening this can lead to abdominal discomfort. At the same time, if you take in too many liquids before bed – and this may be in the form of milk, juice, soup or other foods as well as drinks – you just know that you'll be up every few hours because you have a full bladder.
Besides abdominal discomfort, having an early dinner means an end to stomach ailments. The body is given time to digest properly, and given sufficient time means that bowel movements are regular.
We have more energy. Now that we try to eat a better breakfast and a good lunch we definitely have more energy. Mood and brain function are also improved because the sugar levels in our bodies are more stable and we're less likely to feet fatigued or irritable.
What we found was that by eating our dinner later we did tend to eat more high-calorie foods that were less nutritious than would otherwise be optimal. We ate more because we were tired and hungry and we were in a sense comfort eating, and in fact eating to make up for the fact that we hadn't eaten properly all day.
Apparently if you wait all day to eat, your body stubbornly stores insulin and raises your risk for body fat storage and obesity. Well, we don't want that, do we?
I'm also reliably informed that by eating an early dinner I am now at less risk of heart attack and stroke. People who eat dinner later tend to eat more as I'd noticed. When those calories aren't burned off, the body turns them into triglycerides, and these triglycerides increase the danger of heart attack and stroke.
And then there's the dreaded cancer! A recent cancer study by the Barcelona Institute of Global Health has suggested that men who eat dinner at least two hours prior to sleeping have a 26% reduced risk of prostate cancer. Women with similar eating habits were also found to have a 16% reduced risk of breast cancer.
So, now that we have adapted our diet and changed the pattern of our daily food intake I have really noticed results. What I am most thankful more is that I feel so much lighter. I don't wake up bloated and feeling full and this makes me feel better about myself generally. I perceive myself to be more attractive and that in turn encourages me to be healthier.
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September 22, 2023
Updated: April 24, 2018 CET