Dietitians and food bloggers alike advocate that there’s a correct time to eat certain foods. For example, nuts shouldn’t be eaten at night because the fat and calories they contain can cause weight gain. Like many others, I wondered: How can your body tell if you’re eating nuts at the crack of dawn, or as an after-dinner palate cleanser? How does my stomach know what time it is? The calories in a handful of nuts are constant. Why does when I eat it matter?
But after digging past clickbait titles, I found several medical professionals who could provide a simple explanation to all my questions–digestion time. Some foods take longer to digest than others. Foods high in fat, fiber, acid, and spicy foods; take longer to digest. That’s why they’re good to eat during the day since they give your body sustained energy. But when you eat those foods at night, they take a long time to digest throughout the bedtime hours. Your digestive tract does not want to be active when you sleep. That’s why foods with long digestion times cause stomach irritation and weight gain.
In general, one should avoid eating large meals late at night. According to Scott Gabbard M.D., the longer foods take to digest, the more likely it is you’ll experience gastrointestinal issues.
For some, eating excess foods at the wrong time can lead to heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease. I’ve researched three healthy food categories that can fight those queasy stomach reactions—eating these foods during or after dinner ensures smooth digestion throughout the night. When trying out these foods, it’s also important to listen to your body. All bodies are different, so choose foods that work best for you!
1. Probiotic Foods
- Cottage Cheese
- Green Olives
- Miso Soup
Dr. Patricia Raymond MD, board-certified doctor in gastroenterology, says that the best time to eat probiotics is at night. “The gut is pretty inactive at night,” Raymond explains. Consuming probiotics at night allows time for the probiotics to get integrated into your gut.
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria and yeast that keep your gut healthy. They’re used to treat digestive disorders such as diarrhea, constipation, and acid reflux.
2. Low-Acidity Fruits and Watery Fruits
Try low-acidity fruits (also known as alkaline fruits):
Tomatoes and citrus are healthy but acidic. Common culprits of acid reflux. If you’re having stomach issues, avoid eating those acidic foods at night. Opt for the alkaline fruits listed above, as they’re lower in pH and lower in acidity. Dr. Ekta Gupta M.D., from John Hopkins Medicine, states that foods like these less acidic fruits “can help offset strong stomach acid.” With her medical expertise in the digestive system, Dr. Gupta also recommends eating watery fruits because the water content dilutes stomach acids.
Try watery fruits:
- Herbal Tea
3. BRAT foods
This acronym represents what pediatricians call “safe foods.”
- Apple Sauce
They’re easy to digest, making them safe to eat with an upset stomach. These foods are easy to digest because of their blandness. No pungent smells = No nausea or vomiting. Also, the low fat, low protein, and low fiber are less likely to put stress on the digestive system.
Pediatricians recommended BRAT foods to sick kids for that very reason. BRAT shouldn’t act as a diet, however, only as supplemental foods in a nutrient-rich diet.
Did any of these foods surprise you? Let us know in the comments below!