Early dinners have always been associated with health benefits such as better digestion, better sleep, helps with lower blood pressure and lower blood sugar, better metabolism to reduce obesity, and can even lower the risk of chronic diseases.
If you’ve always been planning ‘what’ healthy meals to prep for breakfast through supper and have not given a thought on ‘when’ you eat, you may have left out a missing link that can impact your overall health. There has been mounting evidence suggesting that ‘when’ you eat could be as important as ‘what’ you eat. Having your last meal of the day, as early as 7 pm can bring some amazing benefits to your health.
My family has been having dinner at a time between 3 – 5 pm on most days for the past 3 years. As a result, everyone including my three teenage daughters has a minimum of 14 hours fast on most days. We feel great having early dinners and even though we sometimes feel hungry by bedtime, we don’t bother with grabbing a snack and go straight to bed. My youngest teenage daughter is pretty fastidious when it comes to the timing of her dinner. Any food served later than 4 pm and she will keep the dinner for her breakfast tomorrow. She really sticks religiously to her 16-hour fast!
Having your dinner early is a form of intermittent fasting, where people eat all of their meals during the morning and early afternoon before fasting for the rest of the day until the next morning. There are numerous studies that show how powerful intermittent fasting is for our body and brain.
According to researches at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), consuming more calories earlier could have a dual impact of decreasing a person’s appetite while boosting fat burning. On the other hand, having large dinners to replace skipped earlier meals offers either no benefit or potentially has health repercussions such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
Experimental studies, published in the International Journal of Cancer, have shown the importance of meal timing and demonstrated the health effects of eating late at night. The study was carried out to assess whether the timing of meals could be associated with the risk of breast and prostate cancers. The study included data from 1,205 cases of breast cancer and 621 cases of prostate cancer, as well as 872 male and 1,321 female controls selected randomly from primary health centers located in Spain.
Breast and prostate cancers are also among those highly associated with night-shift work, circadian disruption, and alteration of biological rhythms. The study concludes that there’s a connection between adherence to diurnal eating patterns and a lower risk of cancer.
In the same study conducted by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), people who had their evening meal before 9 pm or waited at least two hours before going to bed had a lower risk of breast and prostate cancers. These people had approximately 20 percent lower risk of those types of cancer compared with people who had supper after 10 pm or those who ate and went to bed shortly afterward, respectively.
Having an early dinner may not be suitable for everyone, especially those who work late into the night. The best you can do is to eat a healthy snack in the afternoon to curb your appetite for a late dinner. By the time you get home, have something light and easily digestible like oatmeal, fruits, or low-fat yogurt. And for those who can swing it, go for it – there are many well-documented studies on the health benefits of chowing down your last meal earlier in the day vs. later at night. And what if you have plenty of late-night dinner meetings? Since you can’t possibly avoid those late dinners, the best you can do is to cut down on your calorie intake the next day with lighter and smaller meals.
The old aphorism that you should eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dine like a pauper has never seemed more bona fide. And it’s certainly worth locking your kitchen door overnight.
Health Freak Mommy is a content writer under Headliner by Newswav, a programme where content creators get to tell their unique stories through articles and at the same time monetize their content within the Newswav app.
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