There is a very good reason why dinner is meant to be a light meal, low in fat and calories and small in size compared to lunch. And the reason for this is that what you choose to eat at night determines more than just your weight: it decides how well you are going to sleep and how efficient you are going to be the next day at work or at school. More important, it conditions your digestive health which in turn determines your general health and well being. Eating ginger, tomato sauce, chocolate or drinking orange juice at night can cause the worst of heartburn symptoms, acid reflux or general stomach upset. And it can keep you awake all night which doesn’t fare well for your productivity or happiness and can compromise your digestive health.
Here are 6 highly problematic foods that you should by all means avoid to eat at night:
1) Ginger. Eating small amounts of ginger is a healthy habit that provides several beneficial health effects, including anti-inflammatory benefits and nausea relief. Nevertheless, too much ginger can be bad for you, especially if you eat it at night. This is because ginger is essentially an irritant, or at least the main active compounds that give it its properties are. Whether it’s fresh ginger root, powder ginger or even tea, having it at night could cause you to experience the following side effects: stomach upset, gas, bloating, heartburn and acid reflux. Ginger at night could raise blood pressure levels too and present risks for pregnant women. The more you eat, the more pronounced the side effects.
How much is too much ginger? Well, it depends on the person. Some people can’t eat ginger at all because it causes them to experience an allergic reaction in the mouth called oral allergy syndrome. Other people can’t eat ginger because it upsets their hemorrhoids. There are also those who can eat the spice, but in small amounts for fear of various side effects such as raising blood pressure, causing stomach upset, bloating or interacting with the absorption of certain medicines (read more about why it isn’t good to eat too much ginger). Overall, it would appear it might be best to simply avoid eating ginger at night and enjoy it in moderate amounts during the day, if it’s good for you. If it’s not, there are plenty of healthy spices for you to choose from, other than ginger.
2) Hot pepper chili sauce. Peppers in general are a leading cause of digestive issues and often poorly tolerated by many gastritis sufferers. But a hot pepper chili sauce eaten at night represents a whole new level of digestive discomfort. While one small, spicy pepper might pass unnoticed, a bowl of chili made from hot peppers is the worst meal you could possibly eat before going to bed. Despite being otherwise extremely healthy, hot peppers are natural irritants for sensitive mucous linings like that of the esophagus, stomach and rest of the digestive tract.
Such a food at night has a high chance of waking you up from your sleep with strong, burning pain in the chest and stomach, nausea, vomiting sensation and abdominal discomfort. The heartburn can be so bad it can cause you to sweat profusely and upset your stomach for days after that. Even worse, if you already have gastritis, eating hot pepper sauce at night is enough to set back all of your efforts and leave your stomach so irritated you can’t eat almost anything. Similarly, if you have hemorrhoids, such a food could cause you a serious flare up that could take days to calm. Adding tomatoes, tomato sauce or juice to your hot pepper chili can make things even worse.
3) Tomato sauce. Something you should definitely not eat at night is tomato sauce. Whether it’s store bought or made at home from fresh tomatoes, whether it’s tomato juice thickened with vegetables, flour and other ingredients or simply ketchup, you might want to avoid it at night. This is because tomatoes are known to cause severe digestive upset when eaten in significant amounts, especially at night. Heartburn, stomach gas, bloating and acid reflux could wake you up from your sleep and keep you up until morning if you eat tomato sauce at night, especially if you are already dealing with existing digestive issues. So chili, pasta, stews and anything else with a generous serving of tomato sauce is not a good choice for dinner.
4) Chocolate and hot cocoa. Cocoa, hot cocoa or hot chocolate and any chocolate with more than 50% cocoa are best avoided at night. This is because cocoa and chocolate contain not one, but two nervous system stimulants: caffeine and theobromine. These naturally occurring compounds may help you be more alert during the day, but at night, they will keep you awake, causing insomnia and affecting your work performance and schoolwork the following day as a result of the sleep deprivation.
Cocoa and dark chocolate are also heart stimulants and can cause palpitations, extrasystoles, tachycardia and subsequent agitation, an unusual alertness and difficulty sleeping. And let’s not forget that eating cocoa or chocolate or drinking hot cocoa at night can cause acid reflux and upset an existing gastritis. Eating too much in general, whether during the day or at night, can irritate the stomach lining and lead to the onset of gastritis (read more about the side effects of chocolate).
5) Orange juice and other citrus fruits and juices. Citrus fruits are one of the best examples of foods that are both good and bad for you. While they are good sources of vitamin C, antioxidants and have an alkaline pH after digestion, they contain citric acid which can be an irritant for the stomach. Eating oranges or other citrus fruits at night or drinking orange juice or juices made from other citrus fruits can cause heartburn, acid reflux and stomach upset. If you are already dealing with gastritis, citrus fruits and the juices made from them are one class of foods you would be better off to avoid altogether (read more about the best and worst foods for gastritis).
6) High-protein, high-fat foods. Lastly, high-protein, high-fat foods are best avoided at night. Salmon, tuna, sardines, pork, beef or other heavy meats, fried foods like french fries, chicken wings, fried cheese, burgers, dishes made with a lot of butter, cheeses with a high fat content, sauces or salad dressings made with too much fat (vegetable oils, butter, mayonnaise) and every food that is either meat or cheese and rich in fat is best avoided at night. Such foods are heavy on the stomach so their digestion takes longer which means they are likely to cause severe heartburn, acid reflux, abdominal discomfort, nausea, vomiting and keep you awake all night.
Conclusion. There are so many foods we shouldn’t be eating at night and just as many safe dinner options that could spare us the digestive discomfort, insomnia and other side effects. Ginger, hot pepper chili sauce, tomato sauce, chocolate and hot cocoa, orange juice and other citrus fruits and juices as well as high-protein, high-fat dishes are only a few of the foods that are best avoided at night, aside from the obvious choices such as coffee, green tea and caffeinated beverages. Such foods are more likely to upset you if are already dealing with digestive problems and need to avoid anything that causes acidity.