It’s just about midnight when the hunger starts knocking. You’re tired. But definitely also hungry. It’s been a long day.
You think, “Just a quick bite before bed couldn’t hurt.” You peer into the kitchen. And there it is: a cute little cherimoya peeking back at you from the counter.
You’re in the middle of reaching for your midnight snack when the thought hits: “Wait. Is it bad to eat fruit at night?”
It’s a question that’s been plaguing dieters and snackers alike for years. Mostly because it has no simple answer.
Between blood sugar, weight loss, indigestion, and sleep quality, there are a number of factors to consider when asking if it’s okay to eat fruit late at night.
But don’t lose any more sleep over the issue: we’ll break down some of those biggest concerns below.
When you’re asking “Is it bad to eat fruit at night,” you may want to consider the first part of that question: “Is it bad to eat fruit?”
And the answer to that more straightforward query is a blessedly simple “No.”
At the end of the day—literally and figuratively—you’re still eating fruit, complete with all the same vitamins and nutrients you know and love at the low-calorie cost you’ve come to expect.
And some of these great qualities maintain when considering the “at night” part of the equation.
Eating fruit is still an especially attractive option if weight loss, or maintaining a healthy diet, are your goals. (It doesn’t take a dietician to explain that fruit is a healthier move than ice cream!)
With roughly as many carbs as a slice of bread, a portion of fruit can help you feel full through the night – much better than more processed foods. And who likes falling asleep to a rumbly stomach?
Fresh fruit also tends to hoover around the lower end of the glycemic index, meaning it’s more slowly digested and absorbed into the body. This is great for maintaining healthy blood sugar levels, making a fruity snack less likely to give you an undue glucose boost, which could wreak all kinds of unhealthy havoc.
And some evidence suggests that soluble fiber – the type typically found in fruit – could help control blood sugar levels over a long period of time, meaning if you’re in the habit of eating fruit generally, your blood sugar may work more regularly at a steady pace.
All of that adds up to a responsible snacking choice, no matter the time of day, which can help you rest easy.
So if eating fruit is generally good, why does “at night” make a difference? This is where a bit more science comes in.
Your digestive system may not know how to tell time, but your hypothalamus – the peanut-sized point in your brain responsible for your sleep cycle – sure does. And while the science is far from complete, an emerging number of studies have suggested that eating anything at night may throw off that balance.
The trick is the connection between your sleep cycle and metabolic rate, the number of calories your body burns simply by existing. In a bit of a “chicken or egg” situation, falling asleep triggers a metabolic rate drop, which in turn helps your body get the message that it’s time to rest.
But digesting is hungry business, and the body must burn more calories to do the work, which could ultimately keep your metabolic rate higher – and your sleep cycle off-kilter.
This connection is also bad news if you’re worried about weight gain. Again, the science is sparse, but some studies suggest that backloading our day’s caloric intake could throw off our circadian rhythm, tricking our bodies into holding on to those extra pounds longer.
When it comes to fruit in particular, the relatively-high sugar content may further impede weight loss – especially when it comes to dried fruits, which typically contain much more sugar than fresh fruits.
And on a more basic level, eating anything at night also welcomes the greater possibility of indigestion.
Laying down with a full stomach puts the digestive system in a strange place – again, literally and figuratively – making it easier for digestive acids to creep back up the esophagus. This results in what most of us refer to as “heart burn,” which could certainly keep anyone up at night.
As with most things in life – even colorful fruits – everything exists in shades of grey.
Eating fruit at night may present some difficulties, but is it bad to eat fruit at night? We’ll put it this way: You could do worse!
If need a fruity nightcap, there are a few helpful tips you may want to keep in mind:
Remember: Late night snacks happen. And that’s okay. Your cherimoya will always be there for you.