The perfect time to eat

No salad, no alcohol and certainly no main meal at a late hour: some things are recommended for the sake of health. But what's really true? Two experts provide information

Should you avoid some foods at certain times of the day? You hear such tips over and over again. When it comes to salad, for example, it is said that it is better not to eat it in the evening. Allegedly this is not good for digestion.

But this thesis belongs, like others, to the realm of myth. For a time limit, for example only eating raw vegetables and fruit until 2 p.m., there is a lack of meaningful scientific evidence, says the ecotrophologist Astrid Donalies of the German Nutrition Society (DGE).

Belching interferes with falling asleep

People struggling with heartburn should be careful with fruit in the evening. Especially fruits with a lot of fruit acid such as citrus fruits can lead to belching. "This is particularly uncomfortable when lying down and bothers you when you fall asleep," says Sabine Holzäpfel, a consultant in the food and nutrition department at the Baden-Württemberg consumer center.

The same applies to lettuce. But that differs from person to person, says Holzäpfel. She confirms Donalies' assessment: "There is no scientific evidence for not eating raw food in the evening."

The biorhythm of the digestive system

It used to be assumed that the total daily intake was important, not when and how often people ate. "There are now indications that the timing also plays a role. Some studies show health benefits when breakfast is more generous and dinner is less energetic," explains consumer advocate Holzäpfel.

This is also obvious: because the digestive system is subject to a biorhythm. It is most active in the morning hours, while it is less active in the evening and at night.

The claim that everything you eat after 6 p.m. remains undigested is therefore not true. "Digestion begins with the chewing and saliva in the mouth," explains Donalies. And the gastrointestinal tract does not stop working entirely at night.

However, some foods are lighter and some more difficult to digest. Spicy, hot or fried foods and luscious meals such as goulash stay longer in the gastrointestinal tract and are digested more slowly. Alcohol also delays digestion.

This can lead to symptoms such as stomach pressure, bloating or heartburn. "Anyone who has such problems should watch out for small evening meals - at least three to four hours before going to bed," advises DGE expert Donalies. Liquid foods such as soups and porridges have a shorter retention time and are therefore often more digestible.

A question of getting used to

What you should do without in the evening depends heavily on your own habits. If the main meal is eaten in the evening, the body usually gets used to it. "Then it is advisable to eat in peace and chew well, this increases the tolerance," explains consumer advocate Holzäpfel.

Feeling of fullness and gas are not good conditions for a good night's sleep. Anyone who feels fully eaten should try it with light exercise and take an evening stroll. You should generally pay attention to your body and test when you feel most comfortable with which foods.

No tons of white bread late at night

According to Astrid Donalies, there are observations that show that eating certain late-night meals could lead to obesity and diseases such as type 2 diabetes. It seems to be inconvenient if you consume a lot of simple carbohydrates in the evening, for example through the consumption of sweets or white bread.

According to the ecotrophologist, however, the energy balance is decisive for the development of body weight: the supply of energy contained in the food should correspond to the consumption of the body. If you want to know exactly, you can calculate the energy requirement - the University of Hohenheim offers an online tool for this.

What is the point of fasting by the clock?

Time also plays a role in intermittent fasting. You can eat almost anything here, but only at certain times.

The 16: 8 and 14:10 diets are common for this purpose. So you only consume water, unsweetened tea or black coffee for 16 or 14 hours. You can eat normally for the remaining 8 or 10 hours.

However, this form of fasting alone does not result in a change in diet towards a cheap choice of food, Donalies classifies. It is true that data indicate that this form of eating can have positive effects on health and thus on weight loss. "However, the study situation does not give a uniform picture. Not even with regard to the long-term consequences."

Donalies is critical of the separation of carbohydrates and proteins, as is specified, for example, in the "Haysche food combining". "A temporal separation during the recording is not necessary." Because the human body is very well able to digest both nutrients at the same time.