Those late night suppers could be doing some serious damage to your heart health.
With many 24-hour eateries and delivery services today, it is easier than ever to get access to food even in the wee hours. Whatever your supper cravings, food can be delivered right to your doorstep with a few clicks.
According to Foodpanda’s Annual Food Delivery Report in 2017, there was a 69 per cent increase in late night orders over the past year, and 76 per cent of these orders were placed between 12am to 2am.
With one in three deaths attributed to heart disease in Singapore, the trend of Singaporeans eating late frequently is a concern. We speak to Dr Kenneth Ng, a cardiologist from Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital to find out how eating late can lead to heart disease and how we can protect ourselves.
How does eating late put you at risk?
Eating late may result in metabolic changes, which adversely affect heart health and lead to diabetes, says Dr Ng. Researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania found that eating later can increase weight, insulin and cholesterol levels that may lead to heart disease such as coronary artery disease that can cause heart attacks. Participants who ate three main meals between 12pm to 11pm gained more weight than those who ate between 8am to 7pm.
The combining factors of people eating more at night and gaining more weight with later eating times will lead to increased blood fat level. According to Dr Ng, studies have shown that people with high blood fat levels are four times more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease. It may also induce inflammation of blood vessels to increase your risk of suffering from heart attacks and strokes.
Healthy eating habits you should adopt
1. Avoid emotional eating
When you are stressed or upset, cortisol levels rise. This is due to your body going into fight or flight mode which can trigger higher insulin levels. Your blood sugar then drops and you will crave more sugary and fatty foods. This is why stressful situations often lead to you reaching out for unhealthy snacks.
2. Have regular proper meals
No matter how busy you may be, find the time to have wholesome meals at fixed times. This will reduce the peaks and troughs of insulin, says Dr Ng. You will find yourself feeling hungry less often and having less desire to snack.
3. Stick to your estimated calorie requirements
Knowing how many calories you are consuming is a great way to keep yourself in check. The calories of many food items can often be found in the nutrition label under ‘Energy’ in ‘kcals’. However, this does not mean that you have to obsess over counting calories. As long as you keep to your regular meals and avoid oily and fatty foods, you should be on the safe side.
4. Adopt a Mediterranean diet
For a balanced diet that is good for your heart, Dr Ng recommends adopting the Mediterranean diet proposed by the American Department of Agriculture and the American Heart Association. The Mediterranean diet is high in grains, vegetables, dairy and lean proteins from nuts and seafood. It also advocates reducing the intake of poultry and red meat that are more fattening.
5. Avoid foods with high salt, high trans fat, and high sugar content
This may be obvious but many of us unknowingly incorporate many unhealthy foods in our diets. For instance, the daily coffee you order from the coffee shop to kickstart your morning contains 4.5 teaspoons of sugar, cutting close to half of Health Promotion Board’s recommendation of obtaining less than 10 per cent (8-11 teaspoons based on a 1600-2200 kcal diet) of your daily energy intake from added sugars. And we have yet to take into account your diet for the rest of the day.
What should you eat?
As a rule of thumb, you should strive to avoid snacks with high sugar and fat content before you sleep. If you really need some food, Dr Ng suggests healthier options like fruits, nuts, legumes, fish, white meat and even some red wine.