Late-night snacking is usually frowned upon if you’re aiming to lose weight. But if you have diabetes, having a high-protein, low-fat snack before you go to bed may help stabilize your blood sugar levels overnight.
What late-night snacking does to blood glucose levelsYour blood sugar levels change throughout the night. If you have either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, these fluctuations may result in high blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia) in the morning. Fortunately, having the right kind of snack before bedtime can help balance these levels.
Your blood sugar levels change during the night because of two processes:
- The dawn phenomenon – Between 3:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m., your blood sugar levels increase as part of the process of waking up. This results in high blood sugar levels in the morning.
- The Somogyi effect – Your blood sugar levels drop significantly from 2:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m. The body responds by releasing hormones that increase your blood glucose again. But it can release too much of these hormones, which also causes high blood sugar levels in the morning.
If you have diabetes, you can determine how your blood glucose levels change throughout the night by taking readings at various points. For example, you can take it just before bed, between 2:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m., then again after you wake up.
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TheAmerican Diabetes Association (ADA) warns that being overweight or obese increases the risk of diabetes-related complications. Knowing how your body processes glucose is essential if you want to choose healthier snacks before bed.
Healthy late-night snacks that can lower blood glucose levels
If you want to personalize your late-night snacks based on your weight goals and how your body reacts to sugar overnight, consult a dietician. Generally, the best snacks for each person will depend on how your body responds to the dawn phenomenon and the Somogyi effect, along with other factors like personal preferences, health goals, and timing.
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While there isn’t much data about the ideal bedtime snack, experts recommend options that containhealthy fats andlimited carbohydrates. The snack should also be full ofprotein. Foods that meet these criteria will help limit blood glucose spikes during the night and help keep lower blood glucose levels in the morning.
Eat the following snacks moderately before your bedtime to manage your blood glucose levels and curb unhealthy cravings.
Carrots, cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices
Non-starchy vegetables are the perfect snack if you have diabetes. They’re very low in calories, carbs, and fats, but they’re also full of vitamins and minerals.
Carrots, cherry tomatoes, and cucumbers also contain antioxidants and fiber that improve both gut and heart health. (: Maintaining heart health may be the key to diabetes prevention.)
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NutsAlmonds, peanuts, and walnuts are rich in vitamins, minerals, and good fats. In a 2011 study published in Metabolism – Clinical and Experimental, researchers found that incorporating almonds into the diets of volunteers with Type 2 diabetes for 12 weeks improved their blood sugar and lowered heart disease risk.
Almonds reduce the levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol, which can block the arteries. The nuts also increase the amount of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or “good” cholesterol, which helps remove LDL cholesterol from the arteries.
A large egg contains 6.29 g of protein. Eggs also contain very few carbohydrates.
Sliced apple and peanut butterPeanut butter is rich in protein, as well as fiber and healthy fats. Apples contain various vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Cut an apple and add a light spread of peanut butter on each slice. Alternatively, you can try other nut butters like almond or cashew butter.
Sugar-free Greek yogurtYogurt is one of the healthiest types of dairy and it contains calcium and high-quality protein.
Even if you don’t have diabetes, following these tips can improve your snacking habits.
- Eat mindfully and savor each bite of food.
- Don’t eat snacks while you’re distracted, like when you’re reading or watching television.
- Plan meals and snacks ahead of time.
- Make nutritious snacks and avoid junk food.
Avoid Bright Lights Before Sleep. When we're exposed to bright lights in the evening, this disrupts production of the sleep hormone melatonin. An interesting "hack" is to use a pair of amber-tinted glasses that block blue light from entering your eyes in the evening. This allows melatonin to be produced as if it were completely dark, helping you sleep better.
If you have diabetes, snacking on the right kinds of food can help you stabilize your blood glucose levels overnight.