The Best Time To Eat Dinner Depends On Your Nighttime Routine, So Do The Math

I’m sure you’re well aware by now that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but if you clean a plate full of bacon and eggs every day, you still have to eat a well-balanced lunch and dinner, too. And look, I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that what you’re putting into your body is ultimately going to determine how you feel throughout the day, but what you might not realize is the time you sit down to eat matters, too. For example, science has some opinions on the best time to eat dinner, based on new evidence that shows the earlier you eat, the healthier you’ll be. So while I totally get that hustling is hard work, and you might not have a whole lot of time to sit down and eat, let alone cook, a proper meal, do yourself a favor and find a half hour or so in the evenings to properly refuel.

When I was working in Manhattan, my commute home was long. Sometimes I wouldn’t get back to my parents' house until 7 p.m. or so, and because I’m dedicated to my workout routine, I’d exercise first, and eat dinner after. My last meal of the day just wasn’t a priority back then, especially because I knew, no matter how late I finished up at the gym, my mom would have a plate full of leftovers waiting for me on the stove. But even though fitting a proper dinner into your everyday routine isn’t always super convenient, science says finding time earlier on in the evening to break bread could benefit your health in a big way.

According to new research, eating dinner earlier in the day could help lower your risk of developing cancer, and if that’s not initiative to eat supper on time, then I don’t know what is.

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In order to figure out if there was a possible link between someone’s everyday lifestyle and their odds of developing cancer, Dr. Manolis Kogevinas and his team of researchers from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health in Spain explored the differences between participants with prostate and breast cancer (respectively), and participants without any form of cancer. The study was published in the International Journal of Cancer, and the results were based off of interviews and questionnaires that focused on whether or not participants considered themselves early birds or night owls, how and when they ate dinner, their quality of sleep, and so forth.

The research found that, of those studied and surveyed, people who ate dinner either before 9 p.m., or at least two hours before bedtime, were 20 percent less likely to develop cancer. CNN reports that even if nighttime snacking was a factor for participants in this bracket, the fact that they eat dinner earlier on in the night still proved to be better for the body than if they were to indulge in larger meals right before heading to bed.

But what is it about eating earlier in the evening that’s so good for your body? To put it simply, Neka Pasquale, L.Ac., MS, a licensed acupuncturist, herbalist, author, and founder of Urban Remedy, says it really all comes down to your body’s ability to metabolize the foods you’re eating. “You want to have a certain amount of hours (depending on your constitution) that your body can cleanse through the night,” Pasquale tells Elite Daily. “If you go to bed on a full stomach, your body is using energy through the night to digest it and break it down, which often leaves you feeling sluggish and tired upon waking.”

Eating dinner earlier is clearly beneficial to your health, but what's considered "early"?

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In other words, what’s the best time to eat dinner to ensure you're actually able to reap these incredible benefits? Because, seriously guys, having a 20 percent lower risk of developing cancer is no joke. Plus, eating dinner earlier is amazing for your health in other ways, too: It can help you sleep better, prevent digestive issues from bothering your stomach in the a.m., lower your blood sugar, and much more.

Long story short, there really isn't one specific time you should be striving to eat dinner to better your health. According to Pasquale, the best time to eat dinner for your individual body depends on what time you normally go to bed. "Those who sleep at midnight would have a different recommendation than someone who sleeps around 8:30 or 9 p.m.," she tells Elite Daily. "My advice is to always try to eat four to six hours prior to sleeping, so the body has proper time to digest." Sounds pretty reasonable, right?

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But what about those random nights when your schedule changes, and you can't make it home early for supper because of a hard deadline or a class that's running late — what then? Pasquale says you're still in the clear; you just want to make sure you're sitting down to dinner at least two hours before bed. And, on those rare occasions when you're literally eating right before crawling under the covers, Pasquale advises eating a meal that's loaded with foods that are high in water content.

"For example, foods or vegetables in their natural state, a salad, or even a smoothie or steamed vegetables," she tells Elite Daily. "Proteins take more energy to digest, so sticking with something raw or with more water content is best."

So set your alarm, clear your schedule, do whatever you have to to make sure you're eating dinner earlier. After all, it's for your health.