Find the right balance: Here’s why a good dinner is important for health and wellbeing
Dinner is a very important meal in most homes. If you are busy throughout the day and you eat quick meals for breakfast and lunch, dinner can be the meal that is the one that is most associated with love and care.
I know that this is the one meal where I put in the most effort. Dinner is also very important, as it is the only meal of the day in many homes where the family sits down together.
What about lunch?
If you are missing breakfast and lunch because you are rushed and busy, dinner can turn into a meal of great importance. For this reason, I must reiterate that a good dinner begins with what you eat for breakfast. Skipping meals and surviving on many cups of sugar-filled tea is a recipe for dinner disaster.
If you have a quick breakfast and lunch that is still balanced, then dinner can be the time to work with great ingredients and create a meal that is wonderful and will help you sleep too. Ideally, lunch should be the biggest meal of the day when digestion is at its best. Dinner should be much lighter.
The importance of dinner
The time you eat dinner is just as important as what you eat. Many a time people eat dinner very late and then struggle with poor quality sleep, disturbed digestion and volatile dreams. Remember that your digestion gets weaker and weaker the more you move past sunset. The closer your dinner is to sunset the lighter it is on your body. Eating your dinner before seven and going to be within two to three hours of it is the best way to stay light, healthy and have great sleep.
When you sleep well after a good dinner, you ensure that you will make the right choices with all your meals the next day. This cycle of food and sleep is so deeply interlinked that one positive intervention in any area will create a ripple effect of positive change everywhere.
Planning a healthy dinner
Here are some tips on how to prepare a healthy dinner:
1. If you struggle with disturbed sleep and volatile dreams it can be a sign of digestive distress and poor liver health. You may require a liver rejuvenating dinner!
According to the tenets of Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine, your liver is supported by eating bitter greens. Planning dinner with some leafy greens can be a great way to feel balanced. The magnesium in leafy greens also helps you sleep well. While light dinners can be better, for many a cup of soup may not work.
If you have blood sugar imbalance and high stress, you might have a speedy transit time and digest your food quickly. You might need a wholesome meal such as stir-fried sprouts, carrots, broccoli, bok choy with some black rice. Adding some fish if you eat animal proteins can make it healthy and satiating.
2. If you struggle with inflammatory conditions that cause pain, dinner may be a key meal to keep you relaxed through the night. Foods that contain anti-inflammatory ingredients which help your body lower chronic inflammation can be wonderful!
Soups that are wholesome and hearty and are a meal in themselves can be helpful. Green lentils or masoor can be a hearty base for a broth with onions, ginger, turmeric, coriander and yellow pumpkin. Turmeric is potently anti-inflammatory especially when combined with black pepper and ginger. Ginger itself is anti-spasmodic and suppresses substances that trigger pain and swelling.
3. If you struggle with stress and anxiety, every meal of the day is critical to how you move past it. Many foods are great to relieve anxiety and support the nervous system. These foods have a great effect on your neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine.
Adaptogenic ingredients can be wonderful for stress relief, allowing your body to recover from anxiety and stress. Shiitake mushrooms contain powerful phytonutrients that improve your resilience to stress. Combine them with organic tofu which is a good source of tryptophan for great sleep, sesame seeds, snow peas and mung sprouts and some rice or buckwheat noodles. If you have hormone issues and cannot manage tofu, then replace it with some other good source of protein.
4. If you like your dinner with some rice, combine it with plenty of colourful vegetables so that you ensure a wide range of phytonutrients. Fresh green vegetables are great for vasodilation, circulatory health and lymphatic movement.
They stimulate digestion by acting as a prebiotic and contain anti-inflammatory compounds. Combine them with plenty of spices like ginger to warm you up this winter. If you do have challenges with sleep keep garlic lower at dinner as it can stimulate an active mind and restless sleep.
Dinner is an important meal, but you can experiment with a range of great foods. Having a healthy dinner is linked to good sleep, good choices at breakfast and lunch, lower inflammation, greater resilience to stress, better digestion, stable blood sugar and lower anxiety.
(Images credit: Shutterstock)
Edited by Asha Chowdary
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)