A healthy body, mind, and diet isn’t all about cutting down on all that bread and pasta, or eating more fruits and vegetables – it’s about when you eat these foods.
In the latest Scientific Statements, experts from various committees of the American Heart Association claim that being mindful of eating frequency, as well as the time of day you’re eating, has an impact on heart attack & stroke risk.
The panel picked out breakfast habits in particular, which they suggest that existing evidence that breakfast is a crucial meal of the day…is spot on. This comes based on the analysis of past studies comparing breakfast-eaters to breakfast-skippers. The findings concluded breakfast-eaters had lower rates of heart disease, and were less likely to have high cholesterol or high blood pressure.
Blood sugar levels & sugar metabolism were more normalized as well, putting the breakfast club at a lower risk of diabetes, too.
Having said that, oddly enough, the existing research still isn’t strong enough to say that people who avoid breakfast regularly should start including that meal in their diet. And for people that already do consume a morning meal daily shouldn’t expect to be heart disease or diabetes-proof for the rest of their lives.
Eating frequency isn’t so clear cut, however.
Some studies suggest people who eat more often have lower cholesterol and a lower chance of diabetes, though it’s a mixed bag when it comes to whether or not eating smaller meals helps with weight loss. A few controlled studies even found that the more frequent the eating – even with consistent calorie counts – was not beneficial to lowering heart disease risks or obesity.
Finally, the panel examined eating earlier in the day vs. later. The majority of the panel erred to earlier; the more calories you eat earlier in the day, the more time you have to burn off those calories. Plus, there’s some evidence that hints the body’s metabolism is more efficient during the day, when it’s more active, rather than at night when the body’s ready to shut down.
“The body and all of the organs have clocks,” explains Marie-Pierre St-Onge, an associate professor of nutritional medicine at Columbia University.
“There is a timing that provide all the nutrients that organs need, and the timing activity of enzymes and other agents that process food are better earlier in the day than at night.”
Related: Four Fascinating Breakfast Facts
While we can’t say for certain how timing and frequency of meals affects your health, it’s a good idea to keep eating breakfast if you already do, and try to space out your meals a bit earlier in the day.