Why there’s no such thing as a “healthy” snack

Maybe you’ve heard that successful dieting hinges on eating six small meals a day. If so, I’m here to tell you — you heard wrong.

I’ve never subscribed to this advice. And I’ve always insisted that all you need is three square meals a day. Snacks should be the exception, not the rule. Because in the end, metabolic health hinges as much on the timing of your meals — both when you eat them, and how far apart they are — as it does on the contents of your plate.

Still, it’s always nice when research proves me right. And that’s exactly what this latest study did.

It’s all about numbers

Israeli researchers looked at 28 men and women, with insulin-dependent type-2 diabetes and an average age of 69. They randomly assigned each subject to one of two diets:

  • Three square meals — a large breakfast, a medium-sized lunch, and a small dinner
  • Six evenly spaced mini-meals throughout the day

Researchers measured blood sugar levels for two weeks before the diets, after two weeks of dieting, and at the end of the study.

Ultimately, both fasting glucose and overall mean glucose levels dropped twice as much in the subjects eating three times a day, compared to those eating six times a day. And the three-meals-a-day group also needed significantly less insulin by study’s end… while the six-meals-a-day group needed more.

And notably, these dramatic blood sugar improvements were evident within just two weeks.

That’s not all: Carb cravings and hunger pangs also dropped among the three-mealers — while spiking among the six-mealers. And after three months, subjects eating three meals a day lost an average of 11 pounds. While the six-meal-a-day dieters gained three.

What else is there to say? Clearly, when you eat is every bit as important as what you eat.

Find your rhythm

I’ve touched on the subject here before, but it bears repeating — circadian rhythms affect more than just your sleep. They’re responsible for keeping all of your body’s most basic functions running smoothly — so you defy them at your own risk.

And it just so happens that eating meals too close to your biological bedtime is a major no-no.

The earlier in the day you drop your fork, and the longer you go before you pick it back up, the better — for weight loss, inflammation reduction, and more. So I can’t say I’m the least bit surprised to see the metabolic benefits of a bigger breakfast (and a smaller lunch and dinner) on display here.

And earlier and less-frequent mealtimes aren’t the only way to use your internal clock to your advantage. For a more complete rundown of how to harness your body’s circadian rhythms, check out the March 2018 issue of my monthly newsletter Logical Health Alternatives.

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