For as long as I could remember the conventional advice around mealtimes was to eat three square meals a day, and avoid snacking. The square meals were presumably made up of portions of protein, starch, and some cellulose-rich food (veg or fruit) and they were always quite large, and the snacks, well they were verboten. Turns out, according to modern science headlines, all of this (or at least some of it) was dead wrong.
According to research done at the Imperial College in London, eating “little and often” is the optimum way to maintain blood sugar and keep energy levels at a constant. This new suggested meal plan would include up to nine meals a day (albeit small meals) without any snacking whatsoever. The study, which compared the diets of over 2,000 people in the UK, China, Japan and the U.S. showed that those who ate fewer than six times per day had a significantly higher systolic blood pressure and were much fatter. Those who had the same caloric intake but consumed smaller amounts over the course of 6+ meals revealed better health and lower blood pressure. According to an article in the Daily Mail, eating at least four small meals a day — a “nibbling” diet, as researchers called it — sped up metabolism and lowered the risk of obesity, according to a similar Maastricht University study. Note, snacks between meals are prohibited.
It’s not clear why eating more often has these benefits, but one theory is that frequent meals prevent a high influx of fatty acids — compounds that are released from foods and can lead to a build-up of fats in the arteries, and also contribute to high cholesterol levels. And it seems the regularity of the smaller meals is just as important as the quantity.
What are your thoughts on increasing the frequency of your meals 300%? Do you think 3 meals a day has some sort of biological basis that shouldn’t be subverted? Have you had experiences that have brought you to your own conclusions?