The American Heart Association (AHA) has provided new heart health guidelines, mainly suggesting that people should always consider timing their meals right.
Most people these days tend to skip on their breakfast and simply setting for bulk meals later in the day. There was a time when people followed the rules of having breakfast, lunch and dinner. However, skipping meals has become prevalent, which is said to be making people more prone to heart diseases.
A team of doctors found that about 30 percent of adults in the United States routinely skip their breakfast. In recent years, people have come to observe this poor heart health habit as they prefer to munch on snacks instead of observing the three meals of the day.
Those who skip having their morning meals are more likely to become obese and develop high blood sugar or diabetes. According to Marie-Pierre St-Onge, a nutrition researcher at Columbia University who helped make the new heart health guidelines, the timing of the meals is an important thing to consider as it has an impact on the body clock.
Eating your breakfast or meals earlier in the day and eating less at night can promote good heart health by reducing the risk of stroke, heart attack and other heart diseases.
In contrast, animal studies have shown that eating late at night affects the metabolism, which in turn results in weight gain. Other than that, eating at night could contribute to diabetes and poor heart health. Despite these statements, St-Onge acknowledged that more human studies should be conducted before it can be considered a fact.
Based on reviews done on previous studies, the AHA has come up with three important suggestions to promote good heart health.
The experts suggested not to skip breakfast, as eating this meal helps in the breakdown of glucose and results in having the right levels of insulin in the body. The team also advised that alternate-day and periodic fasting can be effective methods of losing weight. However, more studies are needed to find out if the weight loss continues on in the long run.
Also, the group stated that people should not dwell so much on the size of the meal. In weight loss and heart health, the size of the meal usually doesn’t matter. A person can eat a few large meals or have small frequent portions within the day, but what matters most is the number of calories.
St-Onge stressed the importance of planning meals in advance. This advice for better heart health works best for people who are always busy and are rushing through their meals.
“Planning ahead and making healthy, carry-on foods is important. This could be a homemade smoothie or whole grain muffin or cereal bar for breakfast; packing a sandwich or leftovers for those times when time is tight.”
New York University Langone Medical Center nutritionist Samantha Heller, who was not involved in making the new heart health guidelines, agrees with St-Onge’s statement above.
In an email to Reuters, Heller explained how planning helps people eat the right meals at the appropriate time. She added that the usual recommendation to eat small frequent meals during the day can be unrealistic as these “small” meals tend to be consumed as full-sized meals, which then lead to the inevitable weight gain.
Heller’s piece of advice for heart health is that the kitchen should be off-limits once dinner is over. If the schedule does not permit a person to have dinner later in the evening, late-night light meals should be preferred.
For now, the association has yet to make a firmer guidance on meal timing for a better heart health, but St-Onge further advised to eat “mindfully.”
“We suggest eating mindfully, by paying attention to planning both what you eat and when you eat meals and snacks, to combat emotional eating. Many people find that emotions can trigger eating episodes when they are not hungry, which often leads to eating too many calories from foods that have low nutritional value.”
The guidelines for a good heart health were published in the journal Circulation on Jan. 30.
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