Are Three Meals Per Day Enough?
The short answer: ‘One size does not fit all’. So yes for some and no for others…
Three meals may be enough for many whilst five might be right for others. And even one or two may be appropriate for someone else.
One of the main principles of functional medicine is to look at the whole person and everyone is biochemically individual, meaning that what might suit one person may not suit another.
So why would more than 3 meals a day be right for someone?
If you are showing signs of an imbalance in blood sugar you may not benefit from restricting the amount of meals to eat a day.
Signs and symptoms of blood sugar imbalance:
– A diet is high in sugar and refined carbohydrates
– Low energy and dips
– Faint or grumpy when going for long periods without food
– Crave sugar and other stimulants like coffee to keep you going
– Waking in the middle of the night
Three or five meals?
If this is you, then five meals a day may be an appropriate approach to eating initially.
My interpretation of five meals is three main meals: breakfast, lunch and dinner plus two snacks – one mid morning and one mid afternoon.
Always eat protein with each meal and avoid white refined and processed foods, eat complex carbohydrates such as oats, brown rice, pulses, beans and vegetables instead. As the body feels more supported snacks may be reduced, at this point three meals a day is enough.
Intermittent fasting – IF
Intermittent fasting (IF) is very popular just now. This is how our hunter/gatherer ancestors ate because food was not readily available.
There are various ways people may approach this type of eating.
It might be restricting calories on certain days, not eating for a day or skipping breakfast and having dinner early so you give yourself a long period of time in between meals.
Studies have shown IF may improve blood glucose levels, may have a positive effect of cardiovascular health and some studies have even been shown to possibly reduce the signs of ageing.
Furthermore, restricting meals gives your digestive system a break, the body has time to repair and maintain, as it does not have the role of digestion to concentrate on.
The right nutrients for each person
However, if this is something new to you then fasting in these ways should be done under the guide of a professional. It is essential you are eating enough to fuel your body and that you are obtaining the right nutrients. It is also as explained above not for all.
– People with diabetes: do not want to embark on this type of eating without the advice and support from their GP.
– People with thyroid problems: again need to be careful around fasting.
– Women: may not benefit due to possible hormone fluctuations, when the body is starved, nutrients will be directed to the major organs first such as the heart, liver and kidneys, therefore the reproductive organs may suffer. Evidence has shown that ovulation may cease when calories are restricted.
– People who have or had eating disorders: they should not try IF as well as athletes with high-intensity training.
As a general rule, I advise most people to support their blood sugar first by eating three regular meals a day and possibly snacks.
A good tip to incorporate a break from eating to give the digestive system a rest would be to have your dinner no later than 7pm and not eat anything after this time, if you have breakfast at 7am the next morning you have given yourself a 12 hour ‘fast’, allowing the body to have time to repair and maintain rather than focusing on digesting and absorbing food.
Also during the day do not graze, try to leave three hours in between meals, allow yourself to be hungry at times.
Personalisation is key and what is right for one may not be right for another. All health considerations must be accounted for when deciding how many meals a day to eat.
Connect with Expert Natasha Alonzi