Small and frequent meals is a healthy way and has many benefits. Read this article to know about them and the risks of eating after long gaps.
To maintain a healthy lifestyle and regulate functions such as digestion, metabolism and glucose levels, it is important keep your habits in form. This includes eating your food on time and in a specific manner. It is adviced to eat small meals and that too chewing slowly. Smaller meals after regular intervals is the key to prevent any problems related to diet and fitness. The more you chew, the less work your stomach has to do, so this habit can relax you internally as well. And, when you eat too quickly, there are chances of swallowing air, which can develop gas pockets in your belly.
Even if you are feeling very hungry or in a hurry, then also you should try and eat small bites and chew properly for proper digestion. You should try and eat small portions of food. Taking small and frequent meals is much better than filling your void of hunger with huge meals. This habit will not only make you mentally alert but also keep your blood sugar and energy levels balanced. Onlymyhealth editorial team spoke to Dietician Arushi Gupta, Associate Dietician, Dayanand Medical College and hospital, Ludhiana, about the benefits of eating small frequent meals and the risks of eating after long gaps, that too all at once.
Benefits of eating small frequent meals
According to Dt. Arushi, here are the benefits of eating small and frequent meals:
1. Stabilized blood sugar levels
One of the major benefits of eating small and frequent meals is controlling and balancing blood sugar levels. By eating smaller and more frequent meals, you can keep your blood sugar levels balanced and controlled. Small meals have less glucose than larger meals and cause blood sugar increase at a normal rate. Therefore, diabetic or hypoglycemic patients are also suggested to eat small and frequent mes for this benefit.
2. Boosts metabolism and improves digestion
Eating frequent meals and that too at regular intervals even helps in boosting your metabolism, and decreases the chances of you starving for food. When you do not eat anything for a few hours at a time, your body reacts quickly in slowing down its metabolic rate to save energy. Eating food with long gaps can slow down your metabolism gradually in a long term basis. It is important to eat something both before bed and after waking up to keep your metabolism boosted. Moreover, eating small and frequent meals at regular intervals also helps in promoting digestion. It eases gut function and the absorption of vitamins and minerals from the food. This habit is even advised by healthcare experts to manage digestive issues such as acid reflux, gastritis and heartburn.
3. Regulates energy levels
Another benefit of having small frequent meals is that it helps in regulating and boosting your energy levels. Following an irregular diet and disturbed pattern of meals can lead to an increase in blood sugar levels. And on the other hand, eating small and regular meals 5-6 times a day contributes towards blood sugar level control. And this further helps in regulating your energy levels through the entire day and also keeps you away from sugar cravings. Regular and small intake of food keeps your energy levels stabilised and makes it easier to carry out certain day to day tasks.
4. Promotes weight loss and manages appetite
If you are on a weight loss journey, then eating small and frequent meals is also an aid for losing weight in a healthier and quicker way. It is one of the best ways for less calorie intake and sugary foods per meal. This helps in keeping you full for longer hours, with less chances of overeating, hence a lot of motivation to maintain yourself. Eating 5-6 smaller meals in a day with a time gap of 3 hours also keeps your appetite under control. You should also take care as to what you are eating. The foods should be wholesome, healthy and nutritious, and should surely include fruits and vegetables. This will keep you away from binge eating and cravings.
Risks of eating after long gaps
As per Dt. Arushi, here are the risks of eating after long gaps:
1. Acid reflux
If we stay hungry for longer periods of time, it can cause acid reflux and which can lead to vomiting, nausea, headache and stomach ache. It can also cause bloating in body. Human body feels hungry after every 4-6 hrs of eating and thats when the stomach starts to prepare itself to eat, and sends signals to our brains and hence we start feeling hungry. The stomach produces Hydrochloric acid naturally for digestion of food. If we don't eat food, it corrodes the walls of your stomach, which can lead to ulcers and it can also extend upto intestines, if left untreated.
2. Poor concentration
Your mood and appetite is controlled by very similar logic which means if our appetite cycle is disrupted or mood is also disturbed, it happens due to the the activity of neuro-transmitters like dopamine and serotonin, which can lead to anxiety and depression. Staying hungry also induces the production of cortisol in brain which can lead you to be more distracted, irritated and having more food cravings. Therefore, it is suggested to take small and frequent meals.
3. Low energy
We become more prone to having lower energy levels because fasting may cause low blood sugar levels. In fact, not eating for long hours can also boost your stress levels. It also interferes with our sleeping cycle. It is every important to have a regular sleeping pattern so that you feel rested everyday to avoid the symptoms of low energy. It will not let your body go into energy saving mode due to slow metabolism. So, eat small meals at regular intervals for high energy levels throughout the day.
4. Food cravings
Food cravings can be influenced by several physical and mental factors. They can get triggered if you keep yourself away from food for longer hours. If you keep eating small meals in regular intervals, you will think less about food, thus no specific cravings. In fact, your high stress levels of controlling to eat can also make the cravings stronger. The ideal gap between meals should be 3-4 hours i.e the time that your body takes for digestion.
Therefore, these were beneficial reasons to small and frequent meals, and some risks of eating your food after long gaps by Dietician Arushi. You can talk to an expert about the quantity and timings of your diet routine. By doing this, you can have a successful and healthy weight loss along with healthy eating habits.
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