How Often and What Should We Eat for Optimal Health?

 

How often you should eat or how much food you need or the total calories you need from the number of meals and snacks for your body’s optimum functioning depends on your height, weight, age, sex, leisure activities, work, physical activities, genes, body compositions, general state of health, medications, and environment.  The optimal number of times a day to eat or how often you should eat does have some noticeable effects on the body, especially on metabolism, weight loss, blood sugar, and energy levels. There aren’t any studies to prove the point that regular meals that are spread into three to six meals a day affect metabolism positively.

Researchers found that established ritualized eating patterns have been influenced by different evolutionary periods from hunter-gatherers, farming, and the industrial to this technological era. Changing eating patterns in different historical periods significantly affected our metabolic abilities. Some anatomical developments, for example, happened during the hunter-gatherer stage when they used to need extra teeth to chew raw hard animal flesh and bones remain with us as wisdom teeth even though we no longer need them in these modern eating habits.

It’s All About Staying Within the Numbers

When it comes to how frequently should we eat, what’s important is the total number of calories consumed, not the number of meals. Healthy eating habits add up to the simple math of keeping yourself from starving. “Overall, it is still the total calorie intake that determines someone’s body size,” said Dr. Van Horn, a registered dietitian, and an American Heart Association volunteer. Remember to spread your calorie intake across the course of the day.

Blood Sugar Levels and Insulin Resistance

According to Dr. Eric Berg, DC  (an expert in Healthy Keto™ and intermittent fasting), every time you eat you trigger insulin. Irrespective of a small or large meal or snack when you eat your blood sugar and insulin go up at the same time. Insulin will take the sugar out of the blood and keep the blood sugar down. When the blood sugar is low you get hungry and crave food. For example, if you eat a heavy meal in a fast-food restaurant or some rich diet with lots of rice or refined carbs, fried foods with added MSG (Monosodium glutamate) salts, sugary sauces, and sugary drinks you spike insulin then it comes down really fast and you will feel hungry and thirsty again in the next hour or so. Feeling hungry doesn’t mean that your metabolism is working better. You are hungry because your blood sugars are low.

The insulin spike prevents you from burning fat and eventually leads to insulin resistance. That will create a plateau or a set point that you wouldn’t be able to pass when you try to lose weight. All the fat converted to the belly. So frequent meals are not a good idea for losing weight or higher metabolism. It’s not about consuming less food and fewer calories. It’s actually about consuming fewer meals with higher calories. We should keep the Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI) of calories within 2 to 3 meals a day without any snacks in between meals. That way you wouldn’t have that insulin spike and improve insulin resistance, correct any pre-diabetic situation and metabolism will increase. You will also lose fat because insulin is one of the counter hormones that makes you fat.

Weight Loss

In a recent American Journal of Clinical Nutrition editorial, a team of nutrition researchers concluded that whether you are practicing the “three” or “six” meal daily dietary pattern, weight loss ultimately comes down to “how much energy (or calories) is consumed as opposed to how often or how regularly one eats.”

It may seem like avoiding food is a good way to lose weight, but it’s not. Depriving your body of food isn’t good for you, and you typically wind up getting all those calories back – and then some – because you end up making yourself so hungry.

“Those who forego breakfast, eat little or no lunch, and then consume a large evening meal tend to have higher BMIs,” Dr. Van Horn said.

Longevity

Although there is insufficient evidence that concludes caloric restriction slows aging in humans. Observational studies have found that people of average weight tend to live longest. Nir Barzilai, a gerontologist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, says that the centenarians he studies have led him to believe that genetics is more important than diet and lifestyle. “They’re a chubby bunch,” he says. However, scientists from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge explained in the journal Nature, in 2012, that the two main factors that influence lifespan are good genes and a healthy, well-balanced diet.

The researchers believe that many previous studies were flawed, as they compared bad high-calorie diets with very low-calorie bad diets. In other words, there was no control. They explained that their 25-year study using rhesus monkeys on very low-calorie diets did not help them live longer.

When the NIA-funded monkey study began, however, studies of caloric restriction in short-lived animals were hinting at a connection. Experiments had shown that starvation made roundworms live longer. Other studies had shown that rats fed fewer calories than their slow and balding brethren maintained their shiny coats and youthful vigor. And more recently, molecular studies had suggested that caloric restriction — or compounds that mimicked it — might trigger a cascade of changes in gene expression that had the net effect of slowing aging.

In 2009, another study2, which began in 1989 at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center (WNPRC) in Madison, concluded that caloric restriction did extend life in rhesus monkeys. The investigators found that 13% of the dieting group died from age-related causes, compared with 37% of the control group. Healthy and unhealthy diets and calorie restrictions by cutting down unhealthy diets did affect their longevity.

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, published a study in 2013, suggested that if you eat your “five-a-day” portions of fruit and vegetables, you are likely to live longer.

In 2016, researchers concluded that diet’s effects on aging “are not simply the result of the reduced amount of calories consumed, but are also determined by diet composition.”

Daily Calorie Requirements

Below are some general daily calorie requirements for males and females. A low activity level means taking part in 30-60 minutes of moderate activity each day, such as walking at 3-4 miles per hour. Active level means at least 60 minutes of moderate activity each day.

Daily calorie requirement for males (Source: Health Canada):

Age Sedentary level Low active level Active level
2-3 years 1,100 1,350 1,500
4-5 years 1,250 1,450 1,650
6-7 years 1,400 1,600 1,800
8-9 years 1,500 1,750 2,000
10-11 years 1,700 2,000 2,300
12-13 years 1,900 2,250 2,600
14-16 years 2,300 2,700 3,100
17-18 years 2,450 2,900 3,300
19-30 years 2,500 2,700 3,000
31-50 years 2,350 2,600 2,900
51-70 years 2,150 2,350 2,650
71+ years 2,000 2,200 2,500

 

Daily calorie requirement for females:

Age Sedentary level Low active level Active level
2-3 years 1,100 1,250 1,400
4-5 years 1,200 1,350 1,500
6-7 years 1,300 1,500 1,700
8-9 years 1,400 1,600 1,850
10-11 years 1,500 1,800 2,050
12-13 years 1,700 2,000 2,250
14-16 years 1,750 2,100 2,350
17-18 years 1,750 2,100 2,400
19-30 years 1,900 2,100 2,350
31-50 years 1,800 2,000 2,250
51-70 years 1,650 1,850 2,100
71+ years 1,550 1,750 2,000

People aiming for a healthy body weight will need to check the calorie content of the food they eat so that they can compare how much they are burning against their consumption.

Body Mass Index (BMI) Table

The following weight and height chart uses BMI tables from the National Institute of Health to determine how much a person’s weight should be for their height.

Height Weight
Normal Overweight Obesity Severe obesity
4ft 10″
(58″)
91 to 115 lbs. 119 to 138 lbs. 143 to 186 lbs. 191 to 258 lbs.
4ft 11″
(59″)
94 to 119 lbs. 124 to 143 lbs. 148 to 193 lbs. 198 to 267 lbs.
5ft
(60″)
97 to 123 lbs. 128 to 148 lbs. 153 to 199 lbs. 204 to 276 lbs.
5ft 1″
(61″)
100 to 127 lbs. 132 to 153 lbs. 158 to 206 lbs. 211 to 285 lbs.
5ft 2″
(62″)
104 to 131 lbs. 136 to 158 lbs. 164 to 213 lbs. 218 to 295 lbs.
5ft 3″
(63″)
107 to 135 lbs. 141 to 163 lbs. 169 to 220 lbs. 225 to 304 lbs.
5ft 4″
(64″)
110 to 140 lbs. 145 to 169 lbs. 174 to 227 lbs. 232 to 314 lbs.
5ft 5″
(65″)
114 to 144 lbs. 150 to 174 lbs. 180 to 234 lbs. 240 to 324 lbs.
5ft 6″
(66″)
118 to 148 lbs. 155 to 179 lbs. 186 to 241 lbs. 247 to 334 lbs.
5ft 7″
(67″)
121 to 153 lbs. 159 to 185 lbs. 191 to 249 lbs. 255 to 344 lbs.
5ft 8″
(68″)
125 to 158 lbs. 164 to 190 lbs. 197 to 256 lbs. 262 to 354 lbs.
5ft 9″
(69″)
128 to 162 lbs. 169 to 196 lbs. 203 to 263 lbs. 270 to 365 lbs.
5ft 10″
(70″)
132 to 167 lbs. 174 to 202 lbs. 209 to 271 lbs. 278 to 376 lbs.
5ft 11″
(71″)
136 to 172 lbs. 179 to 208 lbs. 215 to 279 lbs. 286 to 386 lbs.
6ft
(72″)
140 to 177 lbs. 184 to 213 lbs. 221 to 287 lbs. 294 to 397 lbs.
6ft 1″
(73″)
144 to 182 lbs. 189 to 219 lbs. 227 to 295 lbs. 302 to 408 lbs.
6ft 2″
(74″)
148 to 186 lbs. 194 to 225 lbs. 233 to 303 lbs. 311 to 420 lbs.
6ft 3″
(75″)
152 to 192 lbs. 200 to 232 lbs. 240 to 311 lbs. 319 to 431 lbs.
6ft 4″
(76″)
156 to 197 lbs. 205 to 238 lbs. 246 to 320 lbs. 328 to 443 lbs.
BMI 19 to 24 25 to 29 30 to 39 40 to 54

Just preventing yourself from starving helps you stay within healthy eating. If you consume more calories than you burn off, you are likely to put on weight. To lose weight, reducing calorie intake and increasing the number of calories you burn are essential. It is important to eat a variety of natural foods to stay healthy.

The dietary patterns made with the combinations of low intake of red meat, high intakes of fish, plant-based foods, and non-sugar-sweetened beverages, are thought to be linked to relatively low mortality from cancer and ischemic heart disease and low prevalence of obesity.

 

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