One Large Meal Or A Few Small Meals, What's Better
Image Credit: Image credit: Shutterstock| Meal portions

For best health, it is commonly believed in contemporary culture that people should divide their daily diet into three substantial meals: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This idea is mostly based on early research studies and culture. However, in recent years, specialists have started to adopt a different viewpoint, contending that eating smaller, more frequent meals may be the most effective strategy for preventing chronic disease and losing weight. More people are adjusting their eating habits to include several short meals throughout the day as a result. 

Small, frequent meals, according to those who support them, can enhance satiety—the sensation of being full after eating—increase metabolism and body composition, reduce energy slumps, normalise blood sugar levels, and prevent overeating. While some research supports these suggestions, others don't seem to offer much of a benefit. In fact, some evidence indicates sticking to three larger meals would be preferable. 

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Studies show that eating more frequently can lower blood lipid (fat) levels and lower the risk of heart disease. As a result, a lot of health professionals advise against eating fewer, larger meals each day. According to some research conducted over the years, those who report eating small, frequent meals have lower cholesterol levels than those who eat less than three meals each day. 

One cross-sectional study from 2019 indicated that eating more than four meals per day boosts HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol and decreases fasting triglycerides more effectively than eating fewer than three meals per day. A lower risk of heart disease is linked to higher HDL levels. Both total cholesterol and LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol showed no differences in this investigation. It is crucial to remember that since this was an observational study, it can only demonstrate correlation, not cause. 

Furthermore, a review article published in the American Heart Association's journal Circulation found that frequent eating is linked to a lower risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. 

Meal Plan and Weight Loss 

It's a popular misconception that eating more frequently can aid in weight loss. The research on this, though, is somewhat fragmented. 

One study, for instance, evaluated the effects of eating three meals per day vs six smaller, more frequent meals on body fat and hunger perception. Using the same macronutrient ratio of 30% fat, 55% carbohydrates, and 15% protein, both groups received enough calories to maintain their current body weight. Researchers found no difference between the two groups in terms of energy expenditure or body fat decrease at the conclusion of the study. It's interesting to note that those who ate six smaller meals throughout the day felt more hungry and craved food than those who only ate three larger meals. 

Even though calorie intake was kept under control in both groups, researchers believed that people who ate more frequently would be more likely to overeat on a daily basis than people who ate fewer meals. According to the findings of another sizable observational study, healthy adults can avoid gaining weight over the long term by eating less frequently, spacing out their meals by 5 to 6 hours, avoiding snacks, eating their largest meal first thing in the morning, and sleeping for 18 to 19 hours at night.