MANILA, March 18, 2004 (STAR) We have all heard the importance of having three square meals a day, and not to skip any of these meals. We’ve been taught that snacking in between meals is bad and only spoils our appetites. But have you heard that modern research is challenging these old notions about food?

First of all, there is nothing wrong with snacking; what is important is eating regularly. If too many hours pass in-between meals, our blood sugar drops, and often our bodies will crave carbohydrates since these are the foods that will provide the quickest supply of energy.

This often causes us to reach for sweets and other foods containing simple sugar, which give us a quick but ultimately an unsustainable source of energy. Eating small meals or snacks containing some complex carbohydrates, fats and protein every few hours helps keep our energy levels steady.

Small and frequent meals are also the best way to maintain our bodies’ internal balance, or homeostasis. Large meals followed by long periods between them often lead to wild swings in our body chemistry.

This is especially important for people who need to maintain a steady level of blood sugar, like diabetics, and it is ideal to consume small portions to help maintain these levels before symptoms like hypoglycemia occur.

Eating frequently helps our body’s metabolism to become more efficient, and is a much more effective method of weight control. The human body can quickly adapt to the changes brought about by our active lifestyles. When it detects hunger, often after only four hours, it tries to retain the fat and extra sugars left in the body by producing hormones to slow down our metabolisms.

Because fat is our body’s form of energy storage, it makes sense for it to store as much fat as it can to prepare for what it perceives to be a period of starvation. Also, when time finally comes for us to eat, we tend to binge and overeat because our body is preparing for the next famine.

Small and frequent meals prevent this from happening because the body never has to prepare for the onset of starvation. This prevents it from retaining extra fat and slowing down our metabolisms. So we continue to burn whatever fat is still in our bodies because we no longer need to store any energy.

Also, studies have shown that the people who eat smaller, more frequent meals (about four to seven a day) tend to eat less overall than people who eat larger and infrequent meals. This means that not only are our bodies burning fat faster but there is actually less to burn.

If weight loss is your main objective, you should consume a meal every three hours or less. Your meals should be smaller in size; you don’t want to feel full nor hungry. You should consume just enough to tide you over until your next meal.

Smaller and more frequent meals prevent the things that often come with overeating such as heartburn and indigestion. Larger meals often result in an overproduction of stomach acids, which can lead to gas and heartburn. And smaller portions mean a lighter load in your digestive system.

Of course, changing the way we eat like any other decision affecting our routines, requires disciplines. Eating regularly is just as important with the smaller and more frequent meals, probably even more so.

These smaller meals should still conform with the requirements of good nutrition, that is, a good amount of micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals, and a healthy balance of macronutrients such as proteins, fats and starchy, complex carbohydrates such as those found in instant noodles, which are easy to prepare and can be eaten at any convenient time.

With this in mind, you’ll be eating your way to a healthier, more balanced body in no time.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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