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When You Eat May Reduce Your Heart Disease Risk

April 25, 2017

When you eat may be just as important as what you put on your plate, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).

AHA recently released a scientific statement that says waiting too long to eat between meals and eating late at night can have a negative impact on your heart health. Eating breakfast, planning your meals and not eating late at night all have been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, stroke and blood vessel diseases, AHA says, adding that fasting isn’t a healthy approach either and that it’s unclear if it has any long-term benefits.

Research also is inconclusive about whether eating more frequent meals is better for heart health and overall health. While some studies show that eating more than four meals a day may reduce obesity risk (a major risk factor for heart disease), other research has found people are more likely to gain weight when they eat frequently.

There isn’t definitive evidence either way about how certain eating patterns impact health, but what is clear is that eating a healthy, balanced diet filled with lean protein, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains is beneficial for most people. These foods are filled with healthy fats and fiber that keep you full, which can curb overeating and late-night snacking. Research also shows that breakfast may be deemed the most important meal of the day for a reason: eating a regular breakfast reduces a person’s risk of heart disease, and previous studies have linked skipping breakfast to an increased risk of coronary heart disease or a non-fatal heart attack.

So, where do we go from here if we aren’t clear on which eating patterns are best? The AHA stresses that balance is key and that an all-or-nothing approach when it comes to eating typically doesn’t lead to success for most people. The organization says, “intentional eating with mindful attention to the timing and frequency of eating occasions could lead to a healthier lifestyle and cardiometabolic risk factor management.”

To stay healthy and reduce your heart disease risk, spread your calories throughout the day (don’t binge) and eat your largest and most nutrient-dense meal at the beginning of the day. Stick to a regular schedule and meal plan as much as possible to avoid late-night snacking and binge eating unhealthy foods.

The bottom line: don’t go too long between meals because you’re more likely to make poor food choices. Avoid foods with lots of saturated fat, salt and sugar and instead stock your refrigerator with healthy snacks like veggies, nuts, seeds, avocados, low-fat dairy products and lean meats like chicken or fish so healthy options are always within reach. Your heart health — and overall health — depend on it.

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