May 17, 2019

The Most Important Meal of the Day, According to Ayurveda.


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Do you ever skip lunch and focus on a large meal late in the day?

When do you consume the majority of your meals? Have you ever wondered if the timing of your meals can affect your mood and overall health?

In 1984, during my first year in practice, I found myself exhausted at the end of a long day of seeing patients. To figure out why I was so tired after work, I went to see an Ayurvedic doctor. Before my exam, the nurse took my blood pressure and informed me it was high, which surprised me as I did yoga and breathing meditations, I was a competitive triathlete, and I had finished an Ironman—why would I have high blood pressure at 27?

The first thing the doctor asked me was, “What do you eat for lunch?”

I told him that I had a busy practice and struggled to stay on time. I found myself typically with only 10-15 minutes for lunch and would quickly grab a bite or one of the chocolate truffles that were always gracing the staff lounge. I told him that I would have a nice big breakfast and a nice big dinner, but lunch was on the run.

He told me that I should schedule more time for lunch: “Go home and have a nice, relaxing, warm cooked meal in the middle of the day and you will never have blood pressure problems again.” I pushed back, asking for an Ayurvedic pill, but he was quite clear that I did not need medicine, just a reset of my daily rhythms.

We now call this “circadian medicine,” and it is Nobel Prize-winning science.

Shortly thereafter, I reset my schedule to have an hour and a half for lunch. I would leave the clinic and find a nice relaxing place to enjoy what became the largest meal of my day.

My blood pressure resolved in a few weeks and I started telling patients to do the same. I did a small clinical study with my patients and saw that making such a simple lifestyle shift was often all that was needed to resolve certain types of blood pressure issues.

Circadian meal rules:

  1. Eat breakfast.
  2. Eat a bigger lunch.
  3. Eat a smaller, earlier supper.

When do you eat?

For decades now, I have preached the health benefits of minding when you eat. In America, we are conditioned to eat three meals a day, with dinner usually the biggest meal.

Ayurveda suggests that supper should be the smallest meal, eaten as early as possible—aligning the word supper with the soup or supplemental.

A new study, published in the journal Circulation, supported by the American Heart Association, evaluated mealtimes of more than 12,000 participants between 18 and 76 years old. 56.6 percent ate more than 30 percent of their daily calories after 6 p.m.

That group had a 23 percent increased risk of developing high blood pressure and a 19 percent higher risk of becoming prediabetic compared to those who ate less than 30 percent of their daily calories after 6 p.m.

Many emerging studies back a new interest in circadian medicine and, without realizing it, they support basic Ayurvedic rules that had been laid down thousands of years ago.

In another study of over 50,000 Seventh-day Adventists, meal timing was evaluated for impact on long-term weight loss. They found:

>> Breakfast eaters lost more weight than breakfast skippers.

>> Larger breakfast eaters lost more weight than larger dinner eaters.

>> Larger lunch eaters lost more weight than larger dinner eaters.

They concluded that for relatively healthy adults, eating less frequently, not snacking, consuming breakfast, and eating the largest meal in the morning or midday may be effective methods for preventing long-term weight gain.

Meal timing for blood pressure, weight loss, and energy.

The studies I cited above found that these three simple rules do in fact lower blood pressure, as well as support long-term weight loss. If you have these types of health concerns, then making these lifestyle changes are the best place to start.

Not only did I see my own blood pressure come down, but I still have low blood pressure to this day. My original concern of being exhausted after work was also eradicated by this simple shift, and thank God for that!

My partner and I raised six children and still, after work, I’m recruited for homework help, track meets, and other projects by my two remaining kids who are in high school.

Ayurveda starts with circadian medicine for good reason. Fixing your daily routine (dinacharya) and seasonal routine (ritchucharya) is step one to healthy energy levels, blood pressure, balanced weight, and more.

Try it out and let us know what happens!


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