Historians and nutritionists suggest that Greeks and Romans only had one meal a day. Not, as you could initially assume, because they didn’t have the resources for more, but because they believed it was a healthy way of life. The idea was to work through the day, drink lots of water and have an absolute feast for dinner, where they would get all their calories. To them, it made sense to wait to have finished digesting their first meal before starting their next one.
This way of life can have all kinds of positive affects on your health, such a weight loss, increased immune efficiency, and higher energy levels. These positive effects can easily be explained: digestion is a long and arduous process for your body, it requires resources and energy. When your body only has to do it once a day, instead of several overlapping times, the effort required is significantly reduced, sparing you the energy dip you often get after each meal and allowing your body to divide your resources more equally.
As the study done by the Davis School of Gerontology and Department of Biological Sciences, in the University of Southern California explains:
“Fasting has been practiced for millennia, but, only recently, studies have shed light on its role in adaptive cellular responses that reduce oxidative damage and inflammation, optimize energy metabolism, and bolster cellular protection. […] periodic fasting protects against diabetes, cancers, heart disease, and neurodegeneration, […] it helps reduce obesity, hypertension, asthma, and rheumatoid arthritis. Thus, fasting has the potential to delay aging and help prevent and treat diseases while minimizing the side effects caused by chronic dietary interventions.”
Many people that experiment with this diet today find that their mood and blood pressure is stabilized, they have more energy and enjoy their evening meal immensely. For those that used this diet as a weight loss technique, they found fasting and then having one large meal was much easier to keep up then restraining their calorie intake throughout the day. Think about it, you have to fit your entire daily calories into one meal. No matter how healthy and leafy the meal, it will still leave you feeling stuffed.
Studies show though that this diet can also have some downsides and health risks. The US Department of Agriculture found that eating one meal a day can raise your blood pressure. Another study found that eating one large meal a day can raise insulin resistance and glucose intolerance.
Meal frequency is more and more dictate by our lifestyle, health, and beliefs, than by the cultural “three meals a day” rule. Some people have been eating mostly one meal a day their entire life, unaware of the benefits it could lead to. Others are soundly against this method. And finally others still try something in between, they eat light snacks throughout the day and get about 80% of their calories at dinner. The point is that there is little scientific backing behind beliefs such as “breakfast is most important meal of the day” or that three meals a day are absolutely necessary to function.
Would you be willing to eat only one meal a day?