Clinical ayurvedic specialist and certified Anusara yoga instructor Cate Stillman says humans aren't built to snack in between meals, or to substitute snacks for meals. In a new podcast on the yoga education site Yoga in My School, Stillman claims that our modern snacking habits can damage our emotional stability.
As diurnal mammals, Stillman says, humans need to eat three meals a day without snacks in between, and wait three to five hours between these meals to fully digest before eating again. Snacking is "not in tune with nature or being a mammal and how our digestive tract evolved," Stillman says. "It's going to lead to a totally different thought pattern, emotional pattern, and a very different physical reality."
In modern society, Stillman points out, "[almost] nobody eats real meals; everybody snacks." This, she says, "stimulates a more stressful experience in the mind. We might be eating a perfectly wonderful local, organic, seasonal diet, but snacking... gives us more of a propensity to be out of balance."
This advice is in contrast to other recent studies: many nutrition experts believe that grazing, or eating several small meals a day rather than three big ones, can keep your energy levels up and your weight down. Because grazing stops you from ever becoming overly hungry, you resist the temptation to scarf down a bigger portion than you might have eaten if you hadn't come to the table ravenous.
In terms of mental health, most nutrition advice is geared more toward what you eat than when you eat it - consuming a balanced diet is strongly recommended for optimum emotional wellbeing.
In addition to the pitfalls of snacking, Stillman's podcast also deals with ayurvedic health for teenagers. Listen to the rest of the podcast at Yoga in My School.