Ah, the age-old question of healthy eating. Some say stick to three meals a day, with no snacking. Others say intermittent fasting is the way to do it – eat as much as you want per meal, but limit them to a certain time of day, or skip eating at all on occasion.
Others recommend “grazing” throughout the day, eating multiple small meals to keep your metabolism going and keep you from feeling hungry. But which of these approaches to healthy eating is best? The answer, it seems, depend on the individual.
No Clear Winner
Researchers have been studying the difference between different eating plans for decades, and no clear winner has moved to the forefront. Scientists have found that intermittent fasting does produce some additional benefits when compared to general caloric restriction, but there are many versions of intermittent fasting out there, and it can be an extremely difficult eating plan to stick to.
Studies have also shown that a diet consisting of 17 snacks throughout the day produced some lowering effects on cholesterol and cortisol when compared to a diet of three meals per day, but had no effect on blood glucose or tryglycerides.
A similar study that compared a three meal day plan with a nine meal day plan found that nine meals per day had a small lowering effect on cholesterol (both HDL and LDL), but had no effect on weight loss or gain. So there are some benefits to more meals per day, but they are fairly slight and seem to have no impact on weight loss or gain.
Of course, these are only a small sampling of the studies that have been conducted, as there are countless more out there with conflicting results.