When is the best time of day to eat? Start early, experts say

- From that morning cup of coffee to that late glass of wine, research shows we eat, on average, for 15 hours a day. But Emory Healthcare Internist Dr. Sharon Bergquist says that kind of constant grazing could be tripping us up. Researchers believe our organs, much like our brain, each has their own natural cycle, of times when they're active and times they power down and go into "rest" mode.

"And, if our eating is not in sync with the natural cycle of our entire system, that can wreak havoc on our metabolic health," Dr. Bergquist explains.  "It can increase our risk of obesity; it can increase our blood sugar. So, it's not just what you eat, but when you eat that food."

If you are eating late at night, you could be throwing off your digestive system, she says.

"For example, if it's nighttime and your body is ready to power down, but you go eat a snack,"

Bergquist says. "Well, your metabolic rate is all confused.  Is it nighttime or is it daytime? It's akin to getting jetlag in your digestive system or your pancreas."

The optimal time to eat for your body clock is the early morning to late afternoon when the digestive system is most active.

"So, the old adage, eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper, that holds true with your circadian clock," Bergquist says.

And that 15-hour stretched-out style of eating?  Cut that way down.

"You want to keep your meals within about an 8-hour window," she says.  "Because all of our organs need some time rest and rejuvenate."

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