Every year a new diet becomes trendy, claiming to have all of the solutions to your problems. Often, these diets are based on little or no evidence. However, if there is one healthy diet that has survived time and scientific scrutiny, it’s the circadian diet. Before we get to the diet part, let us first understand the circadian rhythm. According to the Sleep Foundation, “Circadian rhythms are 24-hour cycles that are part of the body’s internal clock. One of the most important and well-known circadian rhythms is the sleep-wake cycle.” Our many biological functions like digestion are paired with a brain clock. This brain clock depends on a number of environmental factors, including light. The circadian rhythm diet is a type of intermittent eating plan that links meals with our body’s internal clock. So, in simple terms, you eat for 12 hours when the sun is out and fast for the next 12 hours after sunset. Contrary to conventional eating habits, breakfast and lunch become big meals and dinner becomes a smaller affair.
The logic behind this healthy diet is related to how hormones react to daylight. In the morning, your insulin sensitivity spikes up which makes you alert and active. While in the evening, insulin production decreases which makes you feel less energized and sleepy. When you eat energy-rich food or a large dinner your body starts making insulin during the night. You do not need much insulin at night as you rest. When you don’t utilise this extra insulin-induced energy then you are left with excess insulin which hampers your sleep and mood. When you have a light dinner, your body starts burning stored fat instead of glucose, which aids in weight loss.A research indicated that nurses who worked on the night shift and ate late dinners were more susceptible to problems like cardiovascular diseases and obesity because of disrupted cortisol and insulin production. Another study has proven how metabolisms are closely dependent on circadian rhythms. A primary reason why people give up on a healthy diet is because of intense sugar cravings and hunger pangs. It is a lesser-known fact that sleep can regulate hunger by affecting the production of ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin triggers hunger, while leptin suppresses it. When our circadian rhythm is unbalanced due to sleep deprivation, the ghrelin level shoots up while leptin decreases. This hormonal imbalance leads to increased hunger.
Although everyone can benefit from this diet, nutritionists especially recommend it to people who are looking to stop late-night binging or suffer from lifestyle diseases like hypertension and obesity. The circadian diet improves gut health and sleep. Initial research shows that the circadian diet eating lowers blood pressure, inflammation and cholesterol. It also boosts beta-cell responsiveness and mitigates oxidative stress.
Circadian fasting, or the circadian diet, plays a huge role on skin. Dr. Amy Shah, medical doctor and nutrition expert says, “Fasting helps reduce infections and chronic inflammation in both your body and skin”. This will help minimise breakouts and inflammatory conditions like rosacea. Circadian fasting also forces the body to use stored glucose, which improves and quickens cell turnover and will slow down the signs of ageing.
A cardinal rule of the circadian diet is that you must consume 75 percent of your nutrition by mid-afternoon and leave 12 hours between your last meal and the first meal of the next day. You can divide your food intake into a large breakfast and lunch, followed by two snack breaks in the evening and a light dinner at night. Take your breakfast within two hours after you wake up and pack it with proteins and carbohydrates. Include fermented food and fibre-rich vegetables in your meals. A time restricted diet does not mean eating junk food. You must add major food groups and micronutrients into your meals to achieve a healthy diet because what you eat is just as important as when you eat.
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