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Is it healthy to eat three meals a day?

Our ancestors rarely ate more than once a day, and now it's traditional for most people to sit down and have a full meal for dinner

ANDREW J. LINN

Everyone has their favourite meal of the day. For some it is breakfast, others dinner, and others may prefer tea (or merienda in Spain).

But is eating three meals a day the healthiest option? For most of recorded history, our ancestors survived on one meal a day. This was not out of preference, but because it was more practical and there wasn't much food around anyway.

These days, we are told to breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dine like a pauper. This doesn't quite fit with the lifestyle in northern Europe and the USA though, where dinner is a time for the family to sit down to eat together, even if it's just in front of the telly.

Fasting for 12 hours a day gives our digestion time to rest, reducing inflammation

Dieticians now advise us to fast for 12 hours, which normally involves dining early and breakfasting late. This gives our digestive system time to rest, thereby reducing inflammation, something that is always to be recommended.

An early dinner widens the fasting window, and is something Spaniards would be advised to do. Although, to be fair, in Spain lunch has always been the main meal of the day, with dinner being more of a snack before bed. A longer fast reduces blood sugar levels in cells, which in turn can prevent diabetes.

Keeping blood glucose at correct and regular levels requires two or even three meals a day. Early breakfasts are not so good, because they reduce the number of fasting hours. In this way, the Catalans are on the right track with their midday tortilla, accompanied by a glass of or beer. We are not talking about tapas here, rather pre-tapas, a sort of midway meal that many know as brunch. Perhaps, they invented brunch without being aware of it!