We know what to eat for a good heart, but what about when to eat?
All this while, we’ve bloviated about the ideal cardiac diet. Take in those soluble fibres, don’t miss out on the phytonutrients, Omega-3 fatty acids are a must and the greens are indispensable, they told us. But we forgot something fundamental. The importance of consuming these in accordance with the circadian rhythm, or our internal body clock that guides us towards the ‘right’ time for eating, sleeping and exercising.
Timing is everything
Simply put, eat the most when the sun is up and stop when it sets. “Only when a heart-friendly diet is integrated within this paradigm, is it able to support cardiovascular well-being,” says Dr Ravi Gupta, Cardiologist, Wockhardt Hospital, South Bombay.
The reason for this is found in our evolutionary history.
The circadian rhythm is an ever-evolving process, one that first developed at the time of our early progenitors. Basic sustenance for them was tied to the natural phenomenon of sunset and sunrise. They went out hunting during the day, and food was cooked and eaten while there was still light in the sky. Nightfall was an inconvenient time. It made them pull the breaks on everything and they had to surrender to sleep. “Over time, the human body became habitual to this process and our circadian rhythm began responding the best to this prehistoric biological function.
The modern man is a recipient of this,” says Agra-based anthropologist Suman Nanda. Cut to the present day, when we’ve lost touch with this rhythm and have invited obesity, insulin resistance, hypertension, and immunity deficiencies into our lives,” shares Gupta.
Electronics confuse you
For your circadian diet to bear fruit, one needs to sleep on time. This is a distant dream when the blue light punctures your nights. “The logic is that when the sun sets, it radiates orange rays, an indication for nightfall. But the blue light tells your brain it’s day time, tricking it to stay alert. This upsets sleep stages, digestion and hormone function,” says Pune-based nutritionist Dr Rohini Somnath Patil, Founder and CEO of Nutracy Lifestyle.
Not everybody can metabolise coffee at night. The amount of caffeine in a double espresso or its equivalent three hours before bedtime induced a 40-minute-phase delay in the roughly 24-hour human biological clock, according to the University of Colorado Boulder and the Medical Research Council’s Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England.
Reverse the calories
By sundown, all kinds of food should be avoided. “An average human consumes food for 16-17 hours a day. Our intestines need to ‘sleep’. If we continue eating, all that food just piles up,” says Gupta.
The effectiveness of the circadian rhythm diet and exercise is interlinked. ‘Exercise is a strong entrainment signal for mammalian circadian clock. Proper exercise can have a significant circadian phase-shifting effect and affect the sleep and wake schedule in human,’ states a study by Dr Chao-Yung Wang, Department of Cardiology, Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, Taiwan.
Clearing the misconception
Contrary to popular belief, the circadian diet is not limited to heart patients. It’s for everybody. This is a lifestyle diet with a set of rules and recommendations that looks at the heart and its function with the natural rhythms of the sun. A synchronised way of eating has long-term health benefits across all
“The blue light in your phone disturbs the circadian rhythm, tricking the mind into staying alert, thereby upsetting hormone function.” Dr Rohini Somnath Patil, Nutritionist, Founder & CEO, Nutracy Lifestyle, Pune.
“An average human being consumes food for 16-17 hours a day. Our intestines need to ‘sleep’. If we continue eating, all that food just piles up,” Dr Ravi Gupta, Cardiologist, Wockhardt Hospital, Mumbai.