Average Reading Time: 2 minutes and 13 seconds
According to Ayurveda, meals should be larger in the middle of the day and smaller in the evening. Both modern science and ancient wisdom support this theory and the health benefits that come from eating a big lunch and a light dinner.
The fact that the word “supper” comes from the words “soup” and “supplemental” suggests that small or supplemental evening meals were a part of our history. To support this theory, Europeans still to this day eat 60% of their total daily food consumption before 2PM, with their largest meal always at lunch. Europeans have superior cardiovascular health to Americans – which may be, in part, due to them not pigging out at night!
The Interesting Science: Vegetable Potency is Strongest at NOON
Dr. Janet Braam, Professor of Cell Biology at Rice University performed research on the circadian rhythms of plants. According to Dr. Braam, vegetables increase and decrease certain phytochemicals based on the time of day. The immune systems and nutrient blueprint of certain vegetables are dependent on light and dark cycles, even after they have been picked!
Plants that sit in brightly-lit grocery stores 24 hours a day lose their circadian rhythms, and thus may lose much of their nutritional strength. Vegetables may be more susceptible to harmful bacteria and fungi when not exposed to the natural cycles of light and dark.
While more vegetables need to be tested, her preliminary findings have shown that the most potent time for these chemicals was the middle of the day. After midday, the phytochemicals would begin to wane and became least potent at night. (4)
Heavy Dinners Do Not Digest Well
In one study, researchers fed a group of people aged 25-55 a diet of 90 grams of protein a day for one week. They were fed 11 grams of protein for breakfast, 16 grams of protein for lunch and 63 grams of protein for dinner. During the next week, the same group was fed 30 grams of protein at each meal – 30 grams for breakfast, 30 grams for lunch and 30 grams for dinner. (1)
The results were significant. When the group ate 90 grams of protein evenly distributed throughout three meals, the protein synthesis improved by 25% compared to eating a very heavy high protein dinner. (1)
According to Ayurveda, at 6PM around sunset, the ability to digest begins to decline. Digestive strength seems to track cortisol levels, which also decline in the early evening.
Ayurvedic Research on a Big Lunch
In a pilot study I conducted based on the principles in my book, The 3-Season Diet, I asked a group of middle-aged men and women to eat three meals a day for 6 weeks. Lunch was their largest meal and supper was their lightest. Within two weeks, based on a subjective self-evaluation, they reported significant improvements in the following: (2,3)
While more research is needed to make this case ironclad, there is enough evidence here to consider experimenting at home with bigger lunches and lighter dinners and see if you can feel the difference. This is one of the steps in my Ayurvedic Weight Balancing eBook, which you can download for free on my site.