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How Your Eating Behavior Affects Your Heart (Plus 7 Simple Habits to Start Now)

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It is no secret that what you eat is integral to staying, or getting, healthy. However, one thing many people don’t realize is that, how you eat, is just as important as what you eat.

Everyone’s eating habits are unique to them and can affect everyone differently. Whether you prefer late dinners, or large portions and few meals, you need to be aware of the effect that these habits have on your body.

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These dietary behaviors are nothing new. We all know someone who skips breakfast or is a late night snacker (beware of the night munchies). But these types of seemingly innocuous behaviors can lead to major dietary problems. In a 2017 study by Actra Cardiology, a peer-reviewed medical journal, the effects of these behaviors became shockingly apparent.

The purpose of this study was to test the strength at which eating behaviors correlated to heart rate variability. This study was extremely important as heart rate variability directly ties into one’s cardiovascular health, and cardiovascular disease remains the #1 killer of Americans, accounting for “almost one in every four deaths.” – (Legg 2017)

This study pulled roughly 400 healthy subjects to respond to a questionnaire. The questionnaire gauged the subjects’ adherence to the Mediterranean diet, how often they skipped breakfast, frequency of late night snacks, tendency to snack in general and rapid eating.

All of these different dietary habits had an impact, but they found skipping breakfast had the most negative effect on one’s heart rate variability. Simply put, the scheduling and consistency of your meals is just as important as the nutritional value within them.

We’ve all heard that breakfast really is the most important meal of the day, and its true. Not only do you need that first meal to give you enough energy to power through the rest of your work day. You also need to maintain a consistent eating schedule to keep your heart healthy, your body full and your mind focused.

In addition to eating a wholesome breakfast daily, there are some other dietary habits that can help keep your heart healthy and stay healthy overall.

7 Easy Dietary Habits You Can Start Today

1. Schedule

As previously discussed, meal times play a huge role in how effectively we process foods and start our day. Creating a schedule for when you eat breakfast, lunch and dinner can not only be beneficial for your health, but your day to day organization as well.

2. Prep Prep Prep!

Meal prep, or preparing your meals in advance, allows you to stick to this dietary schedule noted right above. Not having to think of last minute meals helps eliminate the urge to cheat on your healthy diet! This preparation also leads to more uniform portions for the week.

3. Less Is More

We tend to clear our plate when we sit for meals. This can often lead to over-eating under the guise of not being wasteful. Smaller portions allow us to not only control our calorie intake but trick our brains and bodies into feeling fuller.

4. Slow It Down

Remember our article Slow Your Roll — Slow Eating Speed Linked to Weight Loss? Even if you’re not a speed eater, slowing down the rate at which you eat can prove beneficial. Slowing your pace when eating works in the same manner as cooking smaller portions. When you draw out a meal you can trick your body and mind into feeling fuller.

5. Get Counting

Even if you’re not aiming to lose weight, it is always beneficial to know your daily caloric intake. This information allows you to make more in-depth dietary decisions in the future, and allow you to more accurately consult with a nutritionist.

Sources:

Nichols, H., & Legg, T. J. (2017, February 23). The top 10 leading causes of death in the United States. Retrieved April 25, 2018, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/282929.php

American College of Sports Medicine. Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription. 9th ed. Baltimore, Md: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2013.

Mehmet Emre Ozpelit & Ebru Ozpelit (2017) How we eat may be as important as what we eat: eating behaviour and heart rate variability, Acta Cardiologica, 72:3, 299-304, DOI: 10.1080/00015385.2017.1304749

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