Can Eating At Certain Times Of The Day Boost Your Mental Health?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a healthy and well-balanced diet is made up of a diversity of foods. For example, foods that come from animals — like eggs, fish, and meat — in addition to fruits and vegetables are considered to be healthy foods because they contain essential vitamins. Fruits and vegetables also contain beneficial antioxidants. On the other hand, the WHO states that a healthy diet excludes the excessive consumption of fats — especially saturated and trans fats — in addition to salt and sugar. 

Eating healthy has its benefits, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For example, a balanced diet can keep your skin healthy, make your bones stronger, and lower your risk of developing chronic conditions like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even some cancers. Beyond the physical benefits, a healthy diet may also help improve your mental health. For example, a person with a high glycemic load may experience symptoms of depression (via MedicalNewsToday). 

There may be a connection between diet and mental health, but is there a connection between the time of day you eat and mental health?

Can eating at certain times benefit your mental health?

Recent research has suggested there are connections between meal timing — or the time of day or night at which you eat — and mental health. For example, a 2021 study published in the journal Nutrients found that having meals at a consistent time daily may play an important role in maintaining overall health. The researchers surveyed over 4,000 Japanese workers and found an association between those who reported eating at irregular times and issues, such as trouble sleeping. An unhealthy diet, missing breakfast, and more snacking were all explanations for meal irregularity. 

A more recent 2022 study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found another connection between meal timing and mental health. The researchers simulated day and night shift working conditions, and analyzed the results of eating during the day and night — this data was compared to only eating at night (per Harvard Medical School). The researchers found that working a night shift plus eating during the day and night increased anxiety-like mood levels by over 16% and depression by more than 26%. Sarah Chellappa, an author of the study, told MedicalNewsToday that the consumption of nighttime meals disrupts the body's circadian rhythm. This, in turn, may explain the decline in overall health.