Diane May Nutrition Blog

What Is Chrononutrition

November 6th, 2020

 The definition of Chrononutrition is the interplay between nutrition and our circadian rhythm. Circadian rhythms are physical, mental and behavioral changes that follow a 24 our cycle, that includes eating, appetite, digestion and metabolism! We all have a master clock, which is located in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) in the brains hypothalamus. The master clock receives light signals from the eye’s retina and sends that information to various parts of the brain. Research has shown that  eating at the wrong times could have a a major impact on our circadian rhythms. Our body responds better to consistency and timing of meals and consistency of when we have those meals is no different. It is not just what we eat, but when we eat. We should pay attention to meal timing and light exposure, meaning it is best to eat during daylight hours and on a regular schedule when possible.

What can affect circadian rhythm:

  • Age
  •  Ethnicity
  • Light/dark cycles
  • Genetics
  • Sleep
  • Shift work
  • Socializing
  • Jett lag

Studies have shown that a disruption in circadian rhythm is associated with metabolic syndrome, obesity, cardiovascular disease and cancer. There are many areas of ongoing research regarding chrononutrition but I will focus on is studies related to obesity and diabetes. Glucose metabolism follows a circadian cycle through glucose tolerance that typically peak during daylight hours, when we usually eat and reduces when it is dark out and fasting usually happens. Insulin and cortisol fluctuate due to circadian cycles. It has been proven that insulin secretion and sensitivity are closely regulated by circadian control and have a strong affect on glucose metabolism. Choice of food alone seems to not dictate blood glucose control, meal timing plays a role as well. The same meal consumed at night versus the morning may affect blood glucose control. Consuming less carbohydrate and increasing protein and fat at night for a person with diabetes has shown to produce better glycemic control. Studies have shown that eating the bulk of our calories earlier in the day can regulate weight and reduce risk of obesity as well. 

So what can you do to create a healthy circadian eating cycle:

  • Eat at consistent times. If you are having difficulty because of work, stress or lack of structure, set an alarm in your phone to remind you when to eat and snack.
  • Try not to skip meals as that can trigger the hunger hormones grhelin and neuropeptide Y as they will make you overs consume later.
  • Try to eat at least 4 hours apart. this can prevent overeating and grazing.
  • Try and eat the majority of your calories during daylight hours. This can be difficult, especially during daylight savings, but consider switching your biggest meal to mid day when possible. Eating the majority of your calories at night has been linked to obesity and metabolic disorders.

The benefits of chrononutrition are still being researched, but it is beneficial to create structure with meals and try to consume our meals during daylight hours. If you want more help creating a healthy timed meal plan, reach out to your RD!


Quinoa, butternut squash, and almonds combine to make this hearty vegetarian side dish.


Recipe Summary

Active: 25 mins
Total: 55 mins
Servings: 8


Ingredient Checklist


Instructions Checklist
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine butternut squash, garlic, and crushed red pepper. Drizzle with 2 teaspoons of olive oil. Stir until the squash is evenly coated. Spoon into a 15x10x1-inch baking pan. Roast for 30 minutes in preheated oven, stirring once and adding the sliced almonds for the last 4 to 5 minutes of roasting.

  • In a large bowl, mix remaining 3 teaspoons olive oil with quinoa, snipped sage leaves, and salt. Stir in roasted squash and almonds. If desired, garnish with sage leaves.

Nutrition Facts

132 calories; protein 3.5g 7% DV; carbohydrates 19.4g 6% DV; exchange other carbs 1.5; dietary fiber 3.1g 12% DV; sugars 1.7g; fat 5.2g 8% DV; saturated fat 0.5g 3% DV; cholesterol mg; vitamin a iu 7489.8IU 150% DV; vitamin c 16mg 27% DV; folate 40.6mcg 10% DV; calcium 53.9mg 5% DV; iron 1.4mg 8% DV; magnesium 61.9mg 22% DV; potassium 357.9mg 10% DV; sodium 152.1mg 6% DV.