Tip: While fasting, consume dairy products as they not only hydrate but also provide energy.
The fasting season has just about commenced. Shravan Maas is believed to be highly auspicious and the best time to appease the gods. During this time, devotees have one meal a day and fast for the rest of the day. Or, they fast the entire day and have Prasadm, fruits or light meal at nights. For those fasting for spiritual or other reasons, Nutritionist and Dietician Golla Sailaja shares her expertise on the dos and don’ts of the same.
What exactly is fasting:
During this time, certain foods are partially or completely avoided. While prolonged fasting is dangerous and can lead to problems, when done occasionally, it can help in longevity by slowing ageing, lowering the body mass, reducing cholesterol as well as decreasing the risk of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.
Fasting once in a while is helpful provided the correct diet is taken before, after and during this period. Going without eating for an entire day and binging on junk food will not help the purpose. It will increase the chances of the person putting on more weight as the body might convert all the energy into fat which in turn can lead to health issues.
Add peanuts to your salads and other fasting foods to up the taste and nutrition.
Some dos of fasting:
- Keep yourself well-hydrated. While the type of fast might vary, it can be done before and after the fast. Consume juices, soups and other drinks available (preferably ones without straining and added sugars). It is best to eat foods that are rich in moisture like fruits, cucumber, etc.
- Consume foods that are rich in fibre. Fibre does not digest quickly and therefore gives a feeling of satiety for a long period. It also helps in releasing energy slowly (keeping you energetic the entire day) and holding water (thereby keeping you hydrated too). Dishes made of whole grains, salads, soups, vegetables, etc., are good sources of fibre and can be eaten before and after the fast or during the one meal of the day.
- Have a balanced diet. Eating correct portions of all food groups would help to get the energy, vitamins and minerals which would help to continue your daily routine without much difficulty. This should be done even after breaking the fast to avoid weight gain.
- Consume dairy products as they not only hydrate but also provide energy. Dairy products can be taken in any form like milk shakes, lassis, etc. But try to avoid caffeinated drinks as caffeine is a diuretic and can stimulate faster water loss through urination.
Go for organic fruits and vegetables as they are fresh and nutritious.
Some don’ts of fasting:
- Do not binge. Fasting for a day does not mean that one can overeat the next day.
- Do not have junk and deep fried food. Having fatty foods after the fast would nullify the entire effort. Also, avoid fatty sweets, samosas, etc.
- Do not have sugary foods. Sugar gives empty calories and nothing else. Foods like candies, etc., would get absorbed faster and only make one feel bloated. Instead, enjoy the natural sweetness of fruits.
- Do not have lavish dinners. The meal after the fast is mostly very festive and rich but keeping it as close to a regular diet as possible is the best way to avoid gaining a lot of calories.
- Sugary drinks – Soup/ Fresh fruit juices (Unstrained) / Low fat lassi
- Paneer – Soya
- Chicken / Pork / Mutton – Fish
- Sweets – Fruit Salad
- Pakora / Samosa – Baked vegetables
Fasting is a practice which is seen in almost all religions, so doing it religiously and keeping up the spirit of it in the correct way is the best way to lead a healthy life.
Golla Sailaja is a Research Assistant at School of Pharmacy and Food Sciences, University of Barcelona. She is qualified with M.Sc in Dietetics and Applied Nutrition.