Fasting or Vrat is integral to Indian culture. Whether it is a Shiva devotee fasting on Monday for a good husband, or a Santoshi Mata believer doing so in the hope of realizing a wish, this religious observance has been prevalent in some form or other since generations. Many even follow abstaining from certain foods on particular days for weight loss.
Here, we throw light on how beneficial fasting is and who should refrain from it.
Taking periodic breaks from eating has physical benefits. There is a research study which actually indicates a reduction in the risk of diabetes or heart ailments. Though our body has natural detox centers like liver, colon, kidney, skin, fasting could perhaps help in the detoxification process.
Helps in weight loss:
Fasting could help you lose weight. Our body uses glucose as a major source of energy. When you refrain from eating, blood sugar level reduces and so does glucose. It is then that your body turns to glycogen and uses it for energy. Glycogen is glucose which is stored for vitality. Once it is used up, your body begins to burn fat. This state is called the ketosis when your body burns fat as the primary source of fuel. That is where you begin to lose weight.
However pregnant women, patients with cardiac problems or renal ailment should avoid fasting. Other people who should not do so are those below 18 years of age, underweight individuals, diabetic and patients recovering from surgery.
In rushed times today, it is difficult to be aware of what we eat all the time. It is possible that we unknowingly miss out on nutrients important for our health. Junk food is always the easiest way to fill of stomachs and carry on with life, not to mention weekend bingeing and Saturday night party drinking. All such food is definitely not good for health if eaten regularly.
However, while fasting, people are more aware of their diet as they are consuming only selective food. They take a break from their regular diet switching to a healthier food. So you have only fruits diet like in ‘Palahar fast’ or Friday fast which forbids anything sour or Saturday fast which promotes a no salt diet, etc.
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Nutrition by default:
Fasting focuses on eating subtle tasting nutrient-rich whole foods like fruits, vegetables, greens, sprouts. Therefore by default you are on a nutritious diet. For example, if fruits are not a part of your regular meal, a ‘Palahar diet’ will push you to have fruits which are good for you. This gives our body a chance to balance out the nutrition levels in our body.
Digestion gets a break:
There is no harm in giving your digestive system a break from hard work it does otherwise. So, in the name of fasting, our system gets relief, metabolism is energized thus aiding to burning calories faster and efficiently. However, while fasting gives your system a relief from labor and helps reduce the toxins, it also robs your body of vital nutrients. People who regularly fast are quickly dehydrated. To replace nutrient-deficiency, ensure that diet is packed with nutritious knick-knacks and liquids. This is because their body is devoid of any fluid from food. Hunger can deprive you of sleep and give you headaches.
Improves brain functioning:
Fasting increases the production and release of a protein called BDNF (Brain-derived neurotrophic factor). BDNF activates and stimulates brain cells promoting healthy nerves. This protein also decreases chances of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Fast feels light and wonderful:
During a fast, your body feels light making you break into a ballet dance. This feather light feeling lends a sense of happiness and well being releasing stress and hyper tension.
Watching our diet is the best way to balance cholesterol. With a strict control on what you consume during a fast, the cholesterol levels are stabilized thus promoting good health.
Boosts immune system:
Fasting also brings down the chances of free radicals damaging your body. This facilitates and boosts the immune system and decreases your chances of getting cancer or falling ill.
Points to remember:
- Fasting is not meant as a weight loss program and should be accompanied by nutrient intake. It cannot replace a healthy diet. If you want to live long and strong, eat healthily and fast once in a while.
- While there may be benefits to sporadic fasting, abstaining from food has to be done with caution. Kindly eliminate any romantic notion of it.
- While fasting could have its time under the health spotlight, it is not for everyone. Apart from those mentioned above, people with a low BP, all those suffering from anaemia, new mothers, or if your health is compromised in any way, then fasting is not safe for you. Also remember, most Indian women are anemic. If you tire easily, consult your physician before you opt for it.
- When hunger strikes, stomach releases digestive fluids/acids for digestion. This acid reduces when stomach is empty. But strangely, just thinking of food or even the aroma of food during the times you are fasting can stimulate the brain into sending a message to the stomach and getting it ready to receive food. As a result, stomach produces more acid leading to heartburn. Oops!
- It is not correct to binge once you have fasted. This kind of feeding could lead to overeating resulting in feeling guilty. For someone with eating disorders, this kind of fasting diet and bingeing eating could amp up serious psychological issues.
While fasting has its pluses and minuses, it is always better to consult your doctors before adopting a fasting diet.
Create a healthy fasting diet and adhere to it for greater benefits.
Nicely written. Coincidentally I just finished my first 3 day water fast. It was a great experience. I had prior experience with intermittent fasting, so day 1 was easy. Day 2 was a little difficult, my energy level was quite low and I did get dizzy a couple of times. But day 3 came as a surprise, I had no hunger, and I was more energetic than usual. It probably was the ketosis kicking in.
I broke the fast with fruits on the first day and I added soup on the next day. Now on day 6 I feel like a completely different person. My focus and mood are top notch. I feel healthier. It is definitely a part of my routine now, if not monthly then quarterly.
Fasting is good for our body.