The festival of Karva Chauth, where married women fast and pray for long life for their husbands, is one of the most revered festivals in Northern India. It’s usually celebrated on the fourth day after the new moon in the month of Kartika.
Every year on Karva Chauth, women fast all day long for the health and longevity of their husbands. The fast is broken only after sunset, after worshipping the moon by offering Arghya (water) using an earthen pot known as ‘Karva’ and filtering out the blessings of happiness and love, with a sieve. The fast is broken when the husband offers her water from the same earthen pot to drink, followed by an evening meal.
The science behind fasting
Although fasting is often tied to religious or spiritual beliefs, scientists have found that fasting for 12 to 24 hours triggers a process called autophagy and is thought to be one of the reasons that fasting is associated with longevity.
According to cell biologist Yoshinori Ohsumi, who won the 2016 Nobel Prize in Medicine for his research on how cells recycle and renew their content, fasting activates autophagy, which helps slow down the ageing process and has a positive impact on cell renewal. His research connects fasting with blood sugar control, reduced inflammation, weight loss and improved brain function.
But all this is true only when fasting is done right. Read on to learn how.
Breaking your Karva Chauth fast
Maybe this is the first time you’re fasting for Karva Chauth or have been doing it for years. But every year, as you complete your fast, you are hungry, craving food beyond belief and your first thoughts are, “I deserve that slice of pizza!”.
But remember, breaking the fast is as important as keeping it. Not only would eating unhealthy food cancel out the health benefits of fasting, but it would also cause digestive problems such as bloating and indigestion.
So, what should you eat when you are breaking the fast?
At the end of your fast, you might want to ease back on the food and make sure your digestive system isn’t being overworked. The first things you eat after breaking a fast should nourish your body rather than requiring too much energy to digest the food.
Here are some healthy ways of breaking your fast:
Drink plenty of water
Water may be your best friend when it comes to breaking your fast. Drinking water has numerous health benefits, including hydrating the body and helping it cope with food intake. It also helps in breaking down food and making it easier for our digestive system to digest. Water also helps in maintaining a healthy weight and keeping our metabolism working at its peak. Just make sure you don’t drink too much water at once.
Fruits are a great way to break your fast because they have a lot of vitamins and minerals in them, which help keep your body nourished and healthy. Fruit juices and fruits contain water content and are easily digested. Watermelons, grapes and apples are some of the best fruits you can consume. Berries such as strawberries are also good at breaking your fast since they contain fiber which slows down digestion so that your stomach feels fuller longer before you start eating again. Minimise citrus fruits as they may be too acidic for your stomach.
Coconut water may be the most common choice for those who need to hydrate after fasting. It’s a good source of electrolytes, vitamins and minerals that can help you rehydrate after breaking your fast. But if you have trouble digesting coconut water, sugarcane juice is also an option—it contains similar nutrients to coconut but with less fat content. Both drinks are good for rehydration purposes, so try them both!
Include green leafy veggies
When you are breaking your fast, it is always good to introduce some iron into the body. Iron is an important mineral that helps in the production of red blood cells and haemoglobin, which carries oxygen throughout the body. Add these to your salad or have them as a side dish with some lean protein.
Energy-boosting dry fruits
Dry fruits are a great source of nutrients and are packed with energy. Breaking your fast with dry fruits such as figs, almonds and dates will keep you sustained throughout the day.
You can also try lemon juice with honey and salt. Lemon juice is a natural detoxifier, so it does wonders for your body. Honey helps in digestion and balances the electrolyte levels in the body. Salt helps in balancing the electrolyte levels.
Healthy cruciferous vegetables
The perfect way to break your fast is by eating some delicious cruciferous vegetables! Not only are these foods full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that will help you feel full for longer periods of time, but they also help to prevent constipation and give you regularity.
Remember, don’t push your body past its limits. Give yourself enough time to make sure you’ve digested your food and you know the right way to break your fast. And do not forget to eat healthy food and drink lots of water before beginning your fast.
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