Benefits of Fasting, Types, Health Effects, Diet, Possible Disadvantages and Frequently Asked Questions
‘Fasting’- From a religious point of view, the term has its importance. Further, scientific studies have also ensured that it has reasonable benefits. Now the question is- what is fasting?
Fasting is a practice that involves restrictions on consuming food or drinks for any period of time. Fasting is practiced for various reasons; this can be due to dieting, religious beliefs or any other medical conditions. It is commonly used in medical practice for testing blood sugar and lipid markers laboratories to help diagnose numerous diseases and also assess many risk factors.
Benefits and Disadvantages of Fasting
The variation in fasting has been studied for the ability to improve physical indicators related to health. Some of these factors include insulin sensitivity, blood pressure, atherogenic lipids, body fat, and inflammation. Many of these studies include those participating in the Islamic tradition of Ramadan as participants refrain from food and drink every day from morning to sunset for the entire month.
The compiled results show various metabolic and physical adaptations from fasting. Fasting in a general perspective processes the treatment of metabolic pathways.
This article further discusses the impact and benefits of fasting on our body and other related important information.
Health Effects of Fasting
A large body of evidence now supports the benefits of fasting, although the most notable data has been recorded in the study with animals. Nevertheless, these findings are promising for people. Basically, fasting cleanses our body from toxins and forces cells into processes that are not usually stimulated when there is always a steady flow of fuel from food.
When we go fast, the body does not have the usual access to glucose, forcing cells to resort to other ways and materials to produce energy. As a result, the body begins gluconeogenesis, a natural process of producing its own sugar. The liver helps by converting non-carbohydrate products such as lactate, amino acids, and fats into glucose energy. As our body conserves energy during fasting, our base metabolic rate (the amount of energy our body burns while resting) is more effective, thereby reducing our heart rate and blood pressure.
Ketosis, another process that later occurs in a rapid cycle, is when the body burns fat stored as its primary energy source. This is the ideal method for weight loss and balancing blood sugar levels.
Fasting puts the body under mild pressure, thereby increasing the ability of our cells to cope with them. In other words, they become stronger. This process is similar to putting pressure on our muscles and cardiovascular systems during exercise. Like exercise, our body can only be strong during these procedures when there is enough time to rest and recover. Short term fasting is therefore recommended.
Types of Fasting
1) Time-Restricted Feeding
This is the process of limiting calorie intake to a certain time frame that aligns with our circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is our “body clock”, which indicates the body when to fall asleep and wake up. Eating only between 8 and 12 hours a day during fasting is an example of our alignment with the circadian rhythm. Body systems work well when compatible with each other; Midnight snacks do not combine our natural repair system when our body usually sleeps. In addition, giving our body more time to repair is beneficial for our health.
2) Intermittent Calorie Restriction
This is the habit of reducing the number of calories consumed (in one day) to half. This method puts the body through short and intensive treatment. This reminds the body that it doesn’t need to be fed constantly.
3) Periodic Fasting with diet
This means restricting calorie intake for three to five days, leading cells to reduce glycogen stores and start ketosis. Although it can be done without eating food, it is not considered the safest option. A certain five-day calorie-limited diet (about 1,000 calories per day) is enough to imitate fasting without reducing nutrition. It is estimated that this method is superior to two-day fasting, which allows the body to enter the ketosis and start a real clean.
Benefits of Fasting
If fasting is done properly it can give you the benefits mentioned below:
- Reduced resting Heart Rate (HR)
- Blood pressure (BP) loss
- Improvement in heart pumping function
- Reducing levels of LDL or bad cholesterol
- Reduced in Fasting insulin
- Increased insulin sensitivity
- Fasting in a short period of time can produce ketosis, which increases weight loss
- Reduced production of inflammatory substances in the body
- Ketosis begins a number of responses during fasting, including reduced inflammation, improved blood sugar control and better response to physical stress.
Disadvantages of Fasting
Although fasting has many benefits for your body, in some cases it can also show harmful side effects. These can be as follows-
- If you have a history of eating disorders, fasting can be harmful for you. Intermittent fasting is known to start binge eating behavior, which can lead to its own complications.
- Fasting can severely lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes taking medication and insulin, which can be life-threatening.
- Some people resort to ‘dry fasting’ (not consuming water or whole food). This process is dangerous as it can trigger severe health issues like- dehydration, exhaustion, electrolyte imbalance, heatstroke and headaches. It is also harmful for the kidneys.
- Fasting can be a potential migraine trigger for many people.
- Severe calorie restrictions can often cause a person to lose weight drastically.
- The ketogenesis brought by fasting can have unwanted effects as the body has become used to fat burning instead of glucose. It is called “keto flu”.
- Unobserved fasting can lead to nutritional deficiencies. It can adversely affect all functions of the body in the long run.
People with the above mentioned physical condition should avoid fasting. However, if you are very willing to fast, you must first know how to go on fasting, what you can eat and for how long you can fast. You may approach an expert or doctor for suggestions.
What can be eaten in fasting?
Since fasting is done for many reasons, the diet varies according to these reasons. What you can eat while you are fasting will depend on the reason for your fast.
You can usually eat such food in fasting involving religious beliefs-
- Fruits and Vegetables
You can eat a variety of fruits (raw or dry) and vegetables (e.g. carrots, cucumbers, etc.) while you are fasting.
- Grains, Nuts and Seeds
A person who needs important livelihoods, such as someone with diabetes, can eat whole grains, seeds and nuts while on spiritual fast. Unprocessed crops are best as they are high in fiber and will help in quickly lying down toxins from the body. Whole grain bread, crater and cereal are ideal foods to eat during fasting which includes carbohydrates. Nuts and seeds, such as unsalted almonds and pumpkin seeds, can be healthy snacks during fasting.
- Cooking Oil
If you are going to cook vegetables while fasting, it is better to use high quality pure olive or coconut oil, which is high in healthy fats and vitamin E and, unlike highly processed oils, does not contaminate food. Grape, bean, sesame and peanut oil are also suitable. If you are not vegetarian or need to consume a lot of protein while fasting, fry organic fish and seafood in the above mentioned healthy oils.
Fresh fruit and vegetable juices which have no artificial addition are suitable for fasting that helps in spiritual development and knowledge enhancement. Drink spring, distilled and electrolyte-infused water to keep the body hydrated well during fasting. In some occasions, consuming any drink is not allowed in certain parts of fasting, such as between sunrise and sunset during Ramadan (a holy month of Islam). After sunset, they can have the water types mentioned above, as well as fruit juice.
Also Read: 12 Amazing Health Benefits of Clove Oil
The above article about the benefits of fasting is only for general education purposes and not meant for replacing expert’s advice. The data and information involved in the article are derived from trusted sources. Please note that every body type requires special treatment according to its need; approach an expert or doctor if you face any health issue during or after fasting.
1) What food breaks my fast?
A. When you break your fast, start by eating a small amount of fresh fruit or vegetable juice. Organic fruits and vegetables are recommended, although the most important factor is that the juices are made fresh and contain no preservatives. Whole raw fruits and vegetables are also allowed.
2) Does lemon break fasting?
A. Fasting involves abstaining from eating for a specific period of time for weight loss, religious, medical or other purposes. Considering its low calorie content, normal lemon water does not break your fast in most cases.
3) Is fasting for long periods of time safe?
A. During fasting, you may feel a little tired, hungry and irritable – but you should never feel sick. To protect yourself, especially if you are new to fasting, consider limiting your fasting period to 24 hours or less and keep some snacks around if you start feeling unconscious or sick.
4) Is it healthy to eat only one meal a day?
A. For most people, there is no serious harm of eating one meal a day except the difficulty of feeling hungry. That said, there are certain risks for people with cardiovascular disease or diabetes. Eating once a day can increase your blood pressure and cholesterol.
5) Will Cinnamon break my fast?
A. Cinnamon does not break your fast. However, if you are mixing multiple spices, make sure the total amount is not more than 1 gram. For this, it is ideal to measure about 1/2 or 1/4 teaspoon when mixing cinnamon with other spices.