Fasting should be ‘healthy’; only then fasting will serve its purpose.
Navratri is round the corner and so is the fasting time. We know fasting has many virtues of its own. Scientifically, fasting helps in cleansing and detoxifying the entire metabolic system. It is a powerful therapeutic process which can help people recover from mild to severe health conditions. Fasting is the supreme means of internal cleansing, both physically and spiritually. They not only purify the body internally, but also lead to lot of mental peace and relaxation.
However, like everything else, fasting too should be done in a methodical manner. Fasting should be ‘healthy’; only then fasting will serve its purpose. On the other hand, any form of improper fasting will leave you stressed and irritable. Hence, it is necessary that your fast is always healthy.
Doing it right
According to the principles of naturopathy, a properly done fast helps the body to detoxify and prepare for rejuvenation. Says Ishi Khosla, Delhi-based clinical nutritionist, founder of WholeFoodsIndia and founder -president of Celiac Society For Delhi: “The relevance of correctly observed fasts, perhaps is more than ever before. When lifestyles are imbalanced and not regular, fasting the right way can help balance our excesses.”
She explains further: “The health benefits of fasts depend on the way they are observed and broken. In general, breaking a fast is more critical than the fast itself. Breaking a fast should be done very slowly. Start with water, fluids and soft foods that are taken at short intervals, and build up quantity gradually. This allows the body to recover its normal digestive capacity.”
Adds Geetu Amarnani, a Delhi-based nutritionist: “Whether fasting is used in the transition to a healthy diet and lifestyle, or for some religious purpose, or to overcome the signs and symptoms of disease, or as a preventive measure, it is a powerful tool for helping sick people to get well and for healthy people to stay healthy.” However, she warns, “It is important that fasting is done in the right manner. The most important advice about fasting is, 'Do it right or don’t do it'."
“Complete rest, a supportive environment, and professional supervision are required to ensure that fasting will be a safe and effective experience,” Amarnani says. “If you are fasting to overcome the symptoms of some disease, take professional advice for what to include and what to exclude. Include foods that are complete with all nutrients like fruits, vegetables and soups. If you are fasting for a religious purpose, like during the navratras, then include the foods which do not cause gastrointestinal problems like gastritis, bloating and acidity. If you are including some foods, try to choose those that are fresh or require least cooking. Include lot of liquids, like water, coconut water and clear soups to cover for the requirement of nutrients.”
Fasting to reduce weight
Sometimes we think fasting is a great way to lose weight. But Khosla warns, “Prolonged fasting must not be done to reduce body weight. Food deprivation also leads to a tendency to overeat or binge, once food is available. The effect seems to last beyond a point when weight is restored to normal, sometimes for years”.
“People with eating disorders often report that fasting or a severely-restricted diet heralded the beginning of their loss of control over eating habits. This indictment applies to extreme dieting and fasting, but not to the moderate weight management strategies," she adds. "Fasting is not the best way to lose weight. While the body’s lean tissue continues to be degraded, tissues are deprived of nutrients. The body also slows its metabolism to conserve energy which is a wrong effect for weight loss. A diet that moderately restricts calories, promotes a faster rate of fat loss and the retention of more lean tissue (muscle and bone) than a severely-restricted fast or a very low-calorie diet. If at all one is fasting, he or she must be medically monitored.”
Tips For Healthy Fasting
■ A sensible fast for health and well-being should include plenty of vegetables, fruits and fluid, and modest amounts of dairy products, nuts, seeds and sprouts, for the body to function effectively.
■ Fasting must not be undertaken by chronically ill, undernourished, pregnant, lactating women and those suffering from serious illnesses. Those on long-term medication must consult with their physicians.
■ If you are fasting to overcome the symptoms of some disease, take professional advice for what to include and what to exclude.
■ Include foods that are complete with all nutrients, like fruits and vegetable soups.
■ If you are fasting for a religious purpose, like during the navratras, then include foods which do not cause gastrointestinal problems like gastritis, bloating and acidity. Even if you are including some foods, try to choose foods that are fresh or require least cooking.
■ Include lot of liquids in the form of water, coconut water, clear soups to cover for the requirement of nutrients.
■ Begin your day by drinking lukewarm water with a few drops of lemon to flush and detoxify the system.
■ Eat fruits like papaya, apple, pear and pomegranate.
■ Eat almonds (soaked overnight) and raisins to boost minerals.
■ Avoid over-indulging in full cream milk.
■ If you suffer from acidity and heartburn, avoid staying empty stomach for long hours. Eat small portions every few hours.