Ramzan is drawing to a close, but there are many who fast all year round. While intermittent abstention can be good for your heart and immune system, you also need to tread with caution. To nullify the indulgence of gluttony, religions have for long maintained that abstaining from food and drinks can sometimes give the mind and the body some adequate time to repair and heal itself. As the mind gets clearer, the body feels lighter.Energy levels are balanced and a deeper spiritual connect is established.
Over time, fasting has also gained popularity among those in the health community.Primarily based on an abstention from food and drink, Diets like the 5:2 fast diet and detox are now the norm for some. There is much evidence which indicates that timed periods of fasting show improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol and insulin sensitivity. Cardiac researchers at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute, Utah, say routine periodic fasting is good for your heart and researchers at the University of California have found that Fasting triggers stem cell regeneration of a damaged and old immune system.
So is it really a good thing to starve yourself occasionally?
Most health practitioners and nutritionists are afraid to recommend fasting due to the slowing down of metabolism stigma. “Since the gaps between two meals are longer, one tends to overeat due to the hunger pangs. This can damage the digestive system,” says Krupa Mhatre, a senior nutritionist at Gold’s Gym.
She believes that while fasting helps consume fewer calories and aids weight loss, it is a temporary solution and can possibly be unhealthy. “Since the body gets accustomed to a low-calorie intake during a fast, once you get back to the normal regime, it finds it difficult to adjust. This results in yo-yoing between brief weight loss and instant weight gain, which can have adverse effects on the body,” She warns.
Richa Anand, nutritionist, LH Hiranandani Hospital, Powai, reckons that fasting is good, but the feasting along with it isn’t. “Food eaten during or while breaking a fast is high in starch and full of fat. The protein content is usually missing and this leads to incomplete nutrition,” says Anand. This can also result in muscle waste, thus disturbing a workout regime. For all-day facts like Ramzan, she recommends simple dal-khichdi, grilled chicken or egg white sandwiches rather than oily kebabs and patties. People with medical conditions, she adds, should try and avoid such facts. “If the stomach is not fed every three hours, it can result in negative changes in the body’s metabolism. However, if it is absolutely necessary to fast, follow a balanced diet. Stay full at all times with an occasional fruit or juice. Consume curd, milk or dry fruits to maintain the body’s nutrition,” suggests Mhatre.
“Detox diets can be used when the weight loss hits a plateau. Since the body is not ready for such a switch in the eating pattern, it shakes up the system a little,” suggests Anand, who recommends it once a month for two to three months. Since fasting involves an intake of a good amount of water and fruits and vegetables, it enhances our immune system, but nutritionists do prescribe caution. “One must stay hydrated with plenty of water. In facts like Ramzan where water intake is not allowed during the day, one must try and avoid exertion and a lot of physical activity.Post sunset, fluids should be consumed in order to flush out toxins from the body. Go easy on the food, else there will be a load on the insulin and sugar control could be poor. Avoid excess fat, non-vegetarian, fried and outside food in the diet,” suggests Dr. Geeta Dharmatti, Chief Nutrigenomic Counsellor at Gene Support.