• Hana Kovac

Benefits of fasting



No matter your religion, you surely are aware of fasting as a religious practice. Jesus fasted for forty days, Muslims fast during Ramadan, Buddhists and Jews fast as well. The science shows that our bodies are actually programmed for going longer stretches of time without food. Think about it, our Neolithic ancestors lived through periods of feast and famine and our bodies are in fact not different from our ancestors, whether you like it or not.

There are two ways how to benefit from this ancient practise: either you eat less most of the time or you practise the so called intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting (IF) encompasses eating patterns in which individuals go extended time periods (e.g., 16-48h) with little or no energy intake, with intervening periods of normal food intake, on a recurring basis.* IF is not a fad and as mentioned above, it has been practiced by various religious groups for centuries. Medical practitioners have also noted the health benefits of fasting for thousands of years. Paracelsus, one of the fathers of Western medicine, said that 'Fasting is the greatest remedy'. The reason fasting is not promoted by media is that nobody makes much money by telling you to not eat their products, in other words, fasting isn't a very marketable topic.

Why fasting might be good for your health

Studies in animals have shown that calorie restriction extends lifespan and improves age-related diseases, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Researchers suggest that this practise may reduce both the incidence and severity of neurodegenerative disorders also in humans. Again, animal studies show that fasting may prevent or lessen the severity of cancer, stroke, coronary heart disease, autoimmune disease, and allergy.

If you would like to try intermittent fasting, eat the last meal of the day at least 3 hours before you go to bed. That automatically allows you to "fast" for at least 11 hours or longer depending on if and when you eat breakfast. Remember, we are not talking about calories restriction, as for a majority of people (me included) calorie restriction equals strict diet which results in non compliance. Also, it is proven that humans do not function on a simple premise - 'calories in calories out' as humans tend to have an innate resistance to excessive weight loss, even in the face of severe calorie restriction. Mother Nature in it's wisdom created our bodies with mechanisms for survival and if you just count calories your body will tend to shut down various processes in order to survive.

We've been told that eating three meals a day and two snacks in between is good for us but when you consistently eat every few hours your body becomes very inefficient at burning fat as a fuel. If you're supplying your body with carbohydrates every few hours, your body has no need to dive into your fat stores. When you apply intermittent fasting you not only avoid this but also will typically decrease your food costs and increase your health.

Also, always remember to eat real food and try to chose as nutritious food as possible. Children and pregnant women should never fast - on the other hand, it is even more crucial to eat a highly nutritious diet if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

*Mattson MP: Impact of intermittent fasting on health and disease processes


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