While fasting is a process observed across many cultures, nutritionists also find it to be helpful for our overall health.
There are many health benefits to fasting
- Gives our digestive systems a rest
- Helps beat addictions
- Normalizes insulin sensitivity
- Can reduce hunger levels
- Can help refrain from constant snacking habits
- Can reduce high blood pressure
- Can improve immune system
Different types of fasting that I have come across that yield different health benefits.
1. Nirjala fasting – No water fasting
Person who is fasting does not even have a drop of water for a 24-36 hour duration. Typically Ekadashi fasting (11th day of the lunar cycle) is known for this type of fasting. Typically, individuals who do this type of fasting focus their minds on faith and God, prayers, spend time at religious institutions or volunteering. Doing service while fasting this way does not make one tired and mind focuses on higher order thoughts. The time and food to break this fast is crucial to ensure the body does not lose its energy. Fast is usually broken with fruits or juice and a light porridge the next day.
2. Only water fasting
Those who find it hard to do the Nirjala fasting go for fasting with an exception to drink water and keep the body hydrated. It helps to flush away toxins from the body, cleanse your internal organs. Too much of water intake can make one lose their electrolyte balance. However, those who fast ingesting just water, typically take 4-6 glasses over a 24 hour period. Again, focusing the mind on positive thoughts and faith/prayers helps. Usually done twice a month.
3. Only milk and fruits fasting
This type of fasting is done during festivals. For a 24 hour duration, individual only eats milk and fruits. Focus is to limit the quantity of milk and fruits for it be termed as fasting. 1-2 fruits, 1-2 glasses of milk during the day qualifies. Typically those who fast on Mondays are known to follow this type of fasting.
4. No salt fasting
Individuals who go for this fasting eliminate salt in their diet for a whole day. There are plenty of other types of food – sweets, plain food, fruits and milk that is eaten during the day. Those who do this have found it beneficial to bring back a balance in their metabolism. Especially suggested for those who wish to work on their high blood pressure levels. Usually done once a month.
5. No rice fasting
Fasting in some cultures means eliminating rice in the diet and switching it with an alternate source of carbohydrates (like wheat flour etc). Those who eat rice as a staple food typically perform this type of fasting, eliminating their staple food, giving their body a break to balance their health. On the given day, individual avoids eating any rice or rice products. Alternate food is eaten (like roti, chapathi, upma, porridge etc), but just not rice. For those who eat rice 3-4 times a day, Doctors recommend switching to eating rice once or twice a week and replacing some of the meals with salads to reduce carbohydrates and increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables.
6. Sunrise to Sunset fasting
Some cultures follow this routine, where before sunrise they have a meal and between dawn to dusk they do not drink even a drop of water. Again after sunset they eat a full meal. This makes the fasting duration last at least 12-14 hours. Known by nutritionists and dieticians as one of the best ways for our bodies to adapt and heal through fasting. Known to help improve our immunity.
7. One meal a day fasting
Some follow this type of fasting where they eat a full lunch and a smoothie or a fruit for dinner. Basically only one full meal a day. Usually seen as beneficial with a light breakfast, those who skip breakfast are known to get into health issues. Some who exercise rigorously tend to eat only lunch and skip the rest of the meals – again getting into health issues.
8. Working families fasting (detrimental to health)
While this is not a standard way to fast, this is what life looks like for work-from-home mothers these days. Food is prepared and refrigerated to ensure no one misses a meal amidst the busy schedule, and served during (or bit late) the meal times. Meal time is not a family affair nor does anyone force the family to complete their meals – as everyone is busy with their own stuff from school or work. Food remains on the plate from morning to evening and breakfast ends up being eaten as dinner sometimes. Lunch becomes supper or dinner becomes next day lunch! While is not a healthy habit and parents take a guilt-trip, weekends get the attention to ensure healthy eating habits are not lost. Many parents go through this and come out of it stabilizing simple routines and lifestyle changes that help! While the body feels like it is fasting, it is unintended and detrimental to health.
Do you know of any other ways to fast… share that in the comments below!