In less than a week from now so many Muslims all over the world will be observing fasts for a whole month. But are they aware of the benefits and would they like to know how they can maximise the health benefits throughout the month of Ramadan. Now this post is not only directed towards those who are fasting in Ramadan, so please do read on because you can always start a one month intermittent fasting regime to see what benefits it can bring to your health. Fasting has many health benefits and recently intermittent fasting has become a lifestyle adjustment for a lot of health enthusiasts out there. Intermittent fasting is where you skip breakfast and have lunch as your first meal. This means keeping roughly a 15 hour fast each day. Benefits of this lifestyle are from weight loss to disease reversal. But I’ll go into this in another post.
So… Fasting, How is it healthy?
Well, going without food for up to 15 to 20 hours means we’re giving our digestive system a rest. There is nothing new coming into the body and this gives our body time to clear the backlog. Yes the backlog, everything our system is not able to flush out because of the new work load it gets everyday mostly in the form of food but also the air we breathe and the anything absorbed through our skin. Let’s imagine you’re a delivery service, you have parcels that need to be delivered to customers, and every day you have a set number of parcels to deliver. If you don’t deliver that set number of parcels you have to do them the next day with the set number of parcels for that day as well. As you can image after a while the backlog will get bigger and bigger unless reinforcement is called in. Our body is the same, except we don’t have reinforcement; we only have one liver and two kidneys to process and eliminate toxins from the body. The body can only cope with clearing out a certain amount of toxins each day and anything above that will be stored in the body. An example of this would be protein, our bodies can only absorb a certain amount of protein and anything more is considered toxic because unlike fat our bodies cannot store protein, so the kidneys will need to flush the excess protein out of the system. Protein is something that our bodies naturally need but what about additive, preservatives, chemicals, pesticides, herbicides and medication? So you see it is important that we reduce the work load and also help the body in the elimination process. This can be done by fasting.
Benefits of fasting
- Fasting helps the body cleanse itself. Like I mentioned above this is because we are not putting anything new into our body which gives it the time to work on the backlog.
- Reducing blood sugar – Fasting helps the body to increase the breakdown of glucose, reduce the production of insulin and therefore normalise the Insulin sensitivity. Glycogen is also produced to breakdown glucose.
- Ketosis – Once glucose has been used up by the body for energy fats are then used as a source of energy, this is known as ketosis. Ketosis produces a by-product called Ketones which is utilised by the brain and nerves and is very useful for those with Alzheimer’s. But this only works if you don’t eat for about 10 to 15 hourseach day leaving about 8 or so hours to consume food.
- Weight loss – Based on the above point the body will start to use fat for energy therefore effectively helping you to reduce weight. But you have to make sure you reduce your level of carbohydrates to 50g or so to really notice a big difference but its best to work out what is the right amount of carb intake for you, where you feel full and also energised without consuming more carbs then needed. Think about it if after fasting for a whole day you have a high carb feast then you’re not really depriving your body of carbohydrates which are converted into glucose and used for energy. If you don’t deprive your body of carbohydrates then your body will not use the fat stores for energy as effectively as you would like. But remember that this does not mean you starve yourself; you should still be consuming a good amount of food and water provided you don’t eat a lot of carbs.
How to enhance the benefits of fasting (The Challenge)
- Juicing – what you can do is to have a glass of juice first thing when you break your fast (the body will absorb the nutrients straight away) and the last thing in the morning before you keep your fast (to give your body that last boost of nutrients to help with cleansing and healing the body). Juicing a 400 to 600 ml glass of juice at each time would be very beneficial. Remember to drink only 200ml every half an hour. The reason for this is that the body is not able to absorb a large amount of nutrients at once, leaving a lot of the nutrients being removed. Also it has been proven that within half an hour the juice is in the blood stream. Juicing will give your body the nutrients it needs to cleanse itself.
- Healthy diet – I don’t want to say that we should completely change our diet (because it won’t be a good idea to dramatically change your diet so close to a month of fasting, the body may not be able to cope with an extreme diet change and fasting together) but we can slightly tweak it or control it to make sure that it’s not too unhealthy. See the bullet points below:
- Consume a high amount of vegetables (especially the greens). Have a portion of vegetables that makes up 40 to 70% of each meal. Get a bit creative and incorporate vegetables into foods you normally wouldn’t. For example blending spinach into pasta sauce. The good thing is you won’t even taste it but you will get all the nutrients it has to offer.
- Remember to drink a good amount of water, the calculation is ‘Water to consume (Ounces) = Body weight (Pounds)/2’, you can also add a quarter of a teaspoon of sea salt or pink Himalayan mountain salt to a litre of water to top up vital minerals. Don’t forget to also top up on electrolytes.
- Increase your omega3 and decrease your omega6 intake. This can be done by reducing the amount of vegetable oils you use and starting to consume more fish (in particular salmon)
- Don’t use table salt – Instead use sea salt or pink Himalayan mountain salt as they are much healthier alternatives. The potassium in sea salt or pink Himalayan mountain salt counteracts the sodium and thus balances out blood pressure whereas table salt only contains sodium which increases blood pressure.
- Cut down on sugar, sweets, cakes etc. – Sugar is extremely harmful leading to not only obesity but also chronic diseases. Sugar increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, hypertension etc.
- Be natural – That means cutting out all processed foods. Anything that contains harmful chemicals, preservatives, additives etc. Try to consume fresh organic foods. A lot of processed foods have harmful chemicals which can put more pressure on your system. The easiest way to go about this is to eat natural, prepare your own food rather than buying something that is pre-packed. Spend the time preparing fresh healthy food. It’s your health at the end of the day; you don’t want to take a chance with it.
- Not consuming too much food – It is very common to consume a large amount of food after a fast, but it would be much more beneficial to have a healthy portion of food and not to over burden the digestive system with too much food as this will stunt the cleansing process.
- Probiotics – Natural unsweetened yogurts and fermented foods have probiotics which are essential for a healthy gut and immune system. Topping up with a probiotic supplement is also very beneficial.
For someone who wants to maintain this sort of eating pattern, intermittent fasting is a very good diet plan. The whole point of intermittent fasting is to not eat anything after you wake you in the morning until the afternoon. You are allowed to drink water, but food should not be consumed. This should give you an eight hour eating window. The benefits mentioned above do apply. But I have to also stress that fasting alone will not bring about renewed health. You have to monitor and control what you are eating. I will go into more detail about intermittent fasting in a future post.
Throughout Ramadan I will be posting many beneficial posts to reap the most out of fasting and cleansing the body, including juice recipes. So subscribe and I’ll keep you updated with all you need to JustStartHealth.
Remember that it is advised to check with your doctor before fasting if you have health problems such as Diabetes. Please also consult a medical professional before caring out anything in this post. Oh and remember to subsrcribe because through out the month of Ramadan i will be posting tips, juices and info you need to make the most of this month.
[Note: This blog is only for informational purposes only. It is not medical advice or diagnosis. Please consult with a Health care practitioner before making any diet, nutritional changes or when starting a new fitness program.]