Fasting the Healthy Way
Healthy Living

Fasting the Healthy Way

Mehvish Hamdare profile Authored by Mehvish Hamdare on 17 Jul 2014 - 13:28.


Keeping a fast is an integral part of the Indian culture and tradition. It basically means willingly abstaining oneself from eating certain or any kind of food, drink or both. Many religions  encourage fasting for various spiritual reasons.

Recent studies show that fasting is actually good for your health by exposing cells to mild stress, improving hormone composition and reducing body fat, while giving your digestive system a healthy break.

What happens to body while fasting?

  • The changes that occur in the body in response to fasting depend on the length of the continuous fast. Technically the body enters into a fasting state eight hours or so after the last meal, when the gut finishes absorption of nutrients from the food.
  • During the fast you lose a lot of water, even if you drink during the fast, you can lose more than a liter of water per day. This is caused by the metabolism of glycogen.
  • The body has 3 main energy stores: Adipose tissue (body fat), glycogen (stored carbohydrates) and amino acids (muscle tissue).  
  • In the normal state, body glucose, which is stored in the liver and muscles, is the body’s main source of energy. During a fast, this store of glucose is used up first to provide energy.
  • Later in the fast, once the stores of glucose run out, fat becomes the next store source of energy for the body. Small quantities of glucose are also ‘manufactured’ through other mechanisms in the liver.
  • Only with a prolonged fast of many days to weeks does the body eventually turn to protein for energy. This is the technical description of what is commonly known as ‘starvation’, and it is clearly unhealthy. It involves protein being released from the breakdown of muscle, which is why people who starve look emaciated and become very weak.

The Benefits of Fasting:

Gives your body a rest : We at times take vacations, or a weekends off from work, to rejuvenate from stress. One thing, that we rarely ever do, is take a break from food to give rest to our digestive organs. The normal physiologic functions continue especially production of digestive secretions, but at reduced rates. This exercise helps to maintain balance of fluids in the body.

Fasting may help your heart : Fasting for a day once a month may prevent heart disease and insulin resistance, the precursor to diabetes, according to two studies from Utah’s Intermountain Medical Center presented recently at the American College of Cardiology’s scientific sessions.

Fasting helps combat cancer : A study has claimed that fasting for short periods could help combat cancer and boost effectiveness of its treatments. Researchers at University of Southern California found that fasting slowed the growth and spread of tumors and cured some cancers when it was combined with chemotherapy.

Promotes Detoxification : Fasting helps to cleanse your body of metabolic wastes and toxins. During the fasting stage human body makes use of stored up fat for energy generation, the process leads to the release of harmful chemicals and toxins from its base of fatty acids.

Boosts Immunity: When an individual is on balanced diet in between fasts, this can boost immunity as fasting strengthens your immune system and natural defenses.

Physiological effect: of fasting includes lower blood sugar, lowering of cholesterol and lowering of the systolic blood pressure as weight loss is one of the possible physical outcomes of fasting.

Psychological effects: include increase in mental clarity as fasting is the relaxation of body, mind and soul which helps to develop a positive attitude.

Fasting Do's:

  • Have more of complex carbohydrates helps to release energy slowly during the long hours of fasting. Complex carbohydrates found in grains and seeds, like barley, wheat, oats, millets, semolina, beans, wholemeal flour, etc can be taken during Ramadan fasting.
  • Potatoes and sweet potatoes have high carbohydrate content, but also contain good quality proteins and vitamins B and C. These are destroyed on deep-frying and add up loads of calories. Some people take vegetables during fasting, which can be boiled rather than frying eg. aloo chaat instead of French fries and tikkis.
  • Have at least 2-3 whole fresh fruits every day and especially during fasting, as they contain higher amounts of vitamins and minerals which fill the body’s need while fasting. Eg. Dates - contain iron and fiber, shikran (mixture of banana and milk) as its high in calcium and potassium.
  • Drink plenty of fluids including water, milk, coconut water and fruit juices to stay hydrated.

Fasting Don’ts:

  • Avoid overeating. You might not be eating the food which are abstained, but do not over indulge on other foods. For example, while fasting during ‘Navratras’ when you abstain from cereals such as rice or wheat flour and lentils, do not overindulge on potatoes or sago tikkis or chestnut flour (Singhara ka atta).
  • Avoid using more of spice as it will irritate your stomach.
  • Avoid staying hungry for long hours to prevent acidity and heartburn. Try to have some healthy snacks. Milk, banana and yoghurt are good for heart burn and acidity.
  • Avoid deep fried foods like pakora, samosa, fried dumplings and bhajiyas.
  • Always break the fast gently and avoid eating heavy and oily food.
  • Avoid caffeinated beverages/drinks such as tea, coffee and cola. (Caffeine is a diuretic and stimulates faster water loss through urination)
  • Avoid salty foods, such as canned or processed foods, salted nuts, and pickles, because these will increase your thirst during the fasting period and also excess sodium from salt is unhealthy.



*Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. The content is for educational purposes only. Please contact your doctor for any health care issues.