Fasting has become all the rage. A growing number of people are turning to the practice for dietary, spiritual, or religious reasons. But are there any real fasting health benefits? Let’s take a closer look at the age-old yet newly modern approach to your health.
While juice fasts are particularly popular, the practice is defined by going 8 or more hours without food, so in the morning before breakfast, your body is actually in a fasting state.
People fast for a number of health reasons, whether to lose weight, detox, regain focus, or amp up their immune systems. To better understand the health benefits, 19 study participants followed the “Fasting Mimicking Diet.” The study, which was published in the journal Cell Metabolism, wasn’t actually a fast, but instead mimicked fasting in terms of calories and nutritional makeup. On day 1, it included 1,090 calories with 10 percent protein, 56 percent fat, and 34 percent carbohydrates. On days 2-5, the diet included 725 calories with 9 percent protein, 44 percent fat, and 47 percent carbohydrates. During the rest of the month, participants could eat whatever they wanted.
In a way, this makes sense when you consider that early hunter gatherers ate much more occasionally than we do today, in the times when they were able to round up food. They didn’t necessarily eat three square meals per day. They fasted each day, often having eight hours between meals. The fasting mimicking plan was found to be good for overall health. Some of the fasting health benefits included reduced risk factors for aging, cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
After 48 hours of fasting the body goes through what’s called ketosis. Ketosis is a metabolic process where your body doesn’t have enough carbohydrates so it begins to burn fat instead. At the same time, the body kills off white blood cells, which surprisingly, is a good thing because it’s getting rid of the old cells and replacing them with new cells.
That’s why fasting for two day periods may be a good thing periodically but excessive fasting, for long periods of time can take a toll on your body. In all cases, you should drink plenty of water because if not, dehydration will occur. Additionally, beware that fasting can cause cravings for carbohydrates because the body is looking to replenish its stores and at the same time, it’s not sure when it’s going to get food again. Instead, when you’re finished fasting, make sure you fill the space you’ve made with healthy and lightweight fruits and vegetables. And you don’t need to spend a lot of cash to fast--consider giving up food and drinking water for an 8 hour period. It's about giving your system a break for extended periods of time, either between meals or taking a few days off from eating.
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