By Jane Sandwood, Nutritionist and Professional Health Writer
When it comes to wellness, the younger generation is diet obsessed. 90% consider it to be vital to wellbeing, while 77% actively cut out harmful foods. With knowledge of nutritional science readily available online, it is easier than ever to know what to eat and what to avoid. Superfoods have a range of benefits, from stabilizing energy levels to reducing stress. However, there may also be a role for abstaining from food completely for short periods of time. Intermittent fasting has been around for a while, but here’s why now is the best time to try it out for yourself.
Physical health benefits
So what are the benefits of fasting? One of the most common reasons for intermittent fasting is to lose fat. It does this both by lowering calorie intake while increasing metabolism. As long as you don’t eat larger meals, you will be taking in less food through fasting. Meanwhile, a drop in insulin levels and hormone increases can boost metabolism by up to 14%.
Through lowering insulin levels, your risk of developing type two diabetes will also be reduced. This is combined with decreased inflammation, which lowers the risk of cancer cells spreading. Furthermore, studies on animals have shown that short-term fasting improves heart health. This can lower the risk of common heart conditions such as coronary artery disease. Fasting is also used to boost spiritual health, by providing mental clarity and accompanying meditative practices or prayer.
How to fast
There are several types of fast. Some involve completely abstaining from all foods and liquids, others involve just consuming water, while other types of fast allow the drinking of juices. For absolute beginners, you should start by allowing some fruit juice, before gently easing yourself into an absolute fast. You don’t know how your body will respond, so take it slowly.
Start with an 8 hour fast before steadily increasing to a full 24 hour fast. This is best done on a free day, such as the weekend. Lock up any temptations and keep track of how you feel. Consider taking a nap to further boost your metabolism. During the fast, you may feel tired or weak, but note the next day whether you feel energized. If so, you know the fast is working. Track your progress and adjust the fast to what feels right for you.
Each body is unique, so how you fast will depend on a few factors. Women should stick to shorter fasts at first, since long-term fasting can dangerously disrupt hormones, affecting fertility. While fasting is generally safer for men, remember that you need to consume more calories, so carefully track your calorie intake. Fasting can be extremely dangerous for growing children who need the nutrition for healthy cells. For menopausal women, fasting can also negatively affect hormones. Fasting is safest for young adults, in their 20s and 30s.
If you want to quickly lose weight and grow healthier cells and organs, then fasting can work wonders. However, make sure to ease yourself into it, by slowly cutting foods and only fasting for short periods. Check how your body reacts, so that you can adjust your fast for maximum benefit.