5 Health benefits of fasting
10/06/2021 / By Joanne Washburn / Comments
5 Health benefits of fasting

Today’s diet culture has popularized all kinds of diets, many of which require painstakingly tracking every bite you take. However, you may find these diets too restrictive to follow, and for good reason. For starters, diets like these take all the fun out of eating, allowing you only certain foods or a certain amount of calories.

If monitoring what you eat isn’t up your alley, try fasting. Fasting isn’t technically a diet but an eating pattern. With fasting, you only eat during a specific window and abstain from eating for the rest of the day.

Fasting has been linked to numerous health benefits, including disease prevention, lower inflammation levels, improved metabolism and many more. However, most people turn to fasting as a manageable approach to weight loss. Some studies have shown that controlling the times you eat can support weight reduction.

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Top health benefits of fasting

Here’s what fasting can do for your health.

1. Helps lower inflammation

While acute inflammation is a normal immune response used to fight off infections, chronic inflammation can have serious consequences for your health. For instance, chronic inflammation has been linked to the development of certain chronic conditions, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

Luckily, fasting can help lower levels of inflammation. In one study, researchers found that fasting lowered levels of inflammatory markers in healthy adults.

2. Supports weight loss

When it comes to weight loss, there are two reasons why fasting may work. The first is that abstaining from certain foods and drinks naturally reduces your overall calorie intake. This could lead to increased weight loss over time.

The second reason is that short-term fasting may improve metabolism by increasing levels of a brain chemical called norepinephrine, which could enhance weight loss.

3. Fights aging

Many animal studies have found promising results on the potential beneficial effects of fasting on longevity. A study on rats showed that when rats fasted every other day, they had a delayed rate of aging and lived 83 percent longer than rats that didn’t fast.

4. Boosts brain function

Inflammation in the brain damages and destroys brain cells, speeding the aging and atrophy of the brain. This can raise your risk of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and other degenerative brain diseases.

Fasting may help keep these diseases at bay by reducing inflammation in the brain. Some studies have even suggested that fasting may aid in the production of nerve cells that boost brain function.

5. Supports heart health

Fasting has been shown to decrease blood pressure and cholesterol levels, both of which are major risk factors for heart disease. Therefore, incorporating fasting into your lifestyle may be one of the most effective ways to lower your risk of heart disease.

Types of fasting

Although it only recently gained widespread attention, the practice of fasting actually goes back centuries. It is one of the oldest therapies in medicine. The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine, recommended abstaining from food to support the body’s natural healing process.

In India’s Ayurvedic medicine, fasting is thought to promote digestive clearance. Fasting also plays an integral role in cultural and religious practices, with all major religions utilizing fasting in one form or another. For instance, Christians have their Lent season, while Muslims have Ramadan. Both events involve fasting.

These days, people generally refer to intermittent fasting (IF) when they talk about fasting. IF is a dietary approach that involves interspacing planned periods of fasting with periods of eating. Proponents say IF is the key to lasting weight loss, better metabolic health and even longer life.

There are so many different ways to do IF. These include:

  • 5:2 fasting – This method involves eating as you normally do for five days, then restricting your calorie intake to 500 or 600 calories on the other two days. You can choose your fasting days.
  • Time-restricted eating – With this method, you choose an eating window every day. This should ideally give you a 14- to 16-hour fast.
  • Overnight fasting – This method involves fasting for 12 hours every day.
  • Eat-stop-eat – This method involves fasting for 24 hours only once or twice per week.
  • Whole-day fasting – This fasting method entails fasting for a full 24 hours.
  • Alternate-day fasting – This method involves fasting every other day only.
  • Choose-your-day fasting – This is the most adaptable fasting method of all as you can choose when and for how long to fast. However, you may not experience the full benefits of fasting with this method.

Other types of fasting include:

  • Water fasting – This fasting involves drinking only water for a certain period.
  • Juice fasting – This fasting entails drinking only fruit or vegetable juice for a certain period.
  • Partial fasting – This fasting involves eliminating certain foods from your diet for a certain period.
  • Calorie restriction – This method entails restricting your calorie intake for a few days every week.

How to start fasting

If you want to try fasting, be prepared to figure out what method works best for you.

Here are some tips on how to start fasting.

1. Start slow – No matter the type of fasting or fasting method you go for, your body will need time to adjust. If you’ve never fasted before, take it slow. Don’t fast for a whole week right away. You can start by fasting for a few hours each day. Gradually increase the number of hours or days of fasting until you get used to it.

2. Plan ahead but be flexible – Integrating fasting into your daily routine will be much easier if you put thought into where and how you’ll be fasting. If you live with your family or other people, tell them about your fasting regimen so that they understand. If your window for fasting coincides with dinner plans with your friends, tell them as well. But even though consistency is key to maintaining habits, you can always break your fasting window if you absolutely need to, such as after working out.

3. Expect to feel different – As you slowly adjust to your new fasting routine, you may feel certain side effects, like headaches and mood swings. These side effects should go away after your first week of fasting.

Fasting is a great way to improve your overall health. If you want to try fasting, take it slow and be prepared to figure out what fasting method works best for you.

Sources:

ReadyNutrition.com

EverydayHealth.com

OutsideOnline.com

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