The hype around intermittent fasting has quickly overwhelmed the health field as both a research interest and weight loss fad. Yet, the idea of fasting is far from a new idea. Fasting has an old and unique history. Cultures all over the world have fasted for different reasons. From religious, spiritual, and cultural rituals to expressions of protest and medical research, abstaining from the consumption of food has deep and varied roots. While there may be countless ways and reasons to fast, the most recent focuses on the benefits of the body.
Recent studies reveal new data regarding the short and long-term benefits of fasting. Intermittent fasting, in conjunction with a balanced plant-based diet, has been proven to streamline and enhance the body’s functions, from increased energy to managing healthy weight to mental clarity. With that said, there is a right and wrong way to fast. It’s incredibly important to educate yourself on the what, why, and how of fasting, as well as to speak with a nutritionist or doctor before attempting it.
Fasting is the “willing abstinence or reduction from some or all food, drink, or both for a period of time.” There are different categories of fasting depending on the reason for abstaining from food and/or liquids. Absolute or dry fasts refer to abstaining from all food and liquids, while water fasts allow only water and no food. Intermittent fasting allows for more flexibility by abstaining from food and liquid (besides water) for a designated period of time.
Intermittent fasting is when you rotate between periods of time that you eat and periods of time where you don’t. The most popular type of intermittent fasting is called the 16/8 where “you’re technically fasting for 16 hours every day, and restricting your eating to an eight-hour eating window.” Yet, intermittent fasting doesn’t have to be this drastic. Many people opt for a 13-hour eating window instead.
While this may seem challenging, the process is simplified by your body’s natural circadian rhythm.
Circadian rhythm, also known as the sleep-wake cycle, refers to “a 24-hour internal clock that is running in the background of your brain and cycles between sleepiness and alertness at regular intervals.” The internal clock is controlled by your hypothalamus and influenced by environmental factors such as sunlight and night. The circadian rhythm of your body is essentially a built-in shut off switch for at least six to eight hours every 24-hour period.
The benefits of fasting are only achieved when fasting is performed in a healthy and safe way. There is a plethora of misinformation being circulated around the internet and by word-of-mouth. One of the most important aspects to remember is that intermittent fasting doesn’t replace healthy eating and regular exercise habits. Fasting doesn’t equal a free ticket to gluttony.
With that said, when intermittent fasting is done correctly, the benefits are worth the work.
Weight loss is a billion dollar empire. From diet regimes to home-delivered meals to cookbooks, everyone is looking for the fastest and easiest way to drop unwanted pounds. The popularity surrounding intermittent fasting is largely due to its success in achieving fast and sustainable weight management.
With that said, there are a few factors that influence healthy weight management via intermittent fasting.
The first of these is psychological. Intermittent fasting teaches control over your hunger signals. When fasting, you refrain from eating, yet the desire to eat is still prevalent. Abstaining from food encourages mindfulness regarding the signals in your gut, what they really mean, and an opportunity to break bad eating habits.
The second is biological and relies on the relationship between fasting and insulin.
Insulin is a hormone that is created by the pancreas and provides cells with energy. Among other important jobs, insulin “allows the cells in the muscles, fat, and liver to absorb glucose” from the blood, which then turns into energy, is converted into fat, or breaks down proteins. Recent studies suggest that intermittent fasting results in lower insulin levels. With lower insulin levels comes the ability for the body to burn more fat instead of sugar and therefore helps combat obesity, aids in obtaining a healthy weight, and supports weight maintenance.
While there is still much to learn about the connection between intermittent fasting and longevity, there have been some remarkable discoveries.
Research on this subject has been in the works for years. In the 1930’s, Cornell University nutritionist Clive McCay discovered that “rats subjected to stringent daily dieting from an early age lived longer and were less likely to develop cancer and other diseases as they aged.” Since that time, many studies have been conducted on the relationship between fasting and autophagy, the process that promotes cell death and regeneration. Autophagy has been seen to increase during periods of intermittent fasting, which allows DNA debris and biological waste products to be cleansed and renewed.
While there is no halting the clock, intermittent fasting may be an asset to aging with grace.
We may dream of the day that exercise comes naturally, yet that dream may not be so fantastical.
Intermittent fasting has been linked to enhanced physical endurance due to a molecule called glycogen. Glycogen are molecules that store glucose, which is an essential compound made of sugar that regulates blood glucose levels, as well as other systems.
An accomplished researcher and expert on the subject, Dr. Rhonda Patrick has pioneered new research by connecting glycogen, energy, and intermittent fasting. Glycogen stores take about 10 – 12 hours to be depleted at which time fatty acids are released from tissues. These fatty acids are converted into ketone bodies, water-soluble molecules produced in the liver, which travel to tissues and are then used for energy. Therefore, according to Dr. Patrick, it “makes sense that eating within a nine-hour window and fasting for 15 hours overnight may lead to endurance enhancements.”
Sweet and Sour Pineapple Sticky Rice/One Green Planet
Successful intermittent fasting relies on discipline and preparedness. It’s important to fill your eating time-frame with nutritional, balanced, and filling foods. This is even more prevalent for those on a plant-based diet. While vegetarian and vegan diets may feel like they add an additional challenge, it is an easy one to tackle.
One of the best ways to meet satiety is through knowing what makes food filling.
Filling foods generally have higher amounts of protein, fiber, and water, and low energy density. Prepare for your fast by consuming meals that are high in these ingredients and always make sure to drink lots of water. Use these recipes from the Food Monster App to get started.
Persephone Bowl/One Green Planet
Incorporating whole grain into your meals is a great way to keep you full longer. Whole grains keep all parts of the kernel including the bran, germ, and endosperm. Whole grain digests slower, therefore the feeling of being “full” lasts longer.
Try starting your day with a bowl of oatmeal or porridge. Oats are high in insoluble fiber, yet low in calories and can be decorated with other filling ingredients such as nuts and seeds. Later in the day, try a few of these whole grain filled recipes: Mushroom and Kale Farrow Salad, Persephone Bowl, Buckwheat Pooris, or Roasted Beet Sorghum Salad With Ginger-Lime Vinaigrette.
Slow Cooker Winter Squash Quinoa Curry/One Green Planet
Starchy vegetables are heavier, heartier, and more robust. These include sweet and white potatoes, beets, pumpkin, corn, carrots, and a variety of winter squash. While these veggies may keep you full longer due to their high level of carbohydrates, be careful to not overuse them. Being carbohydrates, starchy vegetables also have high levels of sugar, which can be difficult for your body to break down.
Try a few of these winter squash recipes: Slow Cooker Winter Squash Quinoa Curry, Winter Squash and Sage Pizza, Winter Squash and Quinoa Rissoles, Butternut Squash Hashbrowns, and Butternut Squash, Potato and Kale Casserole.
Raw Cashew Almond Cheese/One Green Planet
Nuts and seeds are great additives for a meal, as well as offer a hearty snack. Sprinkle them on your oatmeal, crush and roast them in squash dishes, or keep a baggie in your purse to nibble on. These tasty morsels are great tummy fillers due to the fact that they are packed with “protein and fiber and contain unsaturated fats that can help stabilize insulin levels.”
In vegan recipes, nuts offer a buttery and savory alternative ingredient for dairy-free cheese and toppings such as these Brazil Nut Vegan Parmesan, Raw Cashew Almond Cheese, or Baked Cashew Mozzarella recipes. Seeds, on the other hand, pack a punch of flavor and nutrients. Try a few different recipes to discover your favorite seed: Baked Sweet Potato With Pesto Pasta, Tomatoes, and Pumpkin Seeds, Rainbow Salad (with a sprinkling of hemp seeds), Super Weed Green Smoothie, or Red Lentil Burgers With Kale Pesto.
Lentils, one of the most popular of the legume family, is a must-have ingredient for the vegan kitchen. Try a couple of these recipes featuring lentils: Red Lentil and Butternut Squash Burgers, Chickpea Spinach Stew With Lentils and Quinoa, Chili Lime Lentil Tacos With Spicy Grilled Pineapple Salsa, Red Lentil Curry With Black Tahini and Roasted Cashews.
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