Fasting: to what extent does it benefit us?
Fasting is defined as the voluntary or involuntary abstinence from food. This definition, of course, nowadays is mainly confused with religious fasting, during which we voluntarily abstain from certain categories of food, mostly of animal origin.
There has been a great deal of debate from time to time and considerable controversy as to whether or not fasting is beneficial to human health.
Benefits of fasting
Fasting foods contain high amounts of fiber, antioxidants and vitamins, which shield our body from various diseases. Fasting is a vegetarian diet that is rich in plant proteins and monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. In this way, it provides cardiovascular benefits and contributes to the proper regulation of heart rate.
Furthermore, reduced consumption of food of animal origin foretells a reduction in saturated fat intake and results in a drop in cholesterol and triglyceride levels. The decrease of blood pressure is also part of the benefits of fasting, due to the potassium (fruits, vegetables, legumes) which is consumed in increased quantities and more often during the fasting period.
Fasting has also been proven to increase insulin sensitivity due to its high fiber intake, which helps stabilize blood glucose levels.
In addition, it helps regulate hormones, thus providing the right signals to control or not the feeling of hunger. It strengthens the function of the immune system, as it regulates inflammatory conditions. Furthermore, people who fast have low levels of oxidative stress due to the high consumption of foods rich in antioxidants.
Fasting serves as a good opportunity for detoxification, as the consumption of meat is avoided, which can contain toxins, while abstinence from alcohol “relaxes” the liver, resulting in easier elimination of various waste products and toxins that accumulate in it. Also, it enhances blood circulation and nourishes the body with nutrients.
Potential dangers from fasting
Unfortunately, the wrong way of eating during the fasting period can cancel the benefits that it could potentially offer to our body. And not only that. It can cause damage to the body. Fasting proves to be ultimately beneficial to health provided you consume increased amounts of fiber, vegetables, fruits, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids alone.
What is quite common is that those who fast tend to consum excessive amounts of carbohydrates. That is why fasting is not suitable for patients with diabetes. Abstinence from food of animal origin urges people to include spaghetti, rice, french fries and sweets in their daily diet more and more often, in order to ensure the feeling of pleasure, through other categories of food, as the consumption of meat is not allowed.
Large amounts of carbohydrates are related to many health risks. They lead to a sharp rise in blood sugar levels and disturb the balance of the hormones leptin and insulin. Leptin is a hormone which is produced by fat cells and transported to the hypothalamus of the brain where it provides information about the feeling of satiety. The limited consumption of fats in fasting implies reduced production of leptin, and therefore of the appropriate signal in the brain, and therefore more reduced metabolism.
On the other hand, a high-sugar diet causes insulin resistance and difficulty in burning fat. Fasting foods, such as peas, legumes, nuts, and seafood, are high in purines, which increase uric acid. Therefore, fasting is not suitable for people with high uric acid levels.
Legumes and oily foods, which are very popular during fasting, can harm our health if they are consumed in excessive amounts and with too much oil, which increases the number of calories. Therefore, special attention should be paid to the portions and the way of cooking.
Molecular Therapeutic Nutrition and fasting
Fasting intensifies the feeling of restraint and “cleansing” of the body. However, the inclusion in the daily diet of increased amounts of carbohydrates during the fasting period can cause disturbances in the balance of hormones. Fasting nutrition, in order to have value, requires a daily diet plan that needs to be followed with the right combinations, in order to be balanced and to provide in sufficient quantities all the vitamins and valuable nutrients for our body.
For this reason, a therapeutic molecular nutrition program, under the supervision of a doctor, is the best possible solution, as it allows personalization. In particular, in people with underlying diseases who want to fast, the Molecular Diet is considered necessary, because it is adapted based on the needs of the patient. Patients with underlying diseases and pregnant women are not excluded from fasting. However, it is imperative and necessary to properly and carefully formulate an appropriate daily diet plan by a qualified physician, in order to properly distribute all the valuable components that the human body needs for its proper function.
In this way, the hormonal balance can now be regulated, the protection of the cell from any inflammation or oxidation can be secured and the right metabolic pathways can be mobilized.
And the most important of all is that with the proper therapeutic diet, under the guidance of a doctor, we can eat delicious food with satiety and lose body fat while preserving the valuable structures of our body and at the same time improving all the biological parameters of the cell, even during the fasting period.
Dr. Nikoleta Koini, M.D.
Doctor of Functional, Preventive, Anti-ageing and Restorative Medicine.
Diplomate and Board Certified in Anti-aging, Preventive, Functional and Regenerative Medicine from A4M (American Academy in Antiaging Medicine).
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