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Food for Thought: The Art of Fasting and 5 Common Mistakes to Avoid

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For thousands of years, people have believed that fasting is good for body and soul. However, its real health benefits are becoming more apparent in recent times. The surge in popularity has turned the spotlight on the different ways of fasting, some of which don’t even require giving up food for a whole day or more. No matter which method you look at, there is a right (or healthy) way to fast.

What Does it Mean?

Basically, fasting involves not eating or drinking all or some foods or drinks for a set period of time. Most fasts for health and wellness are performed for between 24 and 72 hours. But remember, it isn’t suitable for everyone. Avoid fasting if you:

  • Are under 18 years old
  • Live with diabetes or other blood sugar problems
  • Are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Have a history of eating disorders

Health Benefits of Fasting

An array of health benefits is associated with fasting. A few of them include:

  • Reducing insulin resistance which promotes blood sugar control
  • Possibly improving cholesterol and triglycerides levels, as well as blood pressure
  • Enhancing brain function and helping to prevent neurodegenerative disorders
  • Supporting weight loss by increasing metabolism and limiting calorie intake

With these benefits in mind, let’s explore different types of fasting.

Types of Fasting

There are lots of versions of fasting. Pick one that makes sense for your health and goals. Some common types of fasts include:

Intermittent

When you cycle between periods of eating and fasting. You can fast intermittently for anything between a few hours or a few days at a time.

Partial

Abstaining from specific foods and/or drinks, such as animal products, processed foods, caffeine, or alcohol.

Juice

Consuming only fruit and/or vegetable drinks for a period of time.

Water

Drinking only water for a period of time.

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Common Mistakes to Avoid

Fasting is not something to do without preparation and knowledge. The following mistakes are common. But they’re easy to avoid if you know how.

1. Eating the Wrong Foods When Fasting Intermittently

Intermittent fasting allows you to eat at various periods. But it’s important to avoid the wrong foods when you eat. Stay away from processed foods such as sugary snacks, refined grains, and other processed foods. Such foods don’t provide your body with essential vitamins and important electrolytes. This can lead to fatigue, weakness, and muscle spasms.

2. Allowing Yourself to Dehydrate

Fruit and vegetables are among the water-dense foods that add to your daily fluid intake. Make sure you drink more fluids than normal when fasting. This ensures that your body doesn’t dehydrate. Sip on water, herbal tea, or bone broth between meals. If you’re suffering the effects of a busy lifestyle, carry a bottle of water with you wherever you go.

3. Fasting For Too Many Days Per Week

Like the other elements of a healthy lifestyle, fasting should be done in moderation. Doing it for too long or too often can negatively impact your health. Stick to two to four days per week. If you’re new to fasting, start with one or two fasts of 12 to 14 hours per week.

4. Not Eating the Right Foods

Not eating the right foods can lead to nutritional deficiencies. Follow a Mediterranean-style diet to give your body what it needs when fasting intermittently. Include a moderate amount of monounsaturated fats from olive oil and other oils. As well as polyunsaturated fats from canola oil, fish, walnuts, and other foods. Get your carbs from fiber-rich unrefined sources such as beans and whole wheat. Include a healthy amount of fruit, vegetables, fish, nuts, and seeds. Limit your intake of cheese and meat.

5. Training Too Intensely

Training too intensely when fasting can make you feel fatigued, dizzy, or weak. Avoid intense workouts such as long aerobic sessions or HIIT. Instead, focus on restorative exercise, such as going for a walk outdoors. Allow yourself more rest and sleep during a fast.

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