Besides greater spiritual awareness, there are some incredible health benefits to fasting when it is done sensibly. The breaking down of foods drains a whole lot of energy from the body, so without a continuous intake of foods during the day, we allow the digestive system to rest. Consequently, the energy that is normally needed for digestion is freed up and can be focused towards enhancing health and vitality. Read on as we explore five of these health gains.
Helps You With Weight Loss
One of the main problems with extreme fad diets is you can quickly put the weight back on, however this isn’t the case with fasting. As you reduce the amount of food you eat, your stomach gradually shrinks, so you’ll feel full eating less food, and you’ll be far less likely to overindulge. Plus, when you fast, you learn to control your cravings, and you’ll have a stronger willpower to say no to tempting food. What’s more, as you fast, the body uses fat as its primary source of energy instead of sugar, and this really propels weight loss. Many studies have shown that fasting that is controlled within a set number of hours allows the body to burn through fat cells more effectively than just regular dieting.
So, if you would like to lose a few kilos, Ramadan can be the perfect opportunity if you eat healthily when you break the fast. That means you need to avoid gorging on sweets and fatty foods as soon as the sun goes down. Instead, go for a healthy evening meal that includes traditional foods eaten in Ramadan but without the added sugars and fattening sauces. Soups, vegetables and fruits like dates are great choices to help fill you up. Plus foods that take time to convert into glucose, like whole grains and other high-fibre foods, will keep you energised for longer and help control cravings and hunger during the day. It’s also helpful to try to stay lightly active during the day, which can promote even more fat breakdown.
Improves Your Blood Fat Levels
As you only fast from dawn till dusk during Ramadan, your body's energy can be replaced during the pre-dawn and dusk meals. Yet, as mentioned before, there’s a gentle transition from using glucose as the main source of energy to using fat when you fast. This use of fat for energy helps weight loss, which preserves the muscles and prevents their breakdown for protein, eventually reducing your cholesterol level.
A 1997 study by the “Annals of Nutrition Metabolism” proved fasting lowered bad low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels by eight percent and triglyceride by 30 percent, but increased good high-density lipoproteins (HDL) levels by 14.3 percent. Plus, a team of cardiologists in the UAE found a reduction of cholesterol in the blood in people who fasted during Ramadan. Low cholesterol boosts cardiovascular health, which significantly reduces the risk of suffering from heart disease, a heart attack or a stroke. What’s more, if you follow a healthy diet after Ramadan, this newly lowered cholesterol level should be easy to maintain. If you eat healthy food like dates, nuts, lentil soup and home cooked meals rather than fatty or fast food during the Holy Month, try and stick to this healthy formula all year long.
Helps Kick Your Addictions
Ramadan provides a fantastic opportunity to ditch unhealthy addictions, whatever they are. From smoking to drugs or coffee, addictions come in all shapes and forms and fasting is an excellent way to say goodbye to them. As Ramadan teaches you self-restraint for most of the day, you get accustomed to forgoing what you crave. And as you abstain from your vice over the weeks, your body will gradually acclimatise to its absence, helping you kick your addiction for good. For example, fasting can be helpful for people who suffer from binge eating disorders as you can establish a set time in where you allow yourself to eat your daily amount of calories in one sitting, and then not eat till the following day. Ramadan is also a great time to try and get rid of compulsions that harm others or put you in a bad light socially, like lying and gossiping.
If you are serious about quitting a destructive habit, you can try doing so in a group. Receiving encouragement and knowing that other people are going through the same struggles you are can help a lot.
Boosts Your Metabolism
Poor digestion can affect your ability to metabolise food and burn fat, but fasting can actually regulate digestion to give your metabolism a boost. The Holy Month of Ramadan is probably the best time of the year for our digestive systems, which are responsible for the metabolism process of food, to get some rest. This break helps create a more efficient metabolism and the newly energised version can burn through calories more efficiently. As you get older, enhancing metabolism becomes more and more important as one of the primary effects of ageing is a slower metabolism.
Also, thanks to an increase in the hormone adiponectin, which is produced by a combination of fasting and eating late at night, your muscles absorb more nutrients. This leads to all over health benefits as various areas can soak up and use the nutrients they need to function properly.
Develops Your Brain Function
We’ve all heard how Ramadan can have positive effects on our mental wellbeing and spiritual focus, but fasting also generates some significant brain-boosting powers. Fasting has shown to improve brain function because it boosts the production of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF triggers brain stem cells to change into new neurons, producing more brain cells, thus improving brain function. It also prompts numerous other chemicals that promote neural health. Plus, BDNF shields your brain cells from changes associated with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
A study carried out by American scientists confirms the mental focus achieved during Ramadan increases BDNF. Plus, a distinct reduction in the amount of the hormone cortisol, produced by the adrenal gland, means stress levels are reduced a lot during and after Ramadan.
Detoxifies Your Body
Toxins, the root cause of illness, can come in the form of nicotine or drugs, fats and cholesterol. Yet even if we are super healthy we don’t live in a bubble, making us susceptible to air pollutants and free radicals. Fasting can help cleanse these toxic accumulations, enabling us to detoxify our bodies.
When you stop eating or drinking the whole day, you end up with a cleansed digestive system because as your body starts using fat reserves to create energy, it also burns away any harmful toxins that might be lurking in fat deposits. What’s more, by minimising the work load on the digestive system, organs like the intestines, stomach, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, and even the kidneys, can repair and restore themselves, clear existing toxins, and clean up the circulating blood and lymph. Fasting also increases the release of toxins from the colon, bladder, lungs, respiratory tract, sinuses and the skin.
This detoxification will give you a healthy blank slate, which can be just the right stepping stone you need for a steadily healthy lifestyle. And by eliminating toxins, our bodies are ready to heal, saving us from diseases.