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Benefits of occasional fasting

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The moment someone suggests fasting - alarm bells start ringing! Fasting for religious reasons, too, is not easy. And fasting or being on a restricted diet throughout the year is even more difficult. But the solution is to fast occasionally – restrict your diet for a short duration, go back to routine and then fast again. In this way one doesn’t feel the pain of forced or long-term fasting.

There’s no doubt, fasting works

Why fast? Well, laboratory results show that majorly cutting down food intake can nearly double life-expectancy in rodents, flies and worms. A comprehensive 20-year study on rhesus monkeys, which are closely related to humans, indicated that benefits of calorie-reduction are universal.

Benefits of fasting include resistance to heart disease, cancer, and age-related cognitive decline.

Why should one fast?

There are so many benefits of fasting that American space agency NASA is interested in how fasting improves the thinking process of pilots and even operators of drones.

Basically, during the times when humans were evolving, they experienced cycles of famine and feasting as they were hunters and gatherers. So the human body was designed to eat as and when one became hungry or had food.

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But today, we are bombarded with all kinds of processed food, which keeps blood sugar high and the immune systems depressed. When one breaks this cycle of eating high-sugar, refined, and high-carbohydrate food – the body starts to operates in the way it was built – satisfying hunger and need for energy as and when needed.

"Once you get through the first couple of weeks, it's easy," says John Olson, former director of the Strategic Analysis and Integration Division in Human Exploration and Operations at NASA. "If you have a healthy diet going into it, it's not really that big of a deal," he adds. "If you have a junk diet, it's going to be hard. For me, it's been transformational. I would say, anecdotally, the cognitive improvements are noticeable almost immediately," reported the health website mensjournal.

Why fasting is so difficult?

Nobody wants to eat less food, deal with hunger and battle with constant temptation to eat comfort food such as burgers, pizza, samosas, sweets, sweet drinks, and deserts. From childhood, we are used to eating all sorts of food at our convenience. Till we are in our middle age, we don’t find any reason to restrict our diet unless a disease is diagnosed. Force of habit and difficult in controlling thoughts in regard to food also makes it difficult to fast on a consistent basis.

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The way out:  intermittent or occasional fasting

This is another name for smart fasting. In fact, in religious fasting, during ramzaan or Hindu religious periods, occasional fasting is practiced. In this kind of fasting, often used by professional athletes, one takes a break from fasting.

In occasional fasting, you begin slowly, start eating less, one meal and one day at a time – till you become used to longer periods of no food.

Eat, stop, eat!

Well-known American nutritionist Brad Pilon is a major believer in occasional dieting. In his research he found that the magic formula behind living a long life is skipping eating regularly. He developed the slogan of 'Eat Stop Eat'. In this technique, he says, one should fast for 24 hours two times in a week.

An interesting way one can fast in a smart is to not eat breakfast, which allows you to include sleeping time in the fasting cycle. So, for example, eat dinner by 9 p.m., skip breakfast, and then eat at 1 pm – giving you a solid 16-hour period of fasting.

"Fat loss starts happening at about 12 to 13 hours and plateaus around 18 hours," says Pilon, who also has a master's in human biology and nutritional science from the University of Guelph in Ontario, reported mensjournal.

Religion supports fasting

If you are looking for sacred approval, then most religions and many intellectuals support fasting of one kind or the other. The Greek philosopher often supported fasting, and great American patriot Benjamin Franklin once said, "To lengthen thy life, lessen thy meals." Of course, Hindu yogis, saints and reformers recommended fasting for physical purity.

Written by: healthplus24.com team

Date last updated: Feburary 03, 2015