The definition of fasting means abstaining from food and drink for a period of time. According to that definition I believe we all fast every day. From the time of our last meal until we breakfast the next morning we are in a state of fasting. That is approximately 12-14 hours without food. That period of time is when our body does its internal housecleaning: cleansing, repairing, rebuilding and restoring.
Fasting doesn’t have to mean starving yourself! I don’t recommend going completely without food or drink because that often leaves you feeling ravenous, and then when you do eat, it is common to overeat and eat whatever is in sight which are often unhealthy foods. I prefer being kind, gentle and supportive to my body and I prefer that for you as well. That is why Intermittent Fasting (or cyclic fasting) and Ayurvedic Mono-Ingredient Fasting are the ways to go, if fasting is something you want to try.
Note, like everything in the world of nutrition, there are many variations, "rules" and explanations around intermittent fasting and no unified voice in how to do it, so here is my explanation and recommendation.
Intermittent Fasting It is an eating pattern where you cycle between periods of eating and fasting, eating from 10 AM to 6PM for example, and eating nothing from 6PM to 10AM. During 10AM to 6PM, you should eat or drink something nourishing. Note, you can change these times as long as you are eating only within an 8 hour window (I have seen 11am-7pm or 12pm-8pm). The key is to stop eating 3 hours before bed.
Intermittent fasting has also been called 16/8 fasting. You fast for 16 hours, and eat within an 8 hour period. In hours 12-16 of fasting, you burn body fat, hormones balance, you reset the body and bring it back to homeostasis.
The great thing about Intermittent Fasting is that you don’t have to do it every day. You can do the 5/2 cycle. Eat regularly for 5 days and choose 2 days where you do intermittent fasting. If you have more weight to lose, you can try intermittent fasting for 3 days a week.
What to eat during the 8 hour window:
Clean, high quality, colorful, vibrant, organic whole foods: veggies, fruit, good fats (coconut oil, olive oil, nuts, seeds, ghee, etc), protein (eggs, salmon, tuna, chicken, etc), water, herbal teas, coconut water, bone broth.
10am – Breakfast
Egg and veggie omelet and sliced avocado
Water and herbal tea throughout the day
Colorful salad with wild salmon or chicken, topped with olive oil and apple cider vinegar
3 – Snack
Piece of fruit and nuts
Mug of bone broth
6pm - Dinner
Chicken or fish, steamed and sweet potato
Benefits of Fasting:
- Weight Loss – intermittent fasting has proven to be successful for those who need to lose weight and especially for women in menopause who struggle to lose weight
- Reduces inflammation
- Balances insulin levels and ghrelin (helping to keep you satisfied and satiated for longer)
- May increase longevity
- Gives the gut a rest which is especially important for people who have digestive challenges
- Increases energy and mental clarity the next day
- Gives the body a reboot
- Improves and deepens sleep
Just as an athlete has a rest day, think of your intermittent fasting days as your rest and reboot days.
You can even treat your fasting days as self-care days - go to bed early, spend time in nature, do a yoga class or gentle exercise, spend less time on your phone, have a bath, meditate, do a body care treatment, etc.
Ayurvedic Mono- Ingredient Fasting:
I also like Ayurvedic principles of fasting where you eat a mono-ingredient or meal for a few days (I choose Kitchari). I did this during our 30 Day Spring Eliminate and Illuminate Program, felt great, rebooted my digestive system and leaned up my body. I made a big batch of Kitchari and only ate that for 3 days. I drank water and Ayurvedic Fasting tea throughout the day as well.
Here are the recipes:
- 1 cup split yellow mung beans (available at Superstore)
- 2 cups basmati rice
- 1 inch fresh ginger root, peeled and chopped
- 1 small handful fresh cilantro (or parsley) leaves, chopped
- 2 Tbsp ghee – recipe for ghee is in my book or purchase at health food stores or Superstore
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp whole cumin seeds
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 pinch hing (asafetida) – optional and found in Indian grocery stores. Helps reduce gas and bloating
- 7-10 cups water
- Optional: You can also add 2 cups vegetables to this (zucchini, asparagus, carrots, celery, cauliflower, etc). I love zucchini in mine!
- Wash beans and rice together until water runs clear.
- In a large pot on medium heat mix ghee, mustard seeds, turmeric, hing, ginger, cumin seeds, cumin powder and coriander powder, and stir together for a few minutes.
- Add rice and beans (and vegetables) and stir again.
- Add water and salt and bring to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes.
- Turn heat to low, cover pot, and continue to cook until rice and beans become soft (about 30-40 minutes).
- Add the cilantro leaves just before serving.
A Simple Ayurvedic Fasting Tea
To make the fasting tea, use the following ingredients:
- 1 liter water
- 1 tsp. cumin seeds
- 1 tsp. coriander seeds
- 1 tsp. fennel seeds
- 1 tsp. fresh ginger root, thinly sliced or finely chopped
- 3 cardamom (discard the pods and grind the seeds)
- Mix ingredients and gently heat in a pot. Remove from the heat just before it boils and steep for a further 10 minutes. Filter through a strainer into a large mug or glass mason jar and drink or keep warm in a thermos to consume throughout the day.
I personally have never enjoyed strict fasting (no food or drink all day) because I love food, I need consistent energy throughout the day and my Ayurvedic dosha (body type) is Pitta and you should never cross a Pitta if they haven’t eaten (a.k.a hangry)! But I like the idea of Intermittent Fasting and over the summer as our appetite naturally suppresses, I may just try 2 days a week of this way of eating and see how it feels. How about you?
Yours in health and vitality,