I thought this was a good post for Yom Kippur as it is a day of fasting and atonement for those of the Jewish faith. If you are Jewish, fasting, and hungry, realize that there are some health benefits that go along with your fasting!
Siddhartha on Fasting
Before we get to the health benefits, let’s start with adopting the appropriate mindset for fasting from the fantastic book Siddhartha by Herman Hesse, a Nobel Prize winning author.
When asked by a merchant he encountered what he had learned and what his abilities were, Siddhartha replied:
“I can think. I can wait. I can fast.”
“I believe, that’s everything!”
“And what’s the use of that? For example, the fasting—what is it good for?”
[Said Siddartha]: “It is very good, sir. When a person has nothing to eat, fasting is the smartest thing he could do. When, for example, Siddhartha hadn’t learned to fast, he would have to accept any kind of service before this day is up, whether it may be with you or wherever, because hunger would force him to do so. But like this, Siddhartha can wait calmly, he knows no impatience, he knows no emergency, for a long time he can allow hunger to besiege him and can laugh about it. This, sir, is what fasting is good for.”
With that productive attitude about fasting, let’s move into the benefits!
Health Benefits of Fasting
Fasting has many health benefits. According to Monique Tello, MD, MPH of Harvard Medical School, “fasting is evolutionarily embedded within our physiology, triggering several essential cellular functions. Flipping the switch from a fed to fasting state does more than help us burn calories and lose weight.” Here are some of the major health benefits of fasting:
According to the Mayo Clinic, intermittent fasting may reduce inflammation in the body which can reduce the effects of diseases linked to inflammation such as;
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
Other benefits include:
Blood sugar control. Fasting has been found to improve blood sugar control and reduces insulin resistance. This can help decrease the risk of diabetes. Source.
Brain Health. According to Mark Mattson, a neuroscientist at the National Institute on Aging and a professor at Johns Hopkins University, studies on mice show that fasting “stimulates the production of a protein in nerve cells called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF. This protein plays critical roles in learning, memory, and the generation of new nerve cells in the hippocampus.” Studies are being conducted currently to confirm that this effect occurs in humans as well.
Healthier Aging and Longer Lifespan. According to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, fasting can lead to a longer lifespan and improve the quality of our aging.
Weight Loss. Regular fasting can help with weight loss and weight maintenance. Some studies have found it more effective than calorie restriction at losing weight and in preventing muscle loss while losing weight. Source. But other studies disagree.
Cancer Prevention. UCSF Medical School reports that intermittent fasting can help boost the immune system and also prevent cancer. UCSF recommends: “For general cancer prevention, it may be beneficial to add intermittent or short-term fasts in combination with a plant-based cancer prevention diet.”
How to Intermittent Fast
There are numerous ways to add fasting to your lifestyle. It is not as hard as it seems once you get used to it. The two primary approaches are:
- The 5:2 Fasting Regimen. This way of fasting involves eating normally for five days a week and then selecting two non-consecutive days to not eat for 24 hours. A common way to do this is to eat dinner and then not eat again until the following night’s dinner.
- The 16:8 Eating Pattern. This sort of fasting is an everyday (or almost everyday) strategy of fasting 16 hours and fitting feeding into an eight hour window. A common pattern is eating between noon and 8pm and then not eating outside of those hours.