WHAT IS RAMADAN AND BENEFITS OF FASTING
The holy month of Ramadan is here and 1.6 billions Muslims all over the world are excited! I will be posting a series of articles this Ramadan on benefits of Fasting, Nutrition in Ramadan and Prophetic Foods and how to include them in Suhoor (pre-dawn meal) and Iftaar (evening meal).
The 9th month of the lunar calendar is a time when every Muslim health permitting, fasts between sunrise to dusk and does not take any food, water or have any sexual relations. The main purpose it to teach people self restraint and strengthen their will power and also allows the people to experience some amount of hunger and thirst that makes them compassionate towards the less fortunate in the world which helps them to be more charitable as well as humble themselves towards their Creator,
Most people when they get to know about the long hours of fasting (13-19 hours based on location and season) exclaim in surprise about how a person can survive without food and drink for such long hours! But surprisingly it’s a liberating feeling not to be eating and drinking or thinking about it whole day! Once you start fasting you realize that the body adjusts very quickly to the reduced food intake but it’s the mind the that is greedy! When you are bored you want food.. when you see other people eating you want to eat too irrespective of whether you are hungry or no… when the mealtime approaches you are again programmed to find some breakfast or lunch! Not being a slave to food makes you listen to your body cues again and understand hunger and thirst and just plain boredom.
Although most Muslims fast as a sign of their obedience to Allah, science has now finally researched on the benefits of fasting. And Intermittent Fasting is the current rage now!! Read on to know the various benefits of fasting and how you can attain similar benefits as well!
BENEFITS OF INTERMITTENT FASTING:
- Reduce Diabetes Risk: Intermittent fasting has been shown to have major benefits for insulin resistance and lead to an impressive reduction in blood sugar levels for people who are at risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes.
- Insulin levels: Blood levels of insulin drop significantly, which facilitates fat burning and helps in weight loss.
- Weight loss: According to a 2014 review of the scientific literature, intermittent fasting can cause weight loss of 3-8% over 3-24 weeks! The people also lost 4-7% of their waist circumference, which indicates that they lost lots of belly fat, the harmful fat in the abdominal cavity that causes disease.
- Human growth hormone: The blood levels of growth hormone may increase as much as 5-fold and facilitate fat burning and muscle gain, and cellular repair.
- Detoxification: removing waste material from cells and liver and cleansing of the gut.
- Reduce Oxidative Stress: Studies show that intermittent fasting can reduce oxidative damage and inflammation in the body. This should have benefits against aging and development of numerous diseases.
- Gene expression: Research has found there are beneficial changes in several genes and molecules related to longevity and protection against disease.
- Improved Heart Health: Intermittent fasting has been shown to improve numerous different risk factors, including blood pressure, total and LDL cholesterol, blood triglycerides, inflammatory markers and blood sugar levels
- Improved Brain Function and Reduced Risk of Depression: Several studies in rats have shown that intermittent fasting may increase the growth of new nerve cells, which should have benefits for brain function. It also increases levels of a brain hormone called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a deficiency of which has been implicated in depression and various other disorders.
- Cancer: Fasting has been shown to have several beneficial effects on metabolism that may lead to reduced risk of cancer. The cancer cells die when deprived of sugar and this has led to the popularity of Ketogenic Diet to treat it which is essentially causing the body to mimic fasting and producing Ketone Bodies.
- Longevity: Reduced calorie intake increases life span. Not surprising considering all the above mentioned benefits!
So as you can see the benefits of fasting are numerous! The recommended fasting is 8:16; eat 8 hours and fast for 16 hours. So if your health and Doctor permits, go ahead and try fasting at least once a week or once every fortnight to experience the amazing benefits yourself!
And if you are a Muslim know that apart from the renewing and strengthening of faith every Ramadan you are also reaping innumerable health benefits.
Look forward to my next article on Nutrition in Ramadan.
Happy Ramadan. Happy Fasting!