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Does fasting help in losing weight?

The practise of fasting is widespread. But what are its health benefits? Dr Anjali Mukerjee explorers.

health and fitness Updated: Aug 26, 2011 19:50 IST
Dr Anjali Mukerjee

Does fasting benefit? Almost every religious tradition recommends fasting for healing and spiritual advantages. So whether it’s political, religious or health reasons, we all need to fast at least once a week and give our digestive systems a break. Foods like chocolates, pastas, pastries, burgers and colas tax our digestive system and hampers the functioning of our organs. Such excessive meals clog the body and affect our performance. As the body slows down, we start taking stimulants in the day to meet the daily demanding needs and sedatives in the night to try and get sound sleep.

Fasting for health
Fasting is a natural and ancient remedy for healing and purification. After a cleansing fast, you may feel light and energetic. Individual reactions to fasting vary according to the condition of the body. For some it may prove to be very intense, whereas others may find it energising and uplifting.

Try juice fasting. Opt for juice, instead of water, as it supports the body nutritionally with a lot of antioxidants while cleansing your system.

People with any kind of medical complications should not fast. Fasting helps to cleanse and purify the body and brings about mental clarity and self-discipline.

Q I’m planning to start a family soon and I want to provide the best to my yet-to-be born child. Can you advice on good nutrition during pregnancy?
Nearly all pregnant women can benefit from a nutritional program which ideally should be followed during pregnancy, during labor, delivery and even through breast feeding. Here are some basic guidelines that you can follow:

Consume 2,300 to 2,500 calories during pregnancy to ensure a well balanced diet. The nutrient break-up of your caloric intake must be 60 per cent carbohydrates from whole grains, 25 per cent protein from dairy products, pulses, poultry and fish, and 15 per cent fats from oils, nuts and oilseeds.

Drink 8-10 glasses of water. Include at least 2-3 servings of fruits and 4-5 servings of vegetables daily. Intake of Folic acid helps reduce the risk of congenital birth defects like low birth weight infants and neural tube defects. Folic acid is found in green leafy vegetables, almonds, walnuts, whole grains and whole pulses.

Iron deficiency anemia is another major risk amongst pregnant women. The iron requirements increase due to increase in blood volume and additional demands of the fetus. To meet this requirement, take iron supplements and consume iron rich foods like beans, liver, leafy vegetables, eggs, fish and ragi.

Intake of the B complex vitamins—B1, B2, B3, B6, B12 are required to ensure higher infant birth weight and size.

Supplementing with calcium helps reducing cramps during pregnancy. Low intake of calcium is associated with high blood pressure and water retention.

Each pregnancy is unique. Pregnancy should be supported by adequate rest, nutritional supplements, low impact exercises, avoidance of harmful substances and a positive attitude. Women with a history of anorexia, obesity, diabetes, gastrointestinal problems etc need special dietary requirements.

Dr Anjali Mukerjee is a nutritionist and founder of Health Total, a nutrition counselling centre.