Although the practice of fasting has been around for centuries as a means of meditation, religious connection or form of protest, the idea of fasting for dietary concerns is a relatively newer prospect that’s gaining momentum with today’s weight watchers.
While conventional wisdom dictates three square meals a day for a healthy functioning lifestyle, the controversial idea of intermittent fasting or fasting diets has proponents rethinking what goes on their plates and how frequently.
Implemented as a check to bodily systems, fasting diets claim a period of 14 to 22 hours without substantial foods can increase the amount of nutrients absorbed into the body at the next meal, at a more efficient pace to rebuild or recharge those systems.
With two main camps of proponents — those who fast daily or those who fast alternating days — both variations on fasting call for strict food group appropriation when a meal is eaten, copious amounts of water, and rigorous exercise.
Daily fasters tend to skip breakfast, eat a light vegetable or fruit snack at lunch, and eat one or more large meals in the evening, while alternating day fasters tend to eat on a normal schedule one day and significantly reduce calories the next. But the science has trouble verifying such dietary claims, said Sandra Farthing, a registered dietitian at Lourdes hospital.
“Fasting in and of itself can be a healthy thing, but it’s not for weight loss,” she said. “Most people do it to clear their mind.
“But if you’re doing it for nutritional reasons, it’s not good at all. You’re just going to hurt yourself as your body loses vitamins and minerals.”
A growing group of people in the health food world propose a slightly different facet of fasting: the juice fast. A variation on vegetable juicing taken to the extreme, juice fasting calls for people consuming nothing but freshly juiced vegetables at every meal for an extended period of time.
Seen as an effective manner of overhauling the body’s digestive system by cutting drastically back on processed foods and supercharging the body on nutrient and vitamin-rich vegetables, the juice fast operates as a detox, said Dr. Jason Brame, of Lone Oak Chiropractic.
“It’s like hitting the reset button your computer, it picks everything back up to speed and really just reboots you,” Brame said.
Yolanda Heath, owner of Heath Health Foods, recommends reducing processed meat consumption.
“As a society we eat too much processed meat and when we eat so much processed foods, we don’t get the essential enzymes that we need,” Heath said. “That being said, our body can’t break it down, and that’s why we have a society with tons of gastrointestinal and digestive issues.
“So the fresher, the rawer our foods, the more enzymes it has and it’s easier for the body to break down.”
According to Brame, bodily systems are designed to adapt to the wide range of foods eaten on a daily basis, but those systems can only go so far, making proper nutrition vital and precipitating the benefits of such recharging fasts.
While researchers are hesitant in making claims about the effectiveness of the diet, freshly extracted juice is believed to provide fresh nutrients to the body in a manner that doesn’t call for the digestive system to work as hard.
“We’ve always heard the fresher our food is, the more nutritious it is for us,” Heath said.
“If you have no other alternative — maybe you have no juicer — juices off the shelf are an option, but a lot of times the juices off the shelf are very high in sodium and they have preservatives added to keep them on the shelf.”
Call Will Pinkston, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8676.