Fast the healthy way

It’s the holy period as per Hindu calendar. Not just many festivals are celebrated now, but it is also an auspicious time for rituals and pujas. Shravan is that period of the year when many Hindus observe fasting. This year, the month of Shravan starts from August 3. To make your fast more manageable for you, here are a few things that you must take into consideration, with regard to your diet.

A complete fast reduces the metabolic rate hence it is recommended to eat healthy, especially small frequent meals. Fasting should aim at disciplining the food intake. Balance of nutrients has to be planned while sketching your diet for fasting for longer periods — carbohydrates, proteins, minerals and electrolytes should be present in right proportions.

Ambika Nair

Pune-based Ambika Nair, clinical nutritionist, director, My Nutritional Needs (nutrition consultancy services), says, “Those who fast for one or two days during Shravan, can consume fruits, fruit juices, lime juice with salt and sugar. Raw vegetable juices with a combination of apple, carrot, bottle gourd, coriander and mint with a dash of black salt, is a good detoxifier. It also hydrates the system with sufficient minerals. Those who fast for the entire month by taking only one meal a day are recommended to have milk, fruits or dry fruits for breakfast; vegetable juices, buttermilk for lunch; and one Bhakri with moong dal or a light khichadi made of rice and dal and a less spicy vegetable for dinner.”

During this time, consumption of lentils or dals, curd, milk provides protein and is generally recommended. A traditional diet is based more on starches, with preparations like Sabudana Khichadi, fried potatoes, sweet potatoes and deep fried dehydrated homemade starch-based foods. Nair, while speaking about traditional diet, remarks, “This is generally unhealthy. Fast has to be coupled with low-calorie foods. The method of cooking has to be healthy which involves baking, roasting, sauté or steaming instead of deep frying. Inclusion of 3-4 portion sizes of fresh seasonal fruits, milk, buttermilk, curd, cucumbers is recommended.”

If you want to give a miss to conventional recipes, you could try a few interesting dishes such as Varai Dosa with Cucumber Koshimbir, Varai Idli/ Upma/ Sheera, Rajgeera Ladoo or Rajgeera Flakes with milk or buttermilk, Aloo Chat with boiled potatoes and pomegranate seeds and saindhav salt, dates, and a handful of almonds or walnuts.

Nair tells us why one should abstain from consuming non-veg food during Shravan. She explains, “The microbial load in the environment is higher. Seasonal changes favour the growth of disease-causing organisms. Also owing to the seasonal changes, the gastrointestinal system slows down and therefore lighter and easy-to-digest foods are recommended. To conserve the body’s immunity and resist infections, non-veg foods must be avoided in Shravan. Another reason is that this is also the breeding season for the fish. According to traditional practices, this is a month of abstinence and people work on inner development of the mind and body, by practising ahimsa, satvik food and discipline, through food as a medium.”

This being monsoon time too, due to moisture, water-borne diseases spread because of micro organisms. Nair cites, “According to resources from Ayurveda, The Fire element (Agni) in the body decreases during this season, therefore, digestion of heavy foods like non-veg, too high protein foods kaddhanya (sprouts)/ legumes are generally avoided.”

Nair suggests a day’s fasting diet

– 6 am: Water (2 glasses)

– 6.30 am: Green Tea, with a dash of lime, honey and a pinch of cinnamon powder (1 cup)

– 8 am: Four almonds, 2 walnuts,  2 dates or mix fruits (1 bowl) and cow’s milk (200 ml)

– 10 am: Buttermilk/ Green Tea (2 glasses and 2 cups)

– 12 noon: Varai Idli/ Upma/ Sheera/ Varai Dosa and a cup of pomegranate seeds

– 4 pm: Rajgeera Laddoo (2) and one fruit

– 6 pm: Raw vegetable juice made of bottle gourd, tomato, coriander leaves, mint with black salt

– 8 pm: Mixed veg or cabbage or Moong Dal soup

– 10 pm: Milk (200 ml)

– Ambika Nair, clinical nutritionist,
director, My Nutritional Needs

(This article was published in Sakaal Times during the holy month of Shravan)

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