Navratri is the most auspicious occasion in India now celebrated in different countries as well. 9 days of Navratri are marked as fasting, devotion, and dandiya. The fasting period may differ from devotee to devotee but it has significant health benefits. The restriction of calorie intake and nutritional value of food allowed during these 9 days cleanses the whole body system and promotes healthy living.
Good nutrition and adequate physical activity are the core pillars of healthy living. Nutritional value builds the relationship between food and healthy living. So, fasting is the willingness of reducing or restricting food, calorie intake for a certain period. In general, fasts are performed over 24-72 hours in different cultures and religions of diversified India. However, fasting is becoming a diet trend these days with the wide popularity of intermittent fasting on social media. It involves cycles of eating and fasting over different periods of a particular day or week. Although fasting is a very debatable or subjective approach, some thinkers are in the view of its benefits others view it as unhealthy, depriving, or religious rite only. Considering the science behind fast, short-term fasting is beneficial. That is why it is widely famous and done by people from different countries and religions to manage weight and prevent diseases.
Types of Fasting
The types of fasting or calorie restriction demonstrate different impacts on the human body as discussed below:
In this fasting, calorie intake is limited to a specific timeframe that helps in aligning circadian rhythm or body clock. This cycle tells the body when to eat, rise, sleep, work, etc. So, eating in between 8 to 12 hours and doing fasting between 10 am to 6 pm gives a shock to the body and it starts aligning the rhythm. It is a natural repair system to sync all the body organs.
The restriction of calorie intake in a particular and follow this pattern for 2 days in a week is the process of intermittent fasting. This is short but intensive therapy for the body and reminds us that a human body does not need to consume constantly. The choice of consumption should be wise, normal activities and exercise are integrally important for the body in addition to food or nutrition.
In periodic fasting, calorie intake is restricted for three to five days that promotes depletion of stored glycogen, and begin ketosis process in the body that burn stored fats as discussed above. This promotes that five days of calorie limitation in the diet is healthy and doesn’t deplete nutrients. This is the most superior method of fasting among these three as it allows the body to enter ketosis and detox it intensively.
The Science behind Fasting
A large number of researches have been undertaken and their evidence supports all the benefits of fasting. Most significantly, fasting helps in cleansing toxins and improves the digestion system of the body.
During the fast, the body doesn’t get the usual glucose that forces blood cells to produce energy and it begins gluconeogenesis. It is a natural process of the body to produce sugar. Moreover, the liver helps in converting non-carbohydrate materials like fats, amino acids, and lactate into glucose energy. Due to energy conservation during fast, metabolism rate, heart rate, and blood pressure come down and boost the efficiency of the body.
Another process of the body named Ketosis is the fast cycle that burns stored fats. As the primary source of this fasting is stored fats so it is ideal for weight loss and balancing sugar levels.
The mild stress of fasting on the body makes body cells adaptive and enhances their ability to cope up with different diseases and external attacks. This is the same as the muscle-building process. We stress up the muscles and cardiovascular system while workout sessions and the body grows stronger after rest and recovery. This is why short-term fasting is recommendable and imposes so many health benefits.
Benefits of Fasting
Promotes control of Blood Sugar :
Fasting helps to improve blood sugar levels by reducing insulin resistance. Lowering Blood sugar levels prevents spikes and crashes in your blood sugar level. Less insulin resistance can increase your body’s acuity to insulin, allowing it to transport glucose from your bloodstream to your cells more efficiently.
Reduce Inflammation and promotes Better Health:
Inflammation occurs because of tissue injury which can affect the immune system. Fasting helps to normalize the immune process to fight off infections and chronic inflammation to promote better health.
Boost Heart Health by improving Blood Pressure and Cholesterol Levels:
Fasting is one of the most effective ways to improve blood pressure and cholesterol level. It will reduce the risk of getting heart-related diseases and improves heart health. Fasting will lower down the bad LDL cholesterol and blood triglycerides level by 20-35%. It not only boosts heart health but also lowers down the risk of diabetes and coronary artery.
Enhance Brain Function by preventing Neurodegenerative Disorders:
There is a powerful effect of fasting on brain health. It increases the generation of nerve cells which helps to protect brain health and enhance its functioning. Fasting is a great way to prevent neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Helps in Losing Weight by boosting metabolism and limiting calorie intake
Practicing fasting is one of the easiest ways to lose weight naturally. It enhances the hormone functions to break down fat which facilitates weight loss. Fasting is a quick option to limit calorie intake and improves metabolism rate.
Secretes Growth Hormones:
Fasting helps to increase the level of human growth hormones. Human growth hormone is a type of protein hormone which plays a very important role in weight loss, muscle strength, and growth also.
Doing exercise during fasting increases testosterone and human growth hormone levels while reducing insulin resistance. This whole process helps to strengthen your muscles. Fasting helps to recover muscle damage, and build more muscles.
Promote Anti Aging:
Fasting increases the metabolism level to break down the fat and burns calories. Fasting slows down the DNA degradation process and accelerates its repair by increasing the antioxidant level. It protects skin cells from free radicals that promote anti-aging
Aid in Cancer Prevention and effectiveness of Chemotherapy
Intermittent fasting for 1-3 days protects and activates the stem cells. Stem cells of the immune system increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy which is beneficial in cancer prevention treatment.
What to Do and Avoid during Navratri Fasting
The purpose of fasting during Navratri fasts is to purify and restore our mind, body, and soul. Fasting differs a little from region to region within India. Some people fast for all nine days while some fast for seven days. Many people fast only first and last day. However, the food items that are allowed during Navratri are the same for all the regions and communities. But many don’t understand the true purpose of fasting and go overboard with eating. Here is the list of foods people can consume without any second thought during fasting.
During fast, you can eat all kinds of fruits. Fruits are high in nutrients and are easy to digest. Eating fruits keep you fuller and energetic during your working hours. Some people do fasting for all nine days only by consuming fruits.
Specific Flour and Grains
People who fast aren’t allowed to consume regular grains like wheat and rice. There are other healthy alternatives you can consume in place of wheat. These are:
- Singhare ka atta (water chestnut flour)
- Kuttu ka Atta
- (buckwheat flour)
- Rajgira ka atta
- Arrowroot Flour
If we talk about rice alternatives, people can eat Samak ke chawal (barnyard millet).
Dryfruits are a rich source of nutrients and are considered good during fast. Consuming dry fruits help people managing their appetite and keep them fuller for a long time. You can consume any dry fruit including almonds, raisins, cashews, apricots, etc.
Milk or Milk Products
Another healthy option to satisfy your tummy during fast is milk. The Milk has ample proteins, vitamins, minerals, etc that provide your body energy to work. You can also consume other milk products such as curd, paneer(cottage cheese), ghee, buttermilk, etc.
Potatoes are the most consumed food during the Navratri period. Hundreds of potato dishes are sold in markets in form of chips, namkeen, chaat, etc. If you got bored with these potato dishes, you can intake other vegetables like pumpkin, bottle gourd, and sweet potato.
Drinking water not only keeps the body hydrated but also helps in the detoxifying process. If you’re doing fast, remember to drink plenty of water throughout the day.
Things to Avoid During Navratri Fasting
Eating Non-veg Foods:
Whether you’re doing fasting or not, non-vegetarian foods are strictly prohibited during the Navratri period as it is not considered good to kill animals and eat them in the Hindu religion. Moreover, you should not consume alcohol and other alcoholic products in Navratri.
Avoid Leather products
In this period, people also avoid products made of leather-like clothes, shoes, and belts. Even dirty clothes are not considered auspicious.
Avoid Onion Consumption
Like non-veg and alcohol, people should not consume onion and garlic or prepare any food at home using these spices in the Navratri period.
According to the sacred Hindu book Vishnu Puran, people should avoid sleeping in the afternoon when doing Navratri fast. It is described that all the good karma from fasting goes null by sleeping in the afternoon.
The main motive behind fast is to detoxify the mind, body, and soul. So, one should only eat satvik foods or foods containing fewer spices. Fried market foods are not eligible during Navratri fast.
Cutting nails and Hairs
Hair or Nail Trimming in Navratri must be avoided. It is a belief that doing so can enrage Goddess Durga.
Q.1 Why do we fast during Navratri?
Ans.1 It is a time when a lot of devotees pray to Goddess Durga and do fasting during this period. Besides, this religious significance, fasting also helps in detoxifying your mind, body, and soul.
Q.2 Can I drink a cold drink in Navratri fast?
Ans.2 Drinks like soda and cold drinks must be avoided during fast. Instead, you can go for healthy beverage options like coconut water, fresh fruit juice, and buttermilk.
Q.3 Can we drink orange juice in Navratri fast?
Ans.3 Yes, you are allowed to drink fresh fruit juice, homemade smoothies, and mango /banana shake. But market or packaged fruit juice should be avoided as they contain preservatives.