The 5:2 diet is one of the latest diet trends, but is fasting a good or bad thing?
As always, the answer isn’t as simple as that. Although to balance blood sugar levels, we need to eat regular, balanced meals and cut down on sugary, refined foods, we are actually designed for intermittent fasting and occasional calorie restriction. Indeed, in all species, the evidence is that intermittent fasting and calorie restriction can extend healthy lifespan. Interestingly, most of the major religions undertake some for of religious fasting – Lent, Ramadam and Yom Kippur are a couple of well known ones.
There’ve been nearly 1,100 papers published on this subject over the last 5 years and the consensus seems to be that calorie restriction can help to improve insulin sensitivity, thus helping normalise high blood sugar levels; it can protect against oxidative stress and support the reduction of chronic inflammation; improve the repair and integrity of DNA; help stabilize blood pressure; reduce triglycerides and LDL cholesterol – the list goes on.
Although fasting can be helpful and healthy, it can be totally counterproductive if it’s done the wrong way – starving for 2 days and then eating whatever you like for 5 days isn’t going to help you lose weight or improve your health! The key is combining fasting with a healthy, nutrient (not calorie) dense diet for the rest of the time.
There’s various easy ways that you can incorporate a period of fasting into your week – you could try increasing the gap between dinner and breakfast (or even skip breakfast altogether) for 2 days in the week. Aim for 16 hours fast on these 2 days, with healthy low calorie, nutrient dense food for the 8 hours window in between.
Or you could try the one meal a day protocol once a week, where you eat only one meal of green vegetables with lean protein and no starch or fruit. Drink superfoods like chlorella at intervals, together with green tea and water. Go to bed early on fasting days, perhaps try some deep breathing exercises or yoga and see how it can help you control your weight and improve vitality.
For more information on the science of fasting, you might like to view this link
If you’d like in-depth personal support for weight loss or any other aspect of nutrition for health, contact me at the Broad Street Practice 01780 480889. For further information browse the Nutritional Therapy pages on the practice website.