Navratri-A beautiful time to detox your body and soul.
Periodic religious fasting reflects dietary habits of millions of believers that has been adopted by humans since centuries for spiritual, ethnical, and traditional reasons. Religious fasting in different forms are observed and practiced in almost all the major religions worldwide believed to be in practice since time immemorial. Being viewed as a means of “soul purification”, Religious Fasting is reflected in the lifestyle of believers.
In Hinduism, fasts during Navaratri or abstinence from certain foods during the “Shravan maas” are observed as a means to inculcate virtues of stoicism, build will power and enhance inner power.
In Christianity, the Lent fast is to cultivate self-discipline by giving up an unhealthy behaviour.
In Islam, fasts are observed during Ramadan to build empathy towards the less fortunate.
Buddhist fasting is characterized by abstinence from all animal products except milk.
With the Navratri fasting ongoing, lets delve into the benefits and precautions to be observed if we are observing this fast. Navratri is a major religious festival celebrated by Hindus across India and world over. In North India people fast for 9 days wherein they worship nine different forms of Goddess Durga. The practice of fasting is a major part of Hinduism and can range from light restriction to extreme abstention including not even partaking water(Nirjala vrat). The choice of days and the method of fasting are not imposed but depend on the community, the family, or the individual.
Although religious fasting is often a time of great spiritual growth, it can also be a time of great improvement to one’s physical health. And is always a subject of my interest being from the concerned field. Diet plays an integral role in the religious customs of a variety of faiths. For many religions, this role is manifested in the form of specialized fasting periods. Religious fasting in terms of patterns (continuous versus intermittent) and duration can vary from 1 to 200 days; thus, the positive and negative impact on health can be considerable.
Advantages of religious fasting are claimed by many but have been explored mainly by a limited number of studies conducted in limited populations. These trials indicate that religious fasting has beneficial effects on body weight and glycemia, cardiometabolic risk markers, and oxidative stress parameters Animals exposed to a diet mimicking fasting have demonstrated weight loss as well as lowered plasma levels of glucose, triacylglycerols, and insulin growth factor-1, although lean body mass remained stable. Diabetic mice on repeated intermittent fasting had less insulin resistance that mice fed ad libitum. The long-term significance of such changes on global health remains to be explored.
Detox diets involve short term changes in eating habits which seek to cleanse the toxins present in the body through the consumption of juices, fruits, and vegetables. They are of short duration usually span across 3 to 7 days.
The fast-paced modern life can sometimes lead to the negligence of one’s health and well-being. Poor food habits , exposure to harmful chemicals, various forms of pollution, stress, ultimately results in several toxins accumulating within the body. Smooth digestion and absorption of nutrients along with the liver's efficient processing of toxins are absolutely critical for good health. That's why a cleansing program can be a powerful tool to rejuvenate your body and skin from the inside out.
Detox diets range from total starvation fasts to juice fasts to food modification approaches and often involve the use of laxatives, diuretics, vitamins, minerals and/or colon cleanses or enemas. A typical detox diet involves a period of fasting, followed by a strict diet of fruit, vegetables, fruit juices, and water. Sometimes a detox also includes herbs, teas, supplements, and
Detoxing also helps to
provide rest to our organs by fasting.
Enhance the liver functions to eliminate toxins.
Aid in toxin removal through faeces, urine, and sweat.
Improve blood circulation.
Provide the body with healthy nutrients supplied by all the fruits, vegetables and herbs in the diet.
Additionally, a detox diet also has positive effects on mental health. It gives a sense of spiritual calm, rejuvenation , freshness, and peace within the body .There have been instances of fasting in many cultures which are said to bring about this feeling of serenity but also build discipline. For me personally, Navratri fasting itself aims to bring in the inner discipline to energise self to win over all the evils within . Hence, the idea of fasting or limiting diet for specific kinds of food at specific times of the day is not completely alien. Having said all these, Navratri is an opportunity for all who are fasting , to detox their body and the soul in attainment of complete well-being. The need is to adopt a suitable diet regime within the purview of foods normally allowed in Navratri vrat.
Foods usually consumed in Navratri:
Starch and grain flours:
Generally, in Hindu fasting traditions, whole grains are not allowed. So, the common flours that are consumed during Navratri fasting are , Buckwheat flour ( Kuttu ka atta), millet, water chestnut flour ( Singhare ka atta), Arrowroot, Tapioca pearls(Tapioca) etc. These grains offer superior nutritional characteristics. They are energy sources for metabolism besides providing more protein, omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin B, zinc, magnesium, antioxidants, iron, fibre, and also overall ease of digestion compared to conventional grain sources.
Unfortunately, oats and chia seeds are also not consumed during this fasting.
Vegetables, Greens and herbs and fruits:
Potatoes, plantain , pumpkin , tomatoes, coconut, Colocasia(taro)root, sweet potato ,bottle gourd , cucumber ,carrots, etc.
Spinach, Coriander leaves, mint, curry leaves etc,
All fruits, tomatoes, lemon, coconut, apple ,oranges etc.
Being rich in fibre, fruits and vegetables are essentials during fasting as they increase the feeling of fullness and help prevent constipation. They also contain vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals that are vital for good health.
Spices are restricted to red chilies, turmeric and cumin seeds, ginger, and only rock salt is used.
The key to comfortable cleansing is to ease your body metabolics gradually into the schedule . Normally , a week before you actually start your detox plan, eliminate all external agents that might add to your body toxins such as, alcohol, cigarettes, refined sugars, saturated fats and all processed foods in a phase wise manner.
Increase fibre intake to help keep your colon clean. Along with the fibre from fruits and vegetables, include two tablespoons of millets for that extra fibre in a glass of water to eliminate toxins from your body. Don't forget to drink lots of filtered water- at least eight glasses per day.
Another deterrent to good health is stress, as it triggers your body to release stress hormones. It's a good idea to cleanse stressful life situations along with your body. One can go for light simple yoga too during this period to de-stress and also to speed up the body functions.
Do Detox diets really help ?
Scientific research has provided input of intermittent fasting as having reduced inflammation in healthy adults. In addition to reduced body weight, this fasting can help lower cholesterol, improve glucose control, reduce liver fat, and improve blood pressure. There have been reports of increased endurance, better motor coordination and improved sleep. Though not much scientific data has been generated yet, still, it is a general overview, that detox diets if continued over a span of time might help in weight-loss, decrease consumption of addictive drinks or beverages, to overcome ailments such as headaches or joint pain and even to just improve one’s eating habits.
There is evidence that coriander, malic acid (found in grapes and wine), citric acid (found in citrus fruits), succinic acid (found in apples and blueberries), citrus pectin (found in the peel and pulp of citrus fruits) and Chlorella (a type of green algae) exhibit natural chelating properties, suggesting that they may be useful for the elimination of toxic metals .
Coriander has been shown to reduce cadmium accumulation in the livers of rainbow trout by 20–30% 1. Similarly, when 12‐mg doses of coriander were administered to lead‐poisoned mice 10 times per week for 25 days, lead concentrations in their bones decreased by approximately 22% compared to the control group 3.
It is notable that fasting may cause some health discomforts, such as dehydration, headaches, constipation, sleep deprivation, and poor sleep quality . Therefore, it is essential for fasting individuals to adhere to a balanced diet in order to eliminate the adverse effects of fasting. It is advisable that such diets contain dairy products, fruits and vegetables, enough grains.
Additionally, fasting individuals must consume adequate beverages, such as water, milk, juices . While breaking the fast , one should start with minimal amount and at a slow pace. Fasting individuals are highly recommended to avoid fatty, sweet, and salty foods, as well as carbonated and caffeinated drinks .
Pregnant women , lactating mother and diabetics should consult a physician or nutritionists before going on to fast.
References: Aga M, Iwaki K, Ueda Y et al., (2001) Preventive effect of Coriandrum sativum (Chinese parsley) on localized lead deposition in ICR mice. J Ethnopharmacol 77, 203– 208.
Ren H, Jia H, Kim S et al., (2006) Effect of Chinese parsley Coriandrum sativum and chitosan on inhibiting the accumulation of cadmium in cultured rainbow trout Oncorhynchus mykiss. Fish Sci 72,263– 269. Klein, A.V. & Kiat, H. (2015) Detox diets for toxin elimination and weight management: a critical review of the evidence. J Hum Nutr Diet. 28, 675– 686
De Cabo R and Mattson MP. Effects of intermittent fasting on health, aging, and disease. New England Journal of Medicine. 2019;381(26):2541-2551. doi: 10.1056/NEJMra1905136.