We are a week into Ramadan, and what a whirlwind it has been. No, Ramadan isn’t just about not eating or drinking during the time the sun is up. It’s also about abstaining from impurities, living as frugally as possible, performing extra prayers for ourselves and for others, etc. However, most people probably know Ramadan as the holiday where you don’t get to eat or drink anything (not even water?!).
Actually, different types of fasting have been all the rage lately, and diets seem to be getting kicked to the curb. These different types of non-religious fasting include intermittent, alternate-day, etc. Other religions also present the concept of fasting in their own ways. All this to say, fasting isn’t a new concept, and some of the health benefits have been known, but they’re still foreign to some people who don’t understand why anyone would ever do it for any reason.
For those who don’t know much about Ramadan or fasting in general, or have always fasted but didn’t really know the bodily gains behind it, here are 10 health benefits—backed by science—of fasting for you to look into:
Multiple studies have found that fasting can improve and control blood sugar levels. This can be especially helpful for people at risk of—or those with—diabetes. It can lead to decreased insulin resistance, which in other words can increase your body’s sensitivity to insulin and will let your body transport glucose from your bloodstream to your cells more easily. When you’re pre-diabetic or have diabetes, it’s vital to keep your blood sugar levels prime (not too low or too high), and fasting can prevent these sudden spikes and crashes.
Research shows that inflammation in the body can lead to chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease. Studies also show that fasting can help decrease this inflammation in the body, which hopefully helps some people have less of a risk of getting chronic conditions.
As Muslims, we fast because it’s one of the five pillars of Islam. Some people however, fast because they want to lose weight. In addition to that, studies show that you can also lower your cholesterol at the same time. When fasting, your lipid (fatty acids in the body) profile improves, in turn leading to less cholesterol in the blood. This means there’s less of a chance of you developing blood clots and such, which will lessen your risk of heart attacks, strokes, and more.
Detoxing your body is definitely popular these days. Fasting is one way you can flush your body out from impurities. I mean think about it; you’re not putting anything into your body for about 12 hours per day, therefore nothing harmful can enter your body that entire time. If you do this for an entire month, you will be very cleansed out by the end of it. Toxins will be burned away by your body so that when you start eating regularly again, you will surely feel like you’re starting on a blank slate.
Not ingesting anything for hours on end will boost your metabolism and allow your body to absorb more nutrients from the food you do eat at the end of each day. A hormone called adiponectin is produced at higher rates, causing your muscles to absorb nutrients at higher rates as well. And as a general rule, the more nutrients being utilized, the better.
Several studies have proven that fasting can increase Human Growth Hormone (HGH) levels in the body. This is a type of protein that helps you grow how you’re supposed to, gain muscle strength, etc. Put simply, an increase in this protein hormone is not a bad thing.
In animal studies, scientists have been able to show that fasting delays the rate of aging slightly and can even increase longevity and survival rates when it comes to certain diseases. While this isn’t the strongest point because of the little amount of research done so far, this is a very promising idea.
Fasting doesn’t just have positive impacts on the body. Fasting tests your mental wellbeing and spirituality, but it also physically affects your brain in a positive way. A specific experiment showed that fasting during Ramadan causes the brain to release an increased amount of neurotrophic factor— something that actually causes more brain cells to be made, and in turn improves all brain functions. The brain is just as important as the body, so it’s nice to know that while fasting, we’re helping ourselves have better functioning versions of both.
9. Less Stress
Fasting also causes a reduction in the production of the hormone called cortisol, which is the hormone produced by our adrenal glands that causes us to get stressed out. This can even lead to less stress for a while after Ramadan ends, because the reduced levels of cortisol have lasting effects in the brain. And I think I can safely speak for everyone when I say that we ALL need less stress in our lives.
10. Date Energy
Although it’s not a requirement to eat dates during Ramadan, most of us do as a tradition and for spiritual reasons. Eating dates can also give us super beneficial health enhancements. To fast properly and safely, one must have enough energy to get through the day. A serving of dates has 31 grams of natural carbs, which will no doubt give you a boost of energy. They also contain great amounts of fiber, potassium, magnesium, and vitamin B, which can all help with digestion at sundown. Overall, dates are extremely good for you, and should be a staple of every Muslim household during Ramadan no matter what.