From a nutritional point of view, RELIGIOUS FASTING is experienced by those who choose it, as a period that presupposes complete abstinence from all foods of animal origin such as meat, fish, dairy, etc. Recommendations for fasting that are similar to those of the Mediterranean diet include:

  • increased fiber consumption,
  • saturated fat replacement with monounsaturated or polyunsaturated and
  • consumption of more vitamins and trace elements.

But how HEALTHY do these adjustments are?
If you are fasting, you have certainly wondered about the benefits and negative effects on our health. This issue has attracted the interest of several scientists. Studies show a reduction in total energy consumption and a reduction in fat while carbohydrate and fiber intake are increased.
The results showed that fasting leads to:

  • reduction in total cholesterol and triglycerides,
  • normalization of the glycemic profile of individuals,
  • proper functioning of the digestive system and reduction in the incidence of colon cancer
  • relief from constipation,
  • prevention against various forms of cancer

Are you one of those people who consider fasting as a natural DETOXIFICATION for the body due to fruits, vegetables and legumes? All of this has some basis as certain food groups offer a variety of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that help reduce oxidative stress, which is responsible for the development of degenerative diseases of the nervous system. Long-term fasting also leads not only to the breakdown and removal of dead cells from the body but also to the mobilization of the microelements that already are stored in it.
However, this change in eating habits and the absence of whole food groups certainly supports nutritional deficiencies that are related to:

  • protein intake
  • iron levels
  • vitamin B12 and
  • calcium

Failure to consume significant sources of high biological value protein may pose risks to muscle mass and muscle recovery, especially if you exercise.
Iron in the form of heme iron found in meat can be better absorbed than non-heme iron contained in plant foods and that’s the form consumed by fasting people. Gradually the lack of iron leads to easy fatigue and weakness.
The absorption of vitamin B12 depends on the presence of a substance in the gastric fluid called an internal factor. It is normally found in red meat, poultry and eggs as well as in fortified cereals. It is estimated that about 55% of the vitamin that is obtained through diet is absorbed. Fruits and vegetables do not contain vitamin B12, so there is a deficiency that can lead to abnormal nervous system function.
Finally, not meeting our calcium needs due to the absence of dairy products from the daily diet increases the risk of osteopenia, osteoporosis and fractures, especially for older women.


Below I have a solution for you with 4 tips!
1. Below I have a solution for you with 4 tips! Plant foods are very important sources of protein and you should not neglect them. Adequate protein intake is achieved by consuming legumes such as beans, lentils, chickpeas, various seafood and nuts. Soy and its products are also sources of protein.
2. Increase iron absorption.. Try to eat an orange or tangerine each time you eat legumes or other iron-rich foods, or combine it with cauliflower or peppers or broccoli. The combination of iron sources with vitamin C increases its absorption by up to 4 times. Avoid drinking tea or beverages that contain tannins with iron sources because they have the opposite effect to vitamin C. They reduce its absorption.
3. Watch your calcium intake. There are many plant foods rich in calcium such as spinach, beets, broccoli and generally green leafy vegetables. What you need to watch out for is that those that contain oxalic acids such as spinach and beetroot reduce the absorption of calcium. With cooking, part of the oxalate is eliminated and calcium is better absorbed.
4. Consult your nutritionist. Find out from the experts about soy products and how they can be included in your daily diet.

  • Choose foods high in fibers that increase satiety and alleviate hunger for a long time.
  • Pay attention to the use of olive oil with which we usually over consume having the opposite effect in regulating our weight.

  • You can consume a small piece of halva with stevia without stress, omitting one of the intermediate meals of the next day.
  • Try not to choose processed foods but prefer a variety of fruits and vegetables.
  • Don’t focus on starchy and carbohydrate foods, but combine them with protein sources, which will make it easier for you to get full.

Finally, I don’t forget the meal ideas I promised you, which if you try to include in your diet you will see that fasting is not so boring after all.

  1. Spaghetti salad (pasta of your choice) with shrimp, cherry tomatoes, peppers, and avocado
  2. Green salad with groats, mushrooms, onions and mustard dip
  3. Hummus with roasted peppers, garlic and paprika
  4. Risotto with shrimp or mushrooms and vegetables
  5. Squid or Soup filled with spinach and greens
  6. Chickpea meatballs (Falafel) or vegetable burgers to your liking
  7. Salad with quinoa, peppers, black beans and a little tangerine

Experiment, use the most of your free time by focusing on healthy solutions and don’t neglect exercise even for a few minutes during your day.
1) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28856433
2) https://doi.org/10.1079/BJN20041197
3) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29453427

Written by Athanalidou Eirini
Dietitian – Nutritionist BSc
Sc. Associate of Nutripass

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