By Panagiota Karakasidou, Nutritionist-Dietitian
Fasting is the voluntary or involuntary abstinence from food. The term is mainly used to describe voluntary abstinence from certain foods, especially for religious reasons. It is essentially an act of self-restraint and not necessarily an act of increasing the consumption of other foods, such as bread or nuts.
Nutritionally, fasting is the ideal opportunity to add the main representatives of the Mediterranean diet to your diet, such as fish, seafood, legumes, vegetables, fruits and olive oil. This diet results in a reduction in the intake of saturated fats, which are mainly found in animal foods, and an increase in the intake of complex carbohydrates, fibers, vitamins and minerals, nutrients found in plant and less processed foods.
In prolonged periods of fasting, however, deficiencies in protein, iron, calcium, vitamin B12, riboflavin and folic acid are common. The lack of these ingredients can be avoided with the right combinations of selected foods, so that the body adequately meets its needs.
Proteins contribute to overall health, most importantly by reconstructing the human cells. The body absorbs proteins from food, breaks them down into their amino acids and uses them to synthesize other proteins of its own. Adequacy therefore in protein intake ensures the harmonious functioning of the body, while the appropriate combinations of different sources of plant proteins provide all the essential amino acids.
• Legumes with cereals (rice, oats, buckwheat, quinoa, chia seeds)
• Legumes with nuts, sesame or whole-wheat tahini and seeds (sunflower seeds, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds)
• Legumes with AMINO ANIMO organic protein powder
Not eating meat is associated with reduced iron intake. Iron in the plant kingdom shows low bioavailability, so during fasting, it is recommended to consume foods rich in iron, such as spinach, legumes, sesame seeds, nuts, onions, lettuce, organic soy and whole-wheat bread.
It is also advisable to increase the intake of vitamin C (orange, lemon, peppers, kiwi), as it increases the absorption of iron. For example, a glass of orange juice before each meal significantly increases the absorption of iron from food. On the contrary, it is advisable to avoid drinking coffee or tea before or immediately after meals that contain iron, as they prevent its absorption.
It is also important to accompany each meal with a dish of raw or boiled vegetables of many kinds, such as red or white cabbage, carrot, lettuce, dill, parsley, fresh or dried onion and radish. Beets should also be included, as they help significantly in the absorption of iron.
Calcium intake during fasting is reduced due to the abstinence from dairy products. Therefore, plant foods rich in calcium should be consumed, such as whole-wheat bread, almonds, green leafy vegetables, dried figs, broccoli, sesame, tahini, halva and organic soy products (milk, cheese, tofu).
VITAMIN B12, FOLIC ACID, RIBOFLAVIN
While fasting, vitamins B12 and folic acid are found in small amounts, as they are common mainly in animal foods. Of course, the stores of a well-nourished organism in these vitamins are quite large and the period of fasting cannot lead to a lack of them. However, seafood can meet the needs for these vitamins. Riboflavin can respectively be covered by consumption of tahini, sesame, sunflower seeds, almonds, dried fruits (mainly apricots and plums).
Karakasidou P., “The Diet in Fasting – Theory and Practice”, Stamouli publications, 2019