Ms. Shivani Bavalekar, Sr. Executive Nutritionist, Cloudnine Group of Hospitals, Navi Mumbai (Vashi)
Navratri, the festival of lights, dance, energy and fasting (upwas) is just around the corner. Devotees in this season fast for 9 days and consume limited food called “UPWAS foods“. The people who are fasting always feel that they will lose weight, but the fact is different. When you go on any kind of fasting for a long time the body goes into starvation mode and converts the food into fats, which for many people turns into weight gain as opposed to the expected weight loss. We all think that consuming sugar free or fat free products will help us in weight loss, but every such product has its pros and cons, this article will help you to understand.
Sugar-free foods and food products:
When we say sugar-free ,its means excluding sugar from the diet which technically is not possible hence , what people do they substitute sugar with artificial sugar or saccharine , but it would be to keep in mind that overeating sugar-free products is almost equivalent to eating sugar filled products and not entirely healthier. Many sugar – free products contain artificial sugar along with hidden sugar, which give you same calorie as present in normal sugar. Also sometimes the products have other additives added to enhance flavors.
The main way to lose weight and stay healthy is to eat well balanced diet which consists of lean protein , fiber rich carbohydrates , healthy fats and regular exercise. Hence its recommended to replace your white sugar with jaggery ,date syrup etc. (but to consume in moderation i.e. just 4 to 5t tsp per day , only if weight is normal, and you don’t have any co morbid condition) as this will give you more health benefits as compared to white sugar.
Pros: Weight Loss : Cutting down sugar is nothing but cutting down empty calories. Hence doing this will help you in weight loss but you also have to observe on portion sizes of overall meals and foods that you are consuming.
Cons : Difficult to achieve weight loss.
At one point we crave for sugars and then there might be chances you end up eating lot of chocolates or sugary things and also at times it will be difficult for you to identify the difference between added sugar and artificial sugar, as many products have hidden sugar with different names.
Fat free Products or Diet foods: There are many fat free products available in the market , but these types of products are loaded with starches, extra sodium and added sugar , which will not help you to lose weight. When it comes to health, it is more important to focus on type of fat and quantity of fat you are consuming.
Example: In-case you are consuming baked potato chips whole big packet, yes it sounds healthy as it is baked and not deep fried , but still this might increase your weight as these products are added with sugar, starches and more salt to replace the missing flavors of fats.
Pros: Weight loss
If you make an effort to reduce fat intake, you might lose weight, but this shall include restricting carbohydrate too. However, the solution to keeping this weight off is to limit the consumption of visible fat in your diet. Try adding healthy fats as walnut, flaxseed, and safflower seeds instead.
Cons: Fat free diets mostly eliminate fats drastically and this interferes with absorption of fat soluble vitamins such as A, D,E , K in the body and might affect our bone health , eyes and skin health.
Hence fats are equally important as all other nutrients. And the recommended amount is about 4 to 5 tsp per day only if your BMI (body mass index) and other factors are normal. Hence whether it’s sugar-free or fat free products, what matters more is portion size, nutritive value of the particular foods and the healthy type selected.
Pregnancy and fasting: It is not recommended to fast during pregnancy for you and your baby’s health. As it is important to maintain a healthy weight gain in pregnancy for the baby and mother. Fasting will lead to a gap of daily supply of nutrients which the baby needs for overall development and growth.
Gestational Diabetes Mellitus and fasting
Women with pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes, while fasting the sugar might fluctuate a lot; either there will be a low blood sugar level due to inadequate intake and long empty gaps or once you consume a heavy meal in the night after whole day of fasting, then the blood sugar level will spike up suddenly and might give trouble to the mother and the baby and it is not considered safe.
Breastfeeding and fasting:
Mother’s milk is very important for the new born baby as it has essential nutrients in it which helps to protect the baby from infection and helps in growth and immunity. So, women who are breastfeeding are not expected to fast, as the baby is completely dependent on mother’s milk and if they choose to go ahead with fasting they must know that there will be lack of nutrient supply to baby, which might lead to an issue for baby in gaining weight and hampering proper growth.