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Wellness consultant Naini Setalvad doles out a smart plan for fasting

American author Benjamin Franklin once said, “The best of all medicines is resting and fasting.” In fact, most religions advocate some form of fasting or upvas; the period may vary from once a week to more than a month. Specific months have been allotted for longer fasts; while for Hindus, it is in the ongoing month of Shravan; for the Jains, it is during chaturmasa and also during the eight days of paryushan; for the Zoroastrians it is in the Boman mahino; for the Christians, it is in the Lent season; and for the Muslims, it is observed during the holy month of Ramzan.

Scientifically speaking, fasting is the simplest and easiest way to give your body time to cleanse and rejuvenate itself. It is an overhauling and purifying process that provides rest to important organs like the stomach, intestine, liver and kidney. A proper fast means complete abstinence from all substances except pure water in an environment of total rest. This inculcates self-discipline and self-control, improves health, re-energises the body and reinforces positivity.

Rest, renew, reinvent

Have you ever noticed how birds, animals or even humans stop eating when they fall sick? With this, they are automatically fasting to give their body enough time to restore good health. Fasting also provides a much-needed break from the abuse to which the body is often subjected. Sadly, we have moved away from pure and natural foods. When the body gets no rest from processing food day after day, the digestive and cleansing systems are subjected to an uninterrupted workload. Environmental pollutants also contribute to this workload. This is when fasting comes to your aid. When you go without eating for hours at length, the body throws out the toxins from within and refreshes the physical, mental and spiritual being. There is no better way to stop a vicious cycle of self-destructive behaviour than by fasting.

Unfortunately, though, many people use fasting as a bargaining tool to attain a specific goal, such as losing a certain amount of weight or getting flatter abs. Also, some others look at fasting as a means of feasting—having ‘permissible’ foods the way they want, and eating all the wrong combinations of food. Regrettably, they end up gorging, thereby hindering their health and losing the basic essence of fasting.

Fasting, the new-age way

With changing times, fasting has been improvised to make it more sustainable and less austere to suit the modern lifestyle. So if you’re a silver observing a fast for a day, a week or even a month, you can design your meal such that you get all important nutrients to keep you nourished and energised. Thus, the body isn’t deprived of necessary fats and proteins and gets enough time to recuperate and rejuvenate. You can cut down the severity of your fast by including the following items: fruits, nuts, milk, yoghurt, paneer, dry fruits, certain vegetables and non-grainy foods like bottle-gourd, lemon, cucumber and spices like cumin, coriander, ginger and rock salt. Food grains can be substituted with potato, sweet potato, sago, yam, amaranth (rajgira), water chestnut flour (singhara atta), sama (barnyard millet) and kuttu (buckwheat); the medium of cooking could be cow’s ghee. When you cut down on grains, processed and packaged foods, pulses and meat, digestion becomes easy and less acidic.

Smart plan for fasting

Here’s a smart, well-balanced meal plan that provides nutrients, keeps you full, and revitalises your body. The mantra of this meal is to ditch fried foods and sweets and substitute them with healthy foods to add vigour to your life.

  • Morning: Water
  • Mid-morning: Fresh fruits + dry fruits like figs or raisins. You could sip on herbal infusions in between or have a cup of tea or coffee with a little milk and some nuts to satiate your hunger
  • Lunch: Cucumber salad + permissible vegetables + rajgira or singhara roti + buttermilk/yoghurt/paneer
  • Mid-evening: Nuts + herbal infusion/green tea
  • Dinner: Bottle-gourd soup + a small quantity of boiled potato or sweet potato subzi + kuttu or sama roti or sago khichdi tempered with cow’s ghee, ginger, cumin, rock salt, and accompanied with mint chutney
  • Dessert: If you have a sweet tooth, you can have a piece of organic jaggery or dry figs.

The Jain fast

Jains often follow a very austere fast, which makes it difficult for silvers to sustain themselves. Though vegetables and fruits are not permissible, I recommend pulses, grains, raw banana, dairy products, all oils, ghee, sundried vegetables like sword beans, dried fenugreek and tomatoes, and spices and salt to reduce the severity.

  • Morning: 1 khakhra + 6 almonds + tea
  • Lunch: Tomatoes + sundried vegetables + grains/pulses + buttermilk
  • Mid evening: Fruit followed by tea/coffee/milk
  • Dinner: Tomato soup/rasam + chutney with dosa/idli/cheela or paratha/rice/thepla/rotla with dal + yoghurt + sambar or paneer.

Setalvad is an obesity and lifestyle disease consultant who offers diet counselling at Health for You, a wellness clinic in Mumbai, as well as online. Visit for more details or write to if you have any queries for her

Featured in Harmony — Celebrate Age Magazine
August 2017