Extension and Ag Research News


Prairie Fare: Is Intermittent Fasting Good for Your Health?

Before changing your eating plan, work with a health-care provider and a dietitian to develop a healthful eating pattern.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension

I had a meeting approaching in just minutes while I was at work, and my stomach alerted me that it wanted food.

Having a roaring stomach at a quiet meeting is more than a little embarrassing.

By the way, these stomach noises are called “borborygmi” (pronounced bawr-buh-rig’-mahy).

We might hear these sounds as food moves through our digestive system because of muscle contractions called “peristalsis.” We also have these gurgling, rumbling sounds when our stomach is empty.

I think my stomach was digesting itself. I looked in my desk drawer for snacks. I found none.

I thought I had some yogurt in the office refrigerator. No, I didn’t. I raided my lunch bag. Unfortunately, my leftover food needed heating to be appealing.

I found a somewhat dried-out flour tortilla wrapped in plastic at the bottom of my lunch bag.

I sighed and unwrapped the tortilla as I walked down the hallway. It formed a gluelike ball in my mouth, but it kept my growling stomach in check for an hour.

I vowed to replenish the snacks in my drawer with the dried fruit and nut mixture I usually keep on hand.

I have been trying to trim my calories during the day because of evening holiday events. However, my body doesn’t agree with food deprivation.

On that morning, I had skipped my usual breakfast and left quickly with a cup of coffee.

Yes, I know better. Some days, life is hectic.

I hadn’t eaten since the previous evening’s meal, and that was about 16 hours earlier. My body wanted some immediate nourishment.

I wasn’t really trying to “fast,” but essentially, that is what I was doing. “Fasting” refers to eating no food or a very small amount. Ironically, fasting was slowing my ability to function in my work.

Although I hadn’t planned it, I had jumped right into a popular weight-loss diet trend known as “intermittent fasting.” My body did not approve.

If you look up information online about intermittent fasting, be cautious of what you read. Proponents of the diet make many promises, and not all of the information has been vetted by nutrition experts. Some people lose weight in the short term while on fasting diets, but the research is in progress regarding long-term effects.

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, several types of fasting schedules have been followed by people on intermittent fasting diets.

“Alternate day fasting” typically means you eat on one day and do not eat anything the next day. This is challenging and the long-term effects on your health are not known. You could lose weight, but some studies have shown that people eat more than usual on the nonfasting days. Therefore, they might make up for the skipped calories.

In “modified fasting” plans, during fasting days, people eat about one-fourth of the calories they typically need, perhaps 500 calories per day. They follow a regular diet the other days.

Some people on a modified fasting plan follow a 5:2 plan. They eat normally five days a week and do not eat two days a week (or limit their calories to a small amount).

In “time-restricted fasting” plans, people fast about 12 hours per day. Most of the fasting time occurs during sleeping hours. In studies, some people lost more weight following this plan than traditional weight-loss diets. Other studies showed no difference.

More research on the safety and effectiveness of the diet is needed. If I had a history of medical issues such as diabetes, skipping meals could be a recipe for disaster. Before changing your eating plan, work with a health-care provider and a dietitian to develop a healthful eating pattern.

For now, I will stick with eating regular meals with moderate portion sizes, and keep a stock of healthful snacks nearby. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, yogurt, low-fat cheese and whole-grain, protein-rich granola bars are good snacks to keep hunger at bay.

Before going to a holiday party, enjoy a small snack or a bowl of chicken soup. Broth-based soups can help tame hunger and prevent overeating.

Here’s a festive-looking dip for the holidays that’s low in calories but high in flavor.

Pineapple Pico de Gallo

2 c. tomatoes, finely chopped

1 c. pineapple, finely chopped (or substitute canned pineapple, packed in juice)

1/2 c. sweet onion, finely diced

1/4 c. jalapeno pepper, finely diced

1/4 Tbsp. lime juice, freshly squeezed

1/3 c. cilantro, chopped

Salt to taste

Prepare as directed. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Toss to combine. Serve with tortilla chips.

Makes 16 (1/4-cup) servings. Each serving has 20 calories, 0 grams (g) fat, 1 g protein, 4 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber and 40 milligrams sodium.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension food and nutrition specialist and professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences. Follow her on Twitter @jgardenrobinson)

NDSU Agriculture Communication - Dec. 12, 2019

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, 701-231-7187, julie.garden-robinson@ndsu.edu
Editor:Ellen Crawford, 701-231-5391, ellen.crawford@ndsu.edu
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