By Jessie Funchion, MS, RD, LDN

 

What is fasting?

A partial or total abstention from all foods or a select abstention from prohibited foods.

 

 What are the different types of fasting?

1)    Intermittent fasting – cycle between periods of eating and fasting. A common way to do this is to alternate days, for example fast for 2 days a week (only eat one meal, 600-800 calories) and eat as usual for 5 days a week.

2)    Gentle Fast – Examples include avoiding food between meals (~4 hour ‘fast’) or overnight (~12-16 hours).

3)    Caloric restriction – This involves eating a reduced calorie diet, as low as 600-800 calories a day for an extended period of time.

 

How long as fasting been around?

Fasting has been used in various ways for thousands of years! There’s documentation of various spiritual and philosophical writers from centuries ago using fasting as a means of gaining mental clarity or spiritual enlightenment. Various religious also incorporate fasting, such as Islam during Ramadan.

 

Why would someone fast today?

In addition to fasting or avoiding certain foods for religious or personal beliefs, there is a growing body of research to support the use of fasting for various medical conditions. One key finding is that calorie restriction can actually change the way genes are expressed in normal cells. It appears that during fasts, cells can better repair themselves! This is due to an upregulation of antioxidants and DNA repair pathways. Subtext: Fasting may actually slow the aging process of cells.

There is also some research to support the use of fasts for weight loss and weight management, blood sugar regulation and type 2 diabetes, cognitive health and cancer. What’s unclear is if the benefits are simply from the reduction in calories, or the actual fast, meaning going several hours without eating.

 

What should I eat during non-fasting days/hours?

A normal, balanced diet. In the studies that showed health benefits from fasting, participants ate a maximum of 125% of their calorie needs during non-fasting days or hours. So while they may have overeaten slightly, participants were not gorging themselves when they broke the fast! If anything, overeating in excess will likely negate the positive benefits of the fast, and eliminate any potential calorie deficit for the day or week.

 

Who should NOT try fasting?

Anyone who falls into the following categories should NOT try fasting:

·      Pregnant or nursing

·      History of eating disorder

·      Underweight

·      Pediatric population

·      Type 1 diabetes

·      Medically unstable

·      Cognitive decline

·      Cancer cachexia

 

Should I try it?

Like any diet change, adherence is key. The benefits of fasting are likely to disappear once a person stops fasting. It may be helpful to accomplish a short-term goal, but long-term maintenance and the changes you make after fasting are likely to be more important.

 

Sources:

Dietitian Central Webinar: A Primer on Fasting by Lindsay Malone, RD

Today’s Dietitian: Fasting Regimens for Weight Loss

by Heather A. Goesch, MPH, RDN, LDN

Maybe you live in a coastal region at risk of hurricanes and flooding. Or an area susceptible to powerful thunderstorms, tornadoes or wildfires. Or perhaps a part of the world that deals with heavy snow and damaging winter weather. Although the types and names of storms are unique to different locations, all have the potential to become violent and destructive.

 

The good news is that better detection technology has resulted in improved advanced warning in many situations. Regardless, planning is important for personal safety and, in the worst-case scenarios, it can be critical for survival. Ahead of potential natural disasters, assemble an emergency supply kit with enough supplies to last for at least 72 hours after a storm.

 

Building an Emergency Nutrition Kit

In addition to a family emergency plan and stocking flashlights, medical supplies, a hand-crank radio and extra batteries, remember nutritional needs for the members of your family, including pets.

 

Include the following in your basic emergency nutrition kit:

·     At least a 3-day supply of non-perishable food per person and pet

o   Food for infants

o   Fresh fruits and vegetables that do not require refrigeration, such as apples, oranges, bananas, grapes, stone fruits and tomatoes

o   Dried fruit (preferably low-sugar or no-sugar-added to prevent excess thirst)

o   Nuts and seeds, and/or nut and seed butters that do not require refrigeration

o   Protein bars or fruit and nut/seed bars

o   Ready-to-eat low-sugar granola or low-sugar dry cereals

o   Whole grain crackers, pitas, tortillas, breads or rice cakes

o   Ready-to-eat canned vegetables (low-sodium or no-salt-added if possible, to avoid excess thirst), fruit (packed in water or fruit juice), beans, lentils, meats and seafood

–  Never eat foods from cans that are swollen, dented or corroded.

–  Don’t forget to have a manual can opener handy!

·       At least 1 gallon of water per person and pet per day for a minimum of 3 days or both drinking and sanitation (i.e., washing hands, dishes, brushing teeth, etc.)

o   If you need to prepare infant formula, use bottled water. Water that has been boiled and cooled to the correct temperature should be used only if necessary.

o   Additional beverage options could include: instant coffee, tea and cocoa; packets of sugar-free flavoring; powdered milk; pre-made protein or meal-replacement drinks that do not require refrigeration; or drinks with added electrolytes

Other emergency nutrition preparedness considerations:

·       Choose foods you and your family like and will want to eat.

·       Avoid foods that cause excess thirst (as indicated above).

·       Keep special dietary needs for both human and pet members of your family in mind.

·       Consider storing items in airtight plastic bags or containers that are then placed in a portable plastic bin or waterproof bag for extra protection.

·       If evacuation may be an option, depending on the type of storms in your area, consider preparing a second portable kit to keep in your car or near the exit to grab on short notice.

·       If bunkering down at home, fill your bathtub with extra water for cleaning or flushing toilets should access to water be lost or become unsafe.

·       If you lose power before, during or after a storm, these steps can help save money and keep your family and your foods safe.

 

RESOURCES

Food and Water in an Emergency, FEMA

Food Safety in the Home After a Hurricane and Flooding, Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics

How to Safely Feed Your Family During a Severe Storm, Food & Nutrition’s Student Scoop blog

18 Crucial Foods and Health Supplies You Need Before a Big Storm, Health Magazine

Best Foods to Stockpile for an Emergency, Real Simple Magazine

 

 

REFERENCES

1.       Laseter, E. Hurricane Preparedness: Healthy Eating Tips to Ride out the Storm: https://www.cookinglight.com/cooking-101/healthy-hurricane-food-tips. Cooking Light Magazine. Published 8 September 2017. Accessed 22 July 2018