I am a firm believer in introducing more and more plant-based foods into diets. This won’t only be beneficial for the planet but also for our health. As a nutritional therapist, my role is not to “convince” clients to go vegan or vegetarian but to balance their diet and suggest changes to achieve health goals….
Breakfast – Yes or No?
by Dave Stansbie
Let’s talk about intermittent fasting, not the newest diet craze but one still going strong.
With intermitted fasting is meant voluntary restriction of the eating window time, which most of the times translates in delaying or skipping breakfast. When reading about it on media or internet various sources say it could be beneficial to improve energy levels, mental performance, metabolism, detoxification and digestion…but is this true?
Let’s start saying that what works for one individual, or one condition is not necessarily beneficial for another, as we are all unique. In this article I want to explore my point of view on intermittent fasting for general health boost.
I do believe that a successful nutrition plan should be all about adding nourishment, not diminishing it. We need food and nourishment to support all of our body functions: energy production, repair, hormone production, digestion, brain function, regulation if metabolism,…
So why many people feel better when doing intermittent fasting? The reason is the increase in cortisol, the stress hormone that instigates the fight or flight response – a very primordial reaction, when our ancestors had to run away from an imminent danger, like a saber-toothed tiger! Continuous food deprivation is a stress on the body, which as a reaction increases the production of this hormone which puts us in a flight or fight mode. Cortisol increases the release of sugars in the bloodstream and enhances the use of glucose by the brain, giving us that very “alert” feeling, ready to react. Increased cortisol also suppresses no essential body functions: hunger, immunity, hormone production….who needs those when running away from a saber-toothed tiger?!?
In the long run reduction of body functions can have a detrimental effect on our health – production of less hormones and enzymes, not optimal functioning of the immune system and slowing down of the metabolism which will try to preserve as much energy as possible in a perceived famine phase. Increased cortisol also triggers the break down of muscle mass for release of the glucose stored there in the blood stream, and accumulation of fat because of the perceived famine. This means that after the initial weight loss effects of skipping a meal per day, we can see a change in body composition with less muscle mass and more fat.
There is a point that in past people used to fast because of religious reasons or simply because food was scarcer. This is true, but is also worth considering that stress levels were different: we are now leading very busy lives, always connected for work, living in very polluted environments and lacking the social support our ancestors used to have. There is a difference between doing an intermittent fasting for a 1 week retreat in the middle of nature, and doing it while juggling our very busy and stressful lives.
I am not advocating continuously grazing on food or overeating (which is not ideal either), but depriving our body of one meal and the nourishment that comes from it is not always the best choice for a health boost. A great choice to improve general health is to have nourishing meals with plenty of wholefoods to provide macro nutrients, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants for our body to function at its full potential.