DeMoss: Intermittent fasting, a registered dietitian’s perspective

Published 6:03 pm Tuesday, July 2, 2024

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Intermittent fasting, a dietary approach that has gained popularity, is being hailed for its potential

health and weight loss benefits. As dietitians, we know eating isn’t one-size-fits-all. 

Let’s explore what intermittent fasting involves, its underlying mechanisms, potential health benefits, who should abstain from it and practical advice for those contemplating this dietary approach.

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A Closer Look at Intermittent Fasting

In contrast to many conventional diets that prescribe what foods to consume, intermittent fasting is more concerned with the timing of food consumption. This dietary approach incorporates a fasting period into each day or week. 

Several popular intermittent fasting methods exist, including alternate-day fasting, the 5:2 fasting method with two days per week and daily time-restricted fasting.

Unpacking the Mechanics of Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting aims to reduce the overall intake of calories by limiting the time-frame someone eats within a day. For many people, this approach may be easier than counting calories. 

Additionally, the thought is intermittent fasting may promote metabolic flexibility after exhausting the calories from your most recent meal as the body switches to utilizing fat for energy.

Exploring the Potential Health Benefits

Late-night snacking on foods that provide the body with little nutrition but an abundance of empty calories, especially before bedtime, has become a common practice that is typically not beneficial to our health. 

Time-restricted fasting methods, such as fasting from 7 pm to 7 am, can help curb poor late-

night snacking habits, which may lead to lower blood sugar and insulin levels, aiding in weight loss.

However, in some scenarios, having a balanced nutrient dense snack in the evening can greatly help those with type 2 diabetes or even pre-diabetes, promoting stable blood sugar levels overnight. Again, nutrition is not one-size-fits-all, and the assistance of a dietitian can be highly beneficial in finding what works to achieve your goals.

When to Refrain from Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting is not suitable for everyone. For example, individuals under the age of 18, those who are malnourished, people with a history of eating disorders, pregnant or breastfeeding women, and those with certain medical conditions should avoid intermittent fasting. 

Furthermore, intermittent fasting can have negative repercussions for women, given the effects of caloric restriction on female hormones, fertility, and bone health. It may not be advisable for individuals who have irregular sleep patterns, irregular menstrual cycles, thyroid issues, or are under high levels of stress.

Practical Advice for Intermittent Fasting

For those contemplating intermittent fasting, it’s important to stay hydrated during fasting periods with water and other functional low-calorie beverages like Liquid IV Sugar-Free, Hop Wtr, Remedy Kombucha, or Smartwater. If your health care provider gives you the green light, you might start by fasting for just 12 hours overnight. Aim to consume three balanced meals of protein, high-fiber carbohydrates and healthy fats spread evenly throughout your designated eating window.

It’s important to remember that fasting is a tool, not a rigid diet plan. Monitor your hunger and fullness signals closely. If you begin to experience symptoms such as fatigue, mood swings, reduced energy, lack of concentration or loss of menstrual cycle, it may be time to revert to a more regular eating schedule.

Meeting with a registered dietitian can be beneficial in determining the optimal foods to consume when not fasting and whether supplements could be beneficial in addressing potential nutrient deficiencies. 

If breakfast is not a meal you’re accustomed to eating, consider starting your day with Core Power, a portable, easy-to-consume protein beverage to break your fast and sustain energy levels throughout the day. This will provide 26g of high-quality protein to build muscle and electrolytes to help hydrate.

Then, make your next meal of the day balanced with protein and fiber. Try this Tequila-Spiked Salmon Bowls recipe. Cooking with alcohol intensifies the aromas and flavors of food by binding fat and water molecules that don’t usually mix. This unique reaction enhances the taste and smell of food in ways that cooking with water, broth, butter, and oil cannot. 

As Hy-Vee dietitians, we believe food should not only provide nutrition, but meals should also be enjoyable and taste good!

Tequila-Spiked Salmon Bowls

Serves 4

All you need:

4 (4 to 6 ounce) Fish Market frozen Alaskan sockeye salmon filets, skin removed cut into 1-inch cubes

½ cup plus 2 tablespoons Lawry’s 30-minute Caribbean jerk with papaya juice marinade, divided

½ cup blanco tequila, divided

2 small jalapeno peppers, thinly sliced, divided

2 cups Hy-Vee Short-Cuts pineapple chunks, cut into ½ inch cubes

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

½ small red cabbage, trimmed; leaves separated

2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into julienne strips

Hy-Vee olive oil cooking spray

2 (8.5 ounce) packages Hy-Vee microwavable jasmine rice

1 medium avocado, seeded, peeled and thinly sliced

2 medium red radishes, thinly sliced

2 yellow mangoes, pitted, scored and inverted

All you do:

  1. Place salmon, 1/3 cup marinade, ¼ cup tequila and half of jalapenos in a resealable bag; seal

bag. Turn the bag to coat the salmon. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

  1. Place the pineapple, remaining jalapenos, lemon juice and the remaining ¼ cups of tequila in

another plastic resealable bag; seal the bag. Refrigerate for 20 to 30 minutes.

  1. Remove the salmon from the marinade and let it stand for 10 minutes. Remove the pineapple

and jalapenos from the marinade and add cabbage leaves and carrots to the pineapple

marinade; let it stand for 10 minutes.

  1. Preheat a 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat. Remove the skillet from heat and spray it

with cooking spray. Add salmon and cook for 4 to 5 minutes or until it reaches 145 degrees F, turning halfway through. Brush with the remaining 2 tablespoons of bottled marinade. Remove

the skillet from heat and let it stand uncovered for 5 minutes.

  1. Microwave rice according to package directions. Remove cabbage and carrots from marinade;

reserve marinade for serving. Divide rice among 4 serving bowls. Arrange salmon, pineapple

mixture, cabbage, avocado, carrots, radishes, and mangoes on top. Drizzle with reserved

marinade if desired.