Navratri is one of the grandest and most legendary festive seasons of our country that is celebrated with great enthusiasm across Northern and Eastern India. The word “Navratri” translates to a period of nine nights, which indicates the festival’s duration. This period of nine days is dedicated to Shakti (feminine power) where Devi Durga ((who represents infinite power) and her nine forms are worshipped.
As per our Hindu calendar, we celebrate four seasonal Navratri named Chaitra Navratri, Magha Gupta Navratri, Ashadha Gupta Navratri and Sharad Navratri.
Sharad Navratri is usually celebrated in the months of September and October. This year Sharad Navratri will be celebrated from September 26 with Ghatasthapana and end on October 5 with Vijay Dashami and Durga Visarjan.
Besides celebrating this auspicious occasion and offering prayers, by performing fasting (Vrat), it is also the perfect time to detox your body which will help you get rid of all the unneeded substances in your body. Undoubtedly, it is also a great period for those who wish to begin their weight loss journey and those who wish to switch to healthy eating.
The custom and concept of Navratri Vrat (fast) is an age-old tradition that has been followed by both men and women of various age groups throughout centuries. It is believed that fasting serves a purpose that when done appropriately and judiciously offers myriad health benefits.
Why do people fast during Navratri?
Associating the concept of fasting isn’t merely to please Goddess Durga with devotion, but rather it has its own remarkable scientific theories.
As we celebrate this auspicious festival four times throughout the year in all the four prominent seasons i.e. in the months of Chaitra (Spring) and Sharad (Autumn) Magha (during winters) and Ashadha (Monsoons), each of them brings weather fluctuation on their arrival. The Chaitra (Spring) and Sharad (Autumn) Navratris are more famous, while the Magha (during winters) and Ashadha (Monsoons) are less popular.
Navratris mark the onset of a new season, and therefore, fasts are observed to make the body immune and flexible to tolerate these fluctuations. Opting for a vegan or sattvic diet i.e. foods without additional spices, oil, meats, etc., people strengthen and adjust their body and mind to the changing season to keep diseases and illnesses at bay. Thus, the main objective of observing a fast or vrat on Navaratri is to prepare people to adapt themselves to the seasonal cycle by detoxifying their inner systems.
Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has quoted the same by saying – “We fast not to please the Divine, but to cleanse our body”. As, this nine days long diet detoxifies our inner system, connects deeply with ourselves and allows us to become more authentic to ourselves because we become what we eat.
How does fasting benefit your body during Navaratri?
Fasting during Navratri makes you follow a gluten-free diet which as a result leaves you with only a few certain grains that you can include in your diets such as water chestnut flour, amaranth flour, buckwheat flour and sago.
As these grains are enriched with fibre, proteins and many vital nutrients, they are very easy on your digestive system and will keep you full for a longer time, thus, promoting weight loss in the process.
Other than these flour alternatives, you can also for fruits, green vegetables, healthy spices, fresh fruit juices and buttermilk to you’re your weight in check.
Experts say that fasting also boosts ketosis or fat burning and therefore promotes fat loss by burning excess fat stored around the liver, kidneys and other organs, thus improving their function.
When you begin having a healthy and gluten-free diet, the chances of having digestive distress and bloating also reduce drastically. This will bring visible effects with reduced or almost no bloating at all.
Apparently, fasting also alleviates the risk of diabetes and coronary heart disease. Research studies have shown that intermittent fasting brings positive changes to blood cholesterol levels and also alleviates the risk of associated conditions. Evidently, this removes the fat deposits in the blood and lowers the risk of narrowed arteries, and heart attack and reduces the chances of stroke.
When you include a lot of fibre-rich fruits, vegetables, and grains in your diet, you flush out toxins from the body, which results in building immunity and health which in turn promotes your overall wellbeing
Other than these major benefits, here are a other 7 benefits of fasting during Navaratri –
However, there’s particularly no need to stick to the typical Kuttu-ki-Poori, Aloo Sabzi, Poha Pulao or Sabudana Khichdi every day. Here are 5 foods you can opt for while fasting during these Navaratri –
Milk, and other dairy products –
Keeping your protein intake is very much important while you are fasting and milk and other dairy products are a great option. You can have a warm glass of milk, smoothies and shakes, or you can also grab a bowl of Greek or plain yoghurt with fruits and nuts or you can even have a bowl full of cottage cheese. Not only these options are really healthy, but they will provide you with a lot of energy to keep you full for a long but they will also enrich your body with healthy nutrients. Being rich in calcium, milk and such other dairy products will help you maintain a healthy flow of calcium and other vital vitamins in your body.
A big YES for fruits! Fruits are the most obvious choice for you as you can either have them in smoothies, salads, bowls, desserts, or just the way they are. Power, energy, vitamins, nutrients packed fruits are just the perfect way to end your unhealthy cravings and satisfy your hunger while getting the maximum benefits. It’s a win-win either way.
Fruits also suppress your sugar cravings, filled with natural sucrose and fructose you can munch on fruits as much as you want to without any guilt. You can even add a pinch of cinnamon powder or a drizzle of honey over them to relish them.
Makhanas – Loaded with calcium makhanas (foxnuts) make a great low-calorie snack. You can have them anytime you want even when you get unneeded hunger pangs. Makhanas are a rich source of proteins and carbohydrates and are low in cholesterol, saturated fat, and sodium. Apparently, one cup of plain roasted makhanas (32 g serving) only adds up to 106 calories. These small white balls also have a great detoxifying effect on the liver and boost metabolism, which is quite effective in losing a few extra pounds.
Studies have shown that lotus seeds or makhanas have the potential to be developed as an effective agent against obesity-related diseases as they may slow down the process of weight gain.
Seeds, Nuts and Dry-fruits
Pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, melon seeds, flaxseeds, sesame seeds, and hemp seeds are widely known for their effectiveness. During this Navratri, you can increase your seed intake along with dry fruits and nuts while you are fasting.
Well, people often don’t bother to look beyond cashews and almonds, but there are a lot of options to pick from like dates, raisins, walnut, pistachios, dried apricots, cranberries, blueberries, hazelnuts, currants, prune, figs, etc. all make for good munching options. These all make a great pair as heavy and satisfying options to choose from during your Navratri Vrat, while providing your body with much-needed nutrition.
You can also add raw or boiled veggies to your diet. The vegetable fibres feed our healthy gut bugs that result in a healthier gut, and a leaner body, and lead to optimal health.
Colocasia or Arbi is gaining huge popularity among people during fasting. Spinach, cucumber, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, corn, lemon, lettuce, kale, broccoli, sprouts, etc make excellent food options for you while maintaining your visit and enjoying the Navratri.
Fasting is a way of eating that is simple and safe, and also a form of detoxifying your body. Going without food may seem daunting at first, however, as you begin to do it, it bestows more than one benefit on you while overall promoting your entire health. Fasting is truly an easy way to optimize overall health, weight, brain health, and gut health. Make sure you keep feeding your body with potential nutrients, carbohydrates, calcium and vitamins.