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30 Days to Change Your Diet Sustainably: Step 8 - Eating Patterns



Fasting, Bitcoin and Burning Man; the three things that guy from work can’t stop talking about. In this article, we’ll dive deeper into whether fasting really is as great as people keep saying it is, and discuss whether practicing moderation when it comes to food comes with some hidden benefits for the environment too.

When should I eat my meals?

Meal timing is not nearly as important as making sure your body gets the nutrients and calories it needs to function properly.  If you feel you have a decent grasp on your nutrition, and you’re in the mood to optimize and experiment, you can consider looking deeper into what eating pattern best suits your lifestyle and temperament.

Let’s talk about Insulin

Before we dive into specifics, let’s quickly brush up on what insulin does in the body: 


When you eat, your food gets metabolized in your stomach, and glucose (the main source of energy for your cells)  is released into your bloodstream. When you’re blood sugar rises, you need to deposit the glucose into your cells or into storage, as high concentrations of glucose in the bloodstream are toxic. When your pancreas registers high levels of glucose it releases a hormone called insulin, which makes it possible for glucose to get out of your bloodstreams and enter the cells that need energy.

We can weaken our bodies' ability to react to insulin if we have too many spikes in blood sugar during the day.  In severe cases, this can develop into a condition also known as Type II diabetes. 

Intermittent Fasting 

There is a growing body of evidence indicating that intermittent fasting is a good way to maintain your insulin sensitivity (the body’s ability to react to insulin and get glucose into the cells). Intermittent fasting involves tightening the time window in which you eat, giving your body a break from digesting food and releasing insulin every time you reach for a snack.

This was shown in a smaller study from the University of Alabama:  Half of a group of pre-diabetic obese men were assigned an 8-hour eating window placed in the earlier part of the day (7 am to 3 pm). The second half was assigned a 12-hour eating window (7 am to 7 pm). Both groups didn’t lose any weight, but something interesting was observed: those with the shorter feeding window at the beginning of the day left the experiment with significantly improved insulin sensitivity, as well as much lower blood pressure with none of them reporting feeling starved or depleted.

Fasting also contributes to increased autophagy, a process where aging or damaged cells in the body self-destructs to make room for fresh new ones.  Autophagy rids your cells of toxic proteins that are linked to Parkinsons and Alzheimers, and the mechanism generally promotes regeneration and healthier cells.

Examples of fasting protocols:

  • 5:2: Eat 25% of your caloric needs (500-600 calories) on scheduled fasting days and eat normally for the rest of the week.
  • 8-16: 8-hour eating window with 16-hour fast - 16 hours seems to be the time frame that boosts autophagy the most.

  • 4-20: 4-hour eating window with 20-hour fast - with this diet you can eat one very rich and hearty meal a day, and not have to think about eating for 20 hours after.

Keep in mind that fasting can be ill-suited to certain groups of people. Women can be susceptible to hormonal imbalance if they over fast, and generally seem to reap less of the autophagic benefits than men. People with a history of eating disorders should also proceed with caution, as the restriction can feed into unhealthy relationships with food.

Bottom Line

Though many studies are pointing toward significant health benefits linked to Intermittent fasting, the most important thing you can do for your own health is to make sure to eat nutritious foods in reasonable quantities. If eating in a more limited time frame helps you achieve that goal, you reap extra benefits by increasing autophagy, but you need to weigh the pros with the cons, as fasting comes with more side effects for certain groups of people.

Environmental Impact

Fasting is often followed by eating less food overall, and though you, of course, should under no circumstances starve yourself in the name of climate change, it is worth thinking about whether we sometimes eat more than we need and what impact this has on the environment.

Being more mindful of the value of the food we have at our disposal is a mindset that can change how we conduct ourselves in more ways than one.  When we regard the food we eat as this unlimited resource we can expend ad libitum, we may in turn transfer that attitude toward trying to minimize our food waste as well. Food waste alone accounts for 3.3 billion tonnes of CO2 released into the atmosphere every year, and the first step to reducing it is to have more respect for the impact food production has on our environment.

Recipe 

Umahro’s anytime, any meal protein-berry soft ice

Imagine soft ice that is healthy, very nutritious and that you can have for breakfast, lunch, dinner or a post-workout meal. Well, here it is.

Amount

Enough for one very hungry person. Otherwise, this portion feeds two.

Kitchen tip

Try using frozen fruit instead of berries. Frozen pears, melon, cantaloupe, banana, mango or papaya all work really well. Also, try adding some fresh mint, peppermint or even basil to the soft ice for extra flavor. Consider topping your soft ice with cacao nibs, chocolate nibs or some crushed nuts.

Ingredients

200-300 gr/7-10 oz frozen berries or frozen fruit

40-50 gr/1½-1¾ oz protein powder with either chocolate or vanilla flavor; whey, rice, and pea are all fine depending on your needs and preferences.

½ avocado

Finely grated zest and freshly pressed juice of ½ organic orange

1 tsp of flaxseed-, hempseed or walnut oil

A dash of vanilla powder

A dash of cinnamon

Optional: 1 banana

Optional: 2-3 dried pitted dates for extra sweetness 

Hot to make

Combine all ingredients in a powerful blender or food processor and blitz for several minutes until you literally have protein soft ice. Stop and mix things with a spoon and blend/blitz again as necessary if your blender or food processor does not “get hold” of all the ingredients in the first go.
Serve immediately