Navratri Fasting — The Diet Your Body Actually Needs
The festival of Navratri is celebrated twice a year in India – specifically, the Basant Navratri at the end of winter and Sharad Navratri at the tail end of the rainy season. Both are timed to coincide with the end of one season and the beginning of another. And the Navratri fasting is closely linked to this seasonality.
As seasons change, so does the availability of fruits and vegetables in the market. Our diets change and so do our bodies. Ever noticed how your skin breaks out in certain months? Or how your hair becomes dry in others? These are all reactions of our body to the changes in the external environment and the foods we intake. Navratri fasting is coincided with these changes to give the body a much-needed refresher before the new season begins.
These nine days are a great way to cleanse the digestive system and prepare it for the changes ahead. Here, we breakdown the simple strategies of Navratri fasting that can help you make most of this time.
How does it work?
The Navratri fast involves giving up a bunch of food groups, including grains, pulses, and sea salt, amongst others. Meals are kept light, made with simple vegetables, fruits and dry fruits.
The significance of eating such light meals is to invoke the creative powers and energies within, associated with Goddess Durga, the deity worshiped over these nine days. Light meals, coupled with meditations, are considered to be ideal to energise the body and restore balance. In this sense, Navratri is a celebration of our inherent powers and a way to bring them to the surface after being depleted by other activities the year round.
This core ethos of Navratri and the harmony and balance brought to our bodies through fasting, is unfortunately forgotten by most people. Consequently, fasts are now full of rich foods made with fried dishes and saturated fats, which go against the entire purpose of fasting.
These nine days should instead be dedicated to cleansing the body of built-up toxins and adverse habits. Here are eight power foods featured in the Navratri fast, and the correct way to prepare and eat them:
1. Honey and Lime — This power drink is a great detoxifier early in the morning. Chances are you will find it in every dietary chart as a great way to kickstart the day! Warm up some water and add a dollop of honey with a squeeze of lime and drink up, first thing in the morning.
2. Buckwheat (or Kuttoo) — A gluten-free grain full of fibre, proteins and disease-fighting phytonutrients, buckwheat is one of the healthiest grains you can incorporate into your diet. While Navratri food usually features buckwheat as fried pakodas and pooris, the healthier way to cook it would be in dishes such as khichdi, upma and porridge.
3. Peanuts — While roasted or fried peanuts are easily available, a much healthier alternative is sprouted peanuts, made by soaking the nuts in water for up to 12 hours. The process of sprouting is known to make food easier to digest and increases its nutritional value.
4. Potatoes — High in Vitamin C and potassium, potatoes are instant energy-boosters. Indian households usually cook potatoes by boiling and removing the peels, which takes away from the vegetable’s nutrition value. Instead, bake a potato with the peel on, sprinkle some rock salt and pepper on top and dig in!
5. Amla — The “Indian gooseberry” has been a staple of many households in the country for its versatile health benefits. Its highly refreshing and a great antioxidant. Eat it raw or try some Amla tea for a different taste.
6. Fox Nut (or Makhana) — Quickly rising to popularity, makhanas are high in fibre and make for healthy snacks, as they are low in calories but high on satiation. Roasted makhanas, mixed with salt and other spices have become very popular lately. But they can also be boiled with milk and nuts, or turned into a tasty dish made with curd.
7. Fruits — This is a great time to get back to the healthy habit of eating seasonal fruits. Mix and match your favourites into a healthy smoothie, mixed with seeds. Breakfast on the go anyone?
8. Nuts — Soak nuts in water to make them more digestible. Soaked nuts are also a great way to keep hunger at bay!
We all need to stop and reboot at times — mentally as well as physically. Navratri food, when prepared and eaten the right way, is ideal to give your body a much-needed break and rejuvenation. And when done for health reasons, you can fast at any time! You don’t have to wait for a particular time of the year. Take this nine-day refresher at the change of a season, or whenever you feel your body becoming lethargic and low on energy.
So before the festive season begins, take a break from your toxic eating and drinking habits, just for nine days, and observe the change in your body and energy levels. Its a great time to start living healthy! Navratri Fasting — The Diet Your Body Actually Needs
– By Saroj Modi, Founder, The Inner Startup