So much for keto and cleanses, intermittent fasting is the latest hot diet that’s got pop culture buzzing. From Beyonce to Ben Affleck, all the celebrities seem to be doing it. Even Dr. Oz swears by it. But don’t worry, it’s not a bread-and-water only fast. On this diet you get to worry less about what you eat and more about when you eat. Every day is supposed to have a long period of time with no food, but the length of that period varies depending on which plan you follow.
There is some evidence that a diet of intermittent fasting may help you live longer. As USA Today reported, scientists from the National Institute on Aging, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana found that increasing the time between meals improved overall health and lengthened lives in a study of mice. The benefits were seen regardless of what the mice ate or how many calories they consumed. That’s one of the reasons this diet is gaining popularity with people, too. You pretty much get to eat whatever you like. (Within reason.)
Here’s how a 12/12 fast, one of the easiest to follow versions of the intermittent fasting method, works. Once you stop eating at night, you make sure to wait 12 hours until you eat again. So if you finish dinner at 9 p.m., you don’t eat breakfast until 9 a.m.The perk of this diet is that it is flexible. If you have a late party to go to, you can just push back your start time.
It’s all in the timing. One of the most popular versions of intermittent fasting is the “early time-restricted feeding,” or the 16/8 method, where all meals are fit into an early, eight-hour period of the day (9 to 5, for instance). Researchers from the University of Alabama conducted a study with a small group of obese men with pre-diabetes comparing 8-hour eaters with those who spread out food over 12 hours. After five weeks, the eight-hour group had dramatically lower insulin levels and significantly improved insulin sensitivity as well as significantly lower blood pressure.
It should be noted that while fasting may be trendy, it is far from new. Most religions have long maintained that fasting is good for the soul. Its physical benefits were already well known by the early 1900s, when doctors began using fasting to treat various disorders—such as diabetes, obesity and epilepsy, as Scientific American points out. In some cultures and countries, such as India, it is considered a sacred practice.
No matter what hours you pick, most health experts advise sticking to sound nutritional wisdom: Avoid sugars and refined grains and eat lots of fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Also be as active as possible throughout the day and avoid eating at bedtime, as the Harvard Health Blog notes.
This content was originally published here.