The month of Shravan holds special significance for Hindus. Many Hindus fast during Shravan, abstaining from eating on Mondays to appease Lord Shiva. Some also observe the Mangala Gauri Vrat on Tuesdays in honor of Goddess Parvati.
The philosophy behind fasting is to develop the quality of discretion and preservation. Another benefit of observing fasts is that your body gets completely cleansed and flushes out all the toxins that have accumulated over time. The result of this is a refreshed, rejuvenated feeling that people can enjoy as the green carpet is unfolded by the cool rains.
The reason why Hindus restrict themselves from a non-vegetarian diet during Shravan is that it falls in the monsoon season and therefore there are chances of waterborne diseases. Secondly, it's also a breeding season for various animals and marine creatures as the female fish have eggs in their stomach and it is a sin to kill animals when they are pregnant or hatching eggs. That is why Hindus avoid meat and fish during this month, which will result in more fish across the year.
The focus of this month is living a sattvic lifestyle, which involves fasting from everything tamasic in nature, including food and drink. During the fast, it is acceptable to consume fruits, meals cooked with sabudana and rock salt, milk, and milk items like curd and buttermilk. According to science, this month is full of insects, worms, germs, and viruses. As a result, one should adopt self-care techniques to avoid diseases and strengthen their immune system.
Some medical practitioners believe that fasting during the month of Shravan is good for health. When the rains start pelting, sunlight is scarce and this slows down the digestive system. It is good to eat food that is very easy to digest. That is why many Hindus follow a strict vegetarian diet during the month of Shravan. Fasting also has a detoxifying effect on the digestive system. This is a natural protection against water-borne diseases that are common during this period of the year.
Notably, fasting cleanses the body system. People fasting should take lots of fruits and liquids. While fasting is a practice that dates back centuries, being an integral part of many cultures and religions, it is usually performed over 24 to 72 hours. Most importantly, fasting has been shown to have many health benefits, from increased weight loss to better brain function.
While the purpose of fasting during the month is purely spiritual, it does have some serendipitous health benefits. Here are the many health benefits of fasting by eating a single meal during Shravan.
1. Promotes Blood Sugar Control By Reducing Insulin Resistance:
Studies have found that fasting improves blood sugar control, which could especially be useful for those at risk of diabetes. Fasting during Shravan can benefit those with type 2 diabetes by improving key outcomes such as fasting glucose and body weight in patients. Short-term intermittent fasting significantly reduces blood sugar levels while both intermittent fasting and alternate-day fasting were as effective as limiting calorie intake at reducing insulin resistance. However, if you have diabetes, you should never opt to fast without consulting your doctor.
2. Adjusts Body Clock:
Fasting during Shravan has the same effects on the body that intermittent fasting does. Studies say that it can help regulate your metabolism by adjusting your circadian rhythms or your body clock. What you get is better sleep, habits, body temperature, hormonal health, and health in return.
3. Promotes Better Health By Fighting Inflammation:
Studies have found that fasting could decrease several markers of inflammation. Furthermore, it may be useful in treating inflammatory conditions, such as multiple sclerosis.
4. May Enhance Heart Health:
Fasting during Shravan or Sawan may also improve your heart health. Experts believe that restricting calories during the upwas may be good for overall cardiovascular health since it can bring down blood pressure, total cholesterol, and triacylglycerol levels. Fasting has been associated with a lower risk of coronary heart disease.
5. Boost Brain Function & Prevent Neurodegenerative Disorders:
Since fasting helps relieve inflammation, it could also aid in preventing neurodegenerative disorders. Animal studies show that fasting could improve brain function. Furthermore, it may increase nerve cell synthesis and protect against neurodegenerative conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s.
6. Help Lose Weight:
One of the benefits of eating just one meal a day is a reduced intake of calories. A single meal may comprise 500-600 calories which is just a third of what a person requires in an entire day. That’s why fasting during Shravan - daily or intermittently - can reduce the person’s total caloric intake, causing weight loss. Research has also found that short-term fasting may boost metabolism by increasing levels of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, which could enhance weight loss.
7. Helps Increase Lifespan
Fasting during the holy month may also have age-reversing benefits. But that’s not all. Studies say that restricting your caloric intake by 30-40 percent may potentially extend your lifespan. Fasting is also the weapon of choice for many celebs who want to reap its anti-aging benefits.
We tend to choose more fried, starchy, and oily foods during monsoon and these get stored in the body as toxins. However, while we observe fast in the Shravan month, it emphasizes more on the consumption of fresh, natural, and unprocessed ingredients. This aids the body to undergo a natural detoxification process and helps to flush out toxins in the body.
9. Digestive Rejuvenation
During the Shravan month, people consume Sattvic food, which typically includes fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and dairy products. These foods are easily digestible and provide dietary fiber, which aids in maintaining a healthy digestive system. During Shravan, the digestive system slows down, hence Sattvic foods help in keeping your gut microbiome healthy and functioning well.
10. Mind-body Harmony
Shravan fasting encourages a sense of mental clarity, serenity, and heightened mindfulness. The Sattvic diet in Shravan avoids foods that are overly stimulating or tamasic (lethargic in nature). This balanced approach to nutrition is believed to support overall well-being and mental equilibrium. Due to the lack of sunlight in monsoons, mental health can indeed take a downturn, so a Sattvic diet during Shravan is a good idea to promote a calm state of mind.
What To Eat In Shravan Fast?
Observers carry out the fast by abstaining from grains and instead having preparations made of yam, sweet potatoes, water chestnuts, amaranth, barnyard millet, and dried foods once a day. A few people observe a fast by eating fruits, meals with sabudana (sago), vari rice, milk, curd, buttermilk, and dry fruits; while others just have one meal a day. Food cooked during fasts is usually prepared by using rock salt. As Shravan inspires good health, here are a few foods to help you add nourishment during this fasting season.
Soaked sago popularly known as Sabudana is a food that can be eaten in different types of preparations. From Sabudana Vada to Sabudana Khichdi, this is the most popular food during fasts as it makes for a wholesome meal and keeps you full for longer.
Fox nuts or Makana is a light snack that is generally eaten as a healthy food. During the fasting season, you can prepare a Kheer with it. This sweet dish is equally heavy and healthy and can be consumed as hot or cold according to your preference.
Potatoes make for the easiest and most popularly consumed food item during this fasting season. This root vegetable can be included in several food preparations. It is a favorite snack as you can eat it both fried and takes less amount of time to prepare.
Fasting helps the body cope with seasonal changes around the Shravan month and also boosts immunity. You can do intermittent fasting for a healthier pattern of fasting. Begin with shorter hours and gradually increase the hours. Fasting reduces inflammation, stimulates better cellular processing, and promotes cellular detoxification. Just like your physical detox is important, your mental detox is also important in the month of Shravan. Meditation, yoga, Shiva Tandav Stotram, and chanting ‘Om Namah Shivaay’ will bring peace. Do things that you like and make you happy to vibrate with positive energy.
The purpose of fasting during Shravan is purely for spiritual reasons – to kill the ego and to practice self-restraint. But these unexpected benefits of the upwas show that maybe our ancestors were privy to the health effects of fasting. But reaping the benefits, stick to healthy food. Let Shravan not be an excuse to binge eat and indulge in fried, unhealthy foods. Follow a healthy diet even while you are fasting.