Health

Intermittent Fasting & Tea: How Tea Drinking Can Support Us During Our Fast

These days, it seems many people are interested in intermittent fasting and extended periods of fasting. As people who drink tea, we might wonder how tea can support us in our fast. If it is in preparation for a surgery, to develop of spiritual pursuits, or just to improve our overall health, fasting and intermittent fasting in particular can potentially serve us in different ways.

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Basically, intermittent fasting is any of various meal timing schedules that cycle between voluntary fasting (or reduced calorie intake) and “non-fasting” i.e. consuming calories. As John Hopkins Medicine puts it, “Many diets focus on what to eat, but intermittent fasting is all about when you eat.” Intermittent fasting may help us with a variety of different health issues like hypertension and inflammation.

Looking at it from another angle, Dr. Jason Fung will mention in his talks that the practice of fasting is one thing that most of the world religions can agree upon. In Buddhism, for example, both monastics and lay people can take a vow to not eat after noon. In Christianity, there is the Black Fast which is an abstention from from foods and liquids until sunset. In Judaism there is the example of Yom Kippur and in Islam there is the example of Ramadan. In one medical review, fasting was seen to improve alertness and subjective feelings of well-being, possibly improving overall symptoms of depression, and boosting cognitive performance.[10] Perhaps this is why periods of fasting are observed in these different spiritual traditions.

A group of muslims about to break their Ramadan fast with a meal known as “iftar”. (Source: Forbes India)
Buddhist Monastics about to gather their afternoon meal before fasting until dawn the next day. (Source: Abhayagiri Forest Monastery)

Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

The benefits of intermittent fasting are quite interesting. One study found that intermittent fasting could potential help cancer patients with treatment-related side effects. The chemotherapy treatment they may go through may also become more effective when the patients are somewhat nutrient deficient. It is seen to potentially improve our heart health and can help to prevent Type II Diabetes. Intermittent fasting seems to also benefit our cognitive performance and can potentially help to prevent different form of dementia, particularly Alzheimer’s disease.

How does tea fit into this?

While some fasts have the observer abstain from foods and liquids, for the everyday intermittent fast one is welcome to consume liquids that do not contain calories such as water, coffee, and tea. All the teas that we offer do not contain milk. Besides some teas, most do not contain sugar and other added ingredients. It is literally just the leave itself. This means that it is a zero-calorie food and can be consumed during your fasting period.

It is important to remember to that, when we say “tea” we are referring specifically to Camellia sinensis e.i. the tea plant. This is the plant that we commonly call tea and that is used to make green tea, black tea, etc. While there are different cultivars, they are all known to be of the same species. Many people fast for the potential health benefits of it and the health benefits of tea are some people’s reason for drinking it. Tea contains polyphenols such as EGCG which is a powerful antioxidant that may reduce inflammation and prevent certain chronic conditions or at least provide some relief. These polyphenols have been seen to also potentially reduce risk of premature death and stroke.

Matcha and gyokuro especially might be nice to consume on a fast because they are known to contain higher amounts of caffeine and L-theanine when compared to other types of tea. The L-theanine content in the tea can help us to feel relaxed while the caffeine can help us to feel more awake. Add the aspect of mental clarity that one might feel when fasting and you have a great recipe for a sharper awareness a more open, accepting demeanor. Also, these teas tend to be brothy and slightly sweet in their taste and can feel slightly thick in the mouth (sometimes described as having a “full body”). While not eating anything this could be a good way to get yourself through the fast if you are having an emotionally difficult time not being able to eat what you want, when you want.

All and all, tea can be quite helpful on your fast. Of course, there some situations in which someone should not practice intermittent fasting such as someone with a history of disordered eating, children under 18, etc. It goes without saying that you should ask your primary health professional to see if intermittent fasting would be a good fit for you both physically and psychologically. In general, though, tea and intermittent fast have the potential to go really well together.

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