Inspired by the BBC2 Horizon documentary, Eat, Fast and Live Longer, we’ve been trying out 5:2 fasting in our house. This means for two days each week we fast (500 calories for women and 600 for men) – and the rest of the time eat what we like.
It’s the brainchild of Dr Michael Mosley who set out to investigate how fasting can reduce risks of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, even dementia and early death.
One of the links he found between fasting, health and longevity is a hormone called insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). This and other growth factors keep our cells constantly active; you need adequate levels of IGF-1 when you are growing, but high levels later in life appear to lead to accelerated ageing.
Dr Michael Mosley explains: “Fasting lowers levels of IGF-1 and also appears to switch on a number of DNA repair genes. The reason seems to be that when we run out of food our bodies change from ‘growth’ to ‘repair’ mode.”
After exploring various methods of fasting Dr Mosley settled on this 5:2 combination of eating normally and fasting as a way he could improve his health and longevity without the miserable feeling he was “on a diet”.
It’s certainly been working in our house. After five weeks, my husband, who has high blood pressure and is borderline diabetic, has managed to get his weight down to the lowest he can remember for a good few years. I’ve lost about half a stone.
Some days have been easier than others to stick to the fast, but on our non-fasting days we haven’t binged; if anything our new-found consciousness about food means we’re eating more thoughtfully all the time. Here are some of the meals we eat on fast days:
Thai miso soup with veg = 88 cals
- 1tbsp miso paste (17 cals) stirred into 400ml boiling water. Then chuck in a selection of chopped veg such as:
- root ginger (2 cals per tsp)
- garlic (5 cals per clove)
- shallot (14 cals per 2tbsp)
- savoy cabbage (13 cals per 50g)
- half a carrot (12 cals)
- red pepper (13 cals per 50g)
- When the veg is cooked (just a couple of minutes) take off the heat and stir in a squeeze of lemon or lime juice (2 cals) and 1 tbsp of fish sauce (nam pla, 10 cals).
Porridge with fruit and honey = 240 calories
- 40g porridge oats (145 cals)
- kiwi chopped up (45 cals)
- 1tsp honey (20 cals)
- 4tbsps semi-skimmed milk (30 cals)
Steamed veg and fish with ginger and soy sauce = 220 calories
- 86g salmon fillet without skin (120 cals) wrapped in foil and popped in the steamer along with chopped fresh root ginger and a selection of sliced veg such as:
- carrot (25 cals each)
- cabbage (26 cals per 100g)
- mushrooms (13 cals per 100g)
- spring onions (5 cals each)
- broccoli (18 cals per 100g)
- Then, 2tbsp soy sauce (16 cals) splashed on the steaming plate of food