Fasting for nine days during the Navratri festival will not harm your health if you learn how not to starve or eat later in a balanced manner, experts suggest.
Dr Anup Dhir, senior consultant at Apollo Hospitals, stresses that devotees should not gorge on fried or oily food as this will result in high-calorie intake and add fat to the body.
"Buck wheat or 'kuttu ka atta' which is most commonly consumed during the festival is extremely high in calorie count. Potato is also considered as a staple vegetable during this festival and amounts to an extremely high carbohydrate intake. People should consume them as little as possible," Dhir.
According to experts, fasting is good till the time devotees do it with certain precautions.
"Having small frequent meals at regular intervals, keeping themselves hydrated and avoiding overeating are key to make the most out of fasting," Kanika Malhotra, senior nutritionist at the Health Care at Home India in the Capital.
If people manage to fast properly, it can work wonders for overall health.
According to celebrity chef Izzat Hussain, one should try to avoid fried and processed products and choose fruits and fresh juices while fasting.
"This is what we do during Ramadan. We fast till the evening and eat only healthy food and fruits to manage the energy requirements of the body," he said.
"If fasting is done in a correct manner, it can be a real effective and efficient way to give our body a chance to shed the extra calories that we take in the form of over-processed foods.
"Fasting may ease our digestive system. But one should not make fasting a short cut to weight loss as starving may just worsen the body's metabolism," Malhotra noted.
During Navratri, some devotees also observe "Nirjala vrat" or "no-food-no-water" way of fasting.
"Pregnant women should never fast for a prolonged period as their body requires a lot of nutrients to nourish the growth of the foetus. Deficiency of nutrients may be dangerous for both mother and the baby," advised Sonia Malik, director of Southend fertility and IVF centre.
The devotees can eat curd, home-made paneer, nuts, fresh vegetable juices and fruits with the peel cleaned thoroughly.
"In beverages, they can choose between buttermilk, coconut water, home-made soups, lemonade and green tea," Malhorta suggested, stressing that "devotees should never forget to have ample water to keep themselves hydrated".
According to experts, the devotees must be careful as the festival comes during a time when the immunity of human body is at a low position owing to the change of season.
One should also keep the portion size in mind. "People generally compensate for eating less by consuming high-energy diets like fried potato chips which is unhealthy. One should avoid it," the experts suggested.