The most exciting week of the year for all Christians is approaching. Holy Week, with its special symbols, is associated with fasting, to which, however, we need to pay particular attention, in order to not suffer unpleasant consequences on our health. So check out what you should be on the look out for.
Holy Week is perhaps the most difficult period from the Lent Easter fasting since during this period we need to avoid not only foods of animal origin, but also olive and vegetable oil.
Although olive oil can be substituted by eating Tahini (sesame paste), nuts and olives, it is important to eat a variety of foods. Diversity during fasting reduces the likelihood of lack of some important nutrients.
What nutrients are missing in our food during Lent and how can we substitute them?
Nutrients that are most likely to be missing in our food during Lent are: iron, vitamin Β12, calcium and vitamin D. In particular, insufficient intake of iron and vitamin Β12, by avoiding meat, can result in anaemia. Moreover, insufficient intake of calcium and vitamin D, by avoiding dairy products, may reduce bone density and consequently lead to osteoporosis.
Pulses, nuts, dark green vegetables (broccoli, spinach), shellfish, sesame and its derivative products (Tahini, bagels, bread with Tahini), and some iron-fortified cereals, are important sources of iron. And if these foods are consumed in combination with vitamin C-rich foods (such as lemons, oranges, peppers, tomatoes), then this will significantly increase the absorption of iron.
It should be noted that only one tenth of the iron from plants is absorbed in comparison to iron of animal origin, so fasting should not be long and strict for people who suffer from anaemia or have specific needs, as for example, pregnant women, nursing mothers, adolescents, children and athletes.
As for vitamin Β12, it can be found only in certain fortified cereals, so people who suffer from megaloblastic anaemia should avoid not eating meat. Pulses, nuts, shellfish, some seafood, sesame and its derivative products (Tahini, bagels, bread with Tahini), soy and its derivative products, as well as some calcium-fortified cereals, are important sources of calcium. Vitamin D, however, can be obtained from some fortified foods.
Let's not forget that vitamin D is accumulated when our skin is exposed to sunlight, and in countries with adequate sunlight, lack of vitamin D is rare.
So, various foods eaten during Lent can ensure sufficient intake of nutrients. However, those who suffer from any disease, pregnant women, nursing mothers, children and athletes should consult a nutritionist as to whether they can fast and for how long they can do it.
Finally, we must not forget that in addition to its nutritional importance, fasting is primarily a spiritual exercise. So we need to realize its meaning (abstinence, moderation, avoiding abuse) and not indulge in a "lean feast."