Intermittent fasting is a diet chosen by many people who want to lose some weight or get healthy. But let’s face it. That fasting window, with nothing but water, unsweetened coffee, or tea can get dull very quickly. Spices or flavored coffee are an easy way to add flavor to your day. For instance, a bit of vanilla extract can turn your coffee from bitter and bland to delicious. But does it work with intermittent fasting? Does vanilla extract break a fast?
The answer depends on several factors. The type of fast you’re on, your reasons for fasting, and how much vanilla extract you’re having all come into play. Believe it or not, vanilla extract is not calorie-free, which is why it will stimulate the gut and cause an insulin response.
So let’s explore this topic in-depth and see how and when you can add vanilla extract during your fasting window, what are its benefits and its potential side effects.
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Does vanilla extract break a fast?
Vanilla extract, whether pure or not, contains about 37 calories for one serving (one tablespoon). That is usually over the accepted limit under most intermittent fasting diets, but the good news is, you’ll rarely use that much to flavor your favorite drink.
In other words, if breaking a fast means going over a certain calorie limit, it all comes down to how many calories your method allows you to have.
What if you’re worried about gut rest or autophagy? Vanilla extract is made using alcohol. Like sugar, alcohol disrupts the gut to rest and takes you out of autophagy. Is the same valid if you only have a drop or two? That’s hard to tell. There are no medical studies to give us a definitive answer, so all we can do is guess.
The amount you’d be ingesting from a single drop is very little, so in theory, most people will not feel a difference. However, we all react in different ways to foods, so there is no guarantee. If you want to be 100% sure you’re not getting out of autophagy, the best thing you can do is stay away from vanilla extract. The same thing is valid if your goal is gut rest, especially if you’re doing it at a doctor’s recommendation.
Does pure vanilla extract break a fast?
The same logic as before applies, though pure vanilla extract could be safer than the non-pure type. That’s because vanilla extract that isn’t labeled as pure usually contains additives and other artificial ingredients. While most of them are calorie-free, there is no guarantee that they won’t affect your fast at all. Some artificial flavors and sweeteners have been proven to cause an insulin response and make it harder to manage blood sugar levels. However, sweeteners like Monk Fruit and Erythritol should be safe.
If you’re dirty fasting, vanilla extract should not be a problem, as you allow yourself to have a certain amount of calories during your fast.
In short, while pure vanilla extract may still break a fast, depending on the quantity and your goals, it is a much safer and healthier option.
Will adding vanilla extract to coffee break a fast?
Again, it depends on the main goals you have for fasting and the quantity of vanilla extract. Many seem to agree a small drop won’t do much harm, but it will add up to around 5-10 calories, which is more than some fasting methods allow. Make sure you read the label, to avoid getting a version that’s filled with chemicals and even sweeteners because those have a greater chance of breaking the fast.
Effects of vanilla extract
Whether you are using it during your fast or if you are saving it for your eating window, vanilla extract has plenty of benefits.
A surprising benefit is that vanilla extract can alleviate anxiety and panic attacks. It is hard to tell whether this effect comes from ingesting it or if it is simply due to the fragrance, but beverages with vanilla are often recommended to those going through a panic attack or a depressive episode.
In terms of dieting, vanilla extract is a great appetite suppressant, thus helping you lose weight. If you have a sweet tooth, and you’re constantly craving sweets throughout the fast and after, adding a bit of vanilla extract to your coffee or water may be exactly what you need. Yes, you will get some calories and carbs, but you will, in theory at least, eat fewer calories overall. It may even help to prevent overeating after a long fast.
Vanilla extract is also known to promote healthy digestion. It is a common ingredient in teas, and it has been shown that it helps reduce the inflammation of the digestive tract.
Side effects of vanilla extract are generally rare, but they do exist. They happen especially in the case of using high quantities, which is why moderation is always advised. They include digestive issues, but also things like itchy skin, irritation (which can cause acne), and even a rash. Allergic reactions are also possible, so if you’ve ever had a reaction to anything vanilla-flavored you may want to stay away from it or at least talk to a doctor.
Remember that vanilla extract that isn’t labeled as “pure” may also come with artificial ingredients. Most of the time that’s not an issue, but they can occasionally cause some side effects. If you’re worried, it is best to stick to pure vanilla extract to limit your exposure to unwanted ingredients.
Always make sure to buy PURE vanilla extract. I recommend this product from Amazon since all ingredients are natural, gluten-free, and there was no corn syrup added.
The bottom line
Does vanilla extract break a fast? It could. At 37 calories for one tablespoon you’ll be over the caloric allowance during a fast for most methods. However, if you use a much smaller quantity, the risk is diminished, but it all depends on how strictly you’re following the chosen method.
The answer also varies according to your intermittent fasting goals. If you’re on this diet solely for weight loss, the vanilla extract may in fact turn out to be beneficial. It can suppress your appetite, making you less likely to overeat, but also helping you to get through the fast easily.
If you’re fasting for gut rest, vanilla extract is probably not the best thing to have. It is made using alcohol, so it will stop gut rest, and it will most likely disrupt autophagy.
Vanilla extract, especially in its pure form, has few side effects, and they are all usually related to using high quantities. A moderate amount, like a drop or two in your favorite beverage, should be safe for most people.