The Daniel fast may be biblical in origin, but this doesn't mean that you have to be religious to try it out. A variety of benefits may arise from trying the Daniel diet, including reduced risk of heart disease and improved energy levels.
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Practicing the Daniel Fast
Despite the term "fast," the Daniel diet is not actually as restrictive as it may seem. While some fasts require that food intake be limited to specific times and specific quantities, the Daniel diet is a little more lenient. It lasts for a total of 21 days and focuses on restricting types of food rather than amounts_._
Though you can eat whenever you wish to, it's what you eat rather than when you eat that counts. According to the Eden Westside Baptist Church, the following foods are all allowed on the Daniel diet:
- Fruits of all varieties: fresh, frozen, canned, juiced and dried
- Vegetables of all varieties: fresh, frozen, canned, juiced and dried (as well as all color varieties of sweet potato)
- All whole grains: barley, brown rice, corn flour, cornmeal, grits, millet, oat bran, oats, popcorn, quinoa, rice cakes, wheat germ, whole wheat pasta and tortillas
- All nuts and seeds: including peanut butter and nut butters
- All available legumes: fresh, frozen, canned and dried
- A wide variety of oils: including canola, grape seed, olive, peanut and sesame
- Soy foods: such as tofu, TVP and veggie burgers
- Condiments: including adobo sauce, cilantro, herbs, mustard, salt, seasonings, spices and vegetable broth
This, granted, is not the most interesting assortment of foods, but it is more varied than many sources report. Some sources, such as All About Prayer, restrict the Daniel fast to simply fruit, vegetables and water, which can seem daunting, as it appears so limited. The Eden Westside Baptist Church list helps to provide some creative ways to achieve the Daniel fast without tremendous restriction.
All About Prayer advises that foods to be avoided during the Daniel fast include:
- Fried food
- Sugary fruit juices (fruit juices without additives are fine)
Many nonreligious people practice something akin to the Daniel fast, although it is often not described as such when practiced without religion. In essence, the Daniel diet is a purified vegan diet, based on plant-derived foods and free from animal products. The key difference is the additional restriction of all additives, sweeteners and artificial products, which a vegan diet does not necessarily require.
Science Behind the Daniel Diet
One of the reasons the Daniel diet is carried out by a wide variety of people, not just those practicing a particular religion, is because of its potential benefits as a form of detox. Though, of course, detox diets should be practiced with care and not adopted in replacement of a balanced diet.
Although studies on the Daniel fast in particular are rare, some have been conducted that back up its benefits. Though now somewhat dated, a study published in the September 2010 issue of the journal Lipids in Health and Disease found that a 21-day period of the Daniel diet demonstrated improved risk factors for metabolic and cardiovascular diseases in both men and women.
A similar, but very small, study also published in the journal Lipids in Health and Disease in July 2013 tested the Daniel fast on 29 men and women to assess its role in decreasing the risk of developing cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. The study concluded that a significant improvement in blood lipids occurred across all subjects, in addition to a reduction of inflammation.
An August 2016 study published in the journal _Proceedings of the Nutrition Society _examined the long term benefits of vegetarian and vegan diets. The study found that those who abide by a vegetarian or vegan diet have demonstrably lower levels of obesity and decreased risk of heart disease. There was also a slightly lower risk of cancer reported, but more data would be needed to make this clinically significant.
Blood lipids is a term for any fatty substance found in the bloodstream, which, when found in excess, can increase the risk of heart attacks.
Benefits of the Daniel Fast
A small study published in the journal_ Senior Research Projects _in December 2013 demonstrated evidence for benefits of the Daniel diet. More than 100 students and faculty attending Southern Adventist University participated in the Daniel diet. They were put on the diet for a total of 28 days (seven days longer than is ordinarily carried out) and surveyed to record their experiences.
A closer study was done within this overarching survey in which 30 female students from the University were closely monitored to specifically address the benefits of the Daniel fast. Before and after the 28-day fast, the following information was recorded:
- Resting metabolism
- Dietary intake
- Body composition
After the fast was complete, the study found that subjects had experienced the following positive changes:
- Moderate weight loss
- Increased calorie burning when resting
- Increased fiber consumption (which, according to the Mayo Clinic, is great for the health of the digestive system)
- Decreased sodium levels
- Decreased cholesterol levels
- Various changes in the burning of fats at rest
It is important to note, however, that this particular study was carried out by the religious educational institution Southern Adventist University. Given that the nature of the Daniel fast is a religious one, the benefits reported may be biased due to the participants' religious beliefs.
Additionally, while the Daniel fast may offer particular benefits, the majority of these benefits originate from it being a largely plant-based diet and not due to it being a fast. Therefore, a balanced plant-based diet may yield the exact same benefits as those lifted above, without the restrictions a fast can entail.
A study published in the March 2018 issue of the BMJ Journal of Open Diabetes Research and Care found similar results regarding how a plant-based diet can bolster mental wellness. The study compared previous studies on the impact of plant-based diets on health, finding that plant-based diets were associated with significant improvement in emotional well-being, physical well-being, depression, quality of life, general health and lowered cholesterol.
Balance Is Key
A balanced diet is comprised of enough calories and nutrients on a daily basis to maintain your body's ideal health. According to the British Nutrition Foundation, this means consuming a wide range of foods from a variety of food groups (such as fruits, vegetables, starchy foods and dairy or dairy alternatives) and eating your recommended daily calories. For men this is 2500 calories, and for women it is 2000.
The Daniel fast restricts the amount of food groups an individual can eat and therefore is not as beneficial in the long-term as a continued balanced diet is. A review published in June 2018 by the _American Family Physician _explored the benefits of a balanced diet as opposed to a diet focused on macronutrients and weight loss, finding that balanced diets yielded the best results in the prevention of chronic diseases.
While the Daniel fast may provide health benefits, it should generally only be practiced as a form of religious observation, and not as a way to lose a few extra pounds or quickly boost your health.
Always contact a physician before engaging in any form of fast, particularly if you are taking medications that may complicate matters.
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- Eden Westside Baptist Church: "The Daniel Fast"
- All About Prayer: "Daniel Fast"
- PETA: "The Daniel Plan"
- National Library of Medicine: "Effect of a 21 Day Daniel Fast on Metabolic and Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors in Men and Women"
- National Library of Medicine: "Both a Traditional and Modified Daniel Fast Improve the Cardio-Metabolic Profile in Men and Women"
- Nutrition Studies: "The Daniel Fast: Applying Wholistic Nutrition"
- Mayo Clinic: "Dietary Fiber: Essential for a Healthy Diet"
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute: "High Blood Cholesterol"
- BMJ Journals: "Effectiveness of Plant-Based Diets in Promoting Well-Being in the Management of Type 2 Diabetes: A Systematic Review"
- National Library of Medicine: "The Long-Term Health of Vegetarians and Vegans"
- British Nutrition Foundation: "A Healthy, Balanced Diet"
- American Family Physician: "Diets for Health: Goals and Guidelines"