Starting the Daniel Fast? Here's What You Can and Can't Eat

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The Daniel Fast emphasizes fruits and vegetables over processed grains and alcohol.
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The Daniel Fast is based on the diet eaten by Daniel, an Old Testament prophet taken from his home and placed in King's Nebuchadnezzar's household. In the tenth chapter, Daniel speaks of eating no meat, wine or delicacies for three weeks — and it's from this verse that most people follow the diet for 21 days.

The eating plan is a modified fast and often described as a "purified vegan diet" that's meant to be followed for a short period of time. Many believe the purpose of the Daniel Fast is not to lose weight but to become closer to God through the sacrifice of certain foods.

Read more: Food List for the 21 Day Daniel Fast

Daniel Fast Food List to Eat

Some biblical translations of vegetables include any food that comes from a seed. So this means fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, and plant oils are the main focus of this diet, according to a September 2010 study in Lipids in Health and Disease.

1. Fruits

All fruits are permitted on the Daniel Fast. Fruits contain vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals, so eating an abundance of fruit on this diet is beneficial for the body.

Many fruits, such as watermelon, cantaloupes and citrus fruits are also high in water, which is excellent for skin health and hydration. Sugar is not allowed on the Daniel Fast, so if you're opting for canned or frozen fruits, look for those that are canned in their own juices and contain no added sugars.

Tip

If you're craving something sweet, reach for fruit first. Dried fruit, without added sugars, offers a more concentrated sweetness. But be aware of portion sizes with dried fruit; one-quarter of a cup is a single serving, so it's best to stick with that.

2. Vegetables

Since eating vegetables was the original premise of the Daniel Diet, all vegetables are allowed and encouraged on this eating plan. There is no distinction between starchy vegetables, such as corn, peas and potatoes, and non-starchy vegetables, such as celery, broccoli and cauliflower. Vegetables are a preferred source of fiber.

In fact, a higher intake of fiber from fruits and vegetables reduced the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, per January 2016 research in the Journal of Diabetes Investigation. Women need 25 grams of fiber per day and men need 38 grams per day, per the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, so adding more veggies to your plate is a great way to meet those quotas.

3. Whole Grains

Since the biblical diet does specify grains, those who follow the diet typically allow unprocessed and unrefined grains. This includes grains such as whole-wheat breads, oats, barley, rye, buckwheat, quinoa and cornmeal.

Typically, bread without preservatives is made with just flour, water, yeast and salt. While some people choose to eat grains without yeast, there is no biblical guidance on whether you should go for leavened or unleavened bread.

Whole grains are also a great source of fiber and can help contribute to the daily recommended amount. White bread is not allowed on this diet, as it is highly processed. Reading food labels can help ensure that you are buying a grain that is 100-percent whole wheat.

Read more: How to Read a Nutrition Label — and Finally Get Your Macros Right

4. Protein Sources

The Daniel Fast doesn't allow for any type of animal proteins, which gives way for plenty of plant-based proteins such as beans, seeds and nuts and nut butters.

However, don't forget to read the ingredient lists of the plant proteins you choose because many packaged products like nut butters have added sugar or preservatives, which are not allowed on the diet.

Plant foods such as quinoa and soy are complete proteins, which means they contain all essential amino acids. Beans, nuts, seeds and grains are all lacking in one or more amino acids, which means if you pair them together, you get all the amino acids you need in a day. Good protein pairings include hummus and pita, rice and beans or almond butter on whole-wheat bread.

5. Fat Sources

Plant oils and fats are allowed — so reach for olive, coconut, canola, flaxseed, avocado, sesame and peanut oils. Fats are essential in order to absorb vitamins A, D, E and K and they also pack in plenty of antioxidants.

Nuts and seeds (think: chia and flax) also contain healthy fats as do some fruits such as avocado. Canola oil, walnuts and chia seeds are also sources of omega-3 fatty acids, an essential nutrient that can fight inflammation.

6. Herbs and Spices

If eating raw vegetables and fruit each meal doesn't sound appetizing, you may be wondering how to flavor your meals on this plan. Most seasonings are allowed on the Daniel Fast as long as they do not contain artificial preservatives.

Dried herbs and spices are good flavoring agents for roasted and steamed vegetables. Using citrus juices, such as lemon can help brighten up fruits and lime juice adds good flavor to plain rice and beans.

Foods to Avoid on the Daniel Fast

Since this biblical eating plan emphasizes whole, unprocessed foods that come from the ground, you'll have to avoid:

  1. Added sugar: This includes honey, maple syrup, agave, brown sugar, raw sugar and white sugar.
  2. Refined grains: Processed grains such as pasta, white bread and white rice are off-limits. Reach for whole grains such as sprouted-grain bread, brown rice, quinoa and buckwheat.
  3. Animal products: Avoid beef, chicken, pork, eggs, dairy and seafood for the 21 days.
  4. Alcohol: Liquor, beer or wine aren't allowed and neither is vinegar, since making it involves fermentation, which can produce alcohol.
  5. Caffeine: This means both tea and coffee are off-limits. However, the participants in the Lipids in Health and Disease study were allowed to drink decaffeinated coffee and herbal teas, so depending on the strictness of your diet, these may be allowed.

A One-Day Eating Plan on the Daniel Diet

  • Breakfast: Rolled oats with cinnamon, blueberries, and almonds and a fruit smoothie
  • Lunch: Brown rice and black bean bowl, corn, radishes, cilantro, and salsa and a Vegan Caprese Salad (without the vinegar)
  • Dinner: Lentil pasta with olive oil, garlic, and parsley and Roasted Red Pepper Soup
  • Snacks: Hummus and veggies, popcorn and apples with peanut butter

Warning

If you have any medical conditions or are on medications that can be affected by the foods you eat, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and kidney disease, consult your primary medical provider before starting this diet. There is the potential for nutrient deficiencies for adults and children, most notably vitamin D, iron, calcium and vitamin B12, so it may be helpful to consult a registered dietitian to ensure your nutrient needs are met.

Read more: How to Determine if a Vitamin or Supplement Is Actually Right for You

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