The Daniel Fast: Foods You Can and Can't Eat

daniel fast
The Daniel Fast foods you can and can't eat. (Image: @gohsf via Twenty20)

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. The Bible, in the book of Daniel, states that Daniel ate only vegetables and water for 10 days. Later, in the tenth chapter, Daniel speaks of eating no meat, wine, or delicacies for 3 weeks. It is from this verse, that most people follow the diet for 21 days.

What is the Daniel Fast?

The Daniel fast is a modified fast, and often described as a "purified vegan" diet meant to be followed for a short time, not as a lifetime eating plan. Many believe the purpose of the Daniel Fast is not to lose weight, but to become closer to God, through sacrifice. According to research conducted on the health benefits of the Daniel Fast, some Biblical translations of "vegetables" are meant as any food that comes from a seed. This means fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, and plant oils are the main focus of this diet. Talk with your doctor before starting the Daniel Fast, particularly if you have any health issues.

Fruits Allowed on Daniel Fast

All fruits are permitted on the Daniel Diet. Fruits contain vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals, so eating an abundance of fruit on this diet is beneficial for the body. Most fruits contain vitamin C in varying amounts, to include strawberries, oranges, berries, and kiwi fruit. Vitamin C is important in making collagen and in healing wounds, according to the National Institutes of Health.

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 when choosing canned or frozen fruits, look for those that are canned in their own juices, not sugar.

Vegetables Allowed on Daniel Fast

Since eating vegetables was the original premise of the Daniel Diet, all vegetables are allowed and encouraged on the diet. 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.

Research analysis in Journal of Diabetes Investigation found that a higher intake of fiber from fruits and vegetables alike reduced the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommend women get 25 grams of fiber per day and men need 38 grams per day.

Eating Grains on Daniel Fast

There are many options for grains on the Daniel Fast. 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 breads without preservatives are made with just flour, water, yeast, and salt. Some choose to eat grains without yeast, but there is no Biblical guidance on the choice to eat 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.

Proteins for Daniel Fast

The Daniel Fast does not allow for any type of animal proteins. That means no beef, chicken, pork, eggs, or seafood. Plant-based proteins need to be consumed in order to prevent a decline in health. Beans, nuts, seeds, and nut butters are all good plant based sources of protein. Read the ingredient lists of the plant proteins you choose. Many nut butters have added sugar or preservatives, these 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 and whole wheat bread.

Stay Hydrated on Daniel Fast

The Daniel Fast specifies no caffeine and no alcohol, so the drink of choice for many who follow the diet, is water. Fruit is allowed, so 100 percent fruit juice and adding fruit to water is also allowed. A research study on the Daniel Fast published in Lipids in Health and Disease allowed their study participants to drink decaffeinated coffee and herbal teas, so depending on the strictness of your diet, these may be allowed.

Oils and Fats on Daniel Fast

Plant oils and fats are allowed on the Daniel Fast. Olive, coconut, canola, flaxseed, avocado, sesame, and peanut are all good oils for the Daniel Fast. Fats are essential in order to absorb vitamins D, E, K, and A and to contribute to energy each day. There are fats in nuts and seeds, such as chia, flax, peanuts, cashews, and pecans. Avocado is also a source of healthy fat. Canola oil, walnuts, and chia seeds are also sources of omega-3 fatty acids, an essential nutrient.

Sweets on the Daniel Fast

Refined and added sugar is not allowed on the Daniel Fast, to include honey, maple syrup, agave, brown sugar, raw sugar, and white sugar. If you are craving something sweet, reach for fruit first. Dried fruit, without added sugars, offers a more concentrated sweetness. Be aware of portion sizes with dried fruit; one-quarter of a cup is a serving, so it's best to stick with that.

How to Flavor Your Food

If eating raw vegetables and fruit each meal doesn't sound appetizing, you may be wondering how to flavor your meals. 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.

Vinegar is also an option for flavoring foods. Not all vinegars may be allowed on the Daniel Fast, so this is up to personal discretion. Some vinegars are made from grapes and apples, such as balsamic and apple cider vinegars, and some are made from wine. Vinegars are the result of aging and fermentation, but any alcohol created from that process is converted to acetic acid, according to research published in Medscape Journal of Medicine.

Total Calories on the Daniel Fast

Even on the Daniel Fast, it is possible to maintain your dairy recommended calorie amounts. Use a calorie estimator to find out how many calories you need. If you are on a Daniel Fast for weight loss, consult your health care provider for a recommended daily amount. Filling your plate with all of the wholesome foods allowed on the Daniel Fast will ensure you don't go hungry.

Example One Day Eating Plan on the Daniel Diet

  • Breakfast: Rolled oats with cinnamon, blueberries, and almonds AND fruit smoothie
  • Lunch: Brown Rice and Black Bean Bowl, corn, radishes, cilantro, and salsa AND Vegan Caprese Salad
  • Dinner: Lentil pasta with olive oil, garlic, and parsley AND Roasted Red Pepper Soup
  • Snacks: Hummus and veggies, popcorn, apples and peanut butter

Precautions

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. There is the potential for nutrient deficiencies for adults and children, most notably vitamin D, iron, calcium, and vitamin B-12, so it may be helpful to consult a registered dietitian to ensure your nutrient needs are met.

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