Information on the 21-Day Daniel Fast

The 21-Day Daniel Fast is a partial fast, based on Daniel 10:2-3 in the Bible, in which Daniel says he fasted for three weeks. During the fasting period, only certain foods are eaten. Prayer, meditation and giving the results of the fast to God are also important components of this fast. The purpose of the Daniel Fast is to deprive the body from eating certain foods as a way to get closer to God. Increased spiritual awareness, becoming stronger in your faith and building more spiritual stamina are also the purposes of this fast.

Curious about the Daniel Fast? Here is what you need to know. (Image: @heatherdeffense via Twenty20)

What Can You Eat on the Daniel Fast?

First off, what is the Daniel Fast? The Daniel Fast, sometimes referred to as the Daniel Diet or Daniel Plan, in its purest form only allows foods mentioned in the book of Daniel. Most of those who follow the diet have expanded Daniel's use of the word "vegetable" to mean anything grown from seed. This includes all fruits, all vegetables — starchy and non-starchy, unprocessed and unrefined whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, water, and plant oils.

According to research published in Lipids in Health and Disease, foods that are not allowed on the Daniel diet include preservatives, refined and white flour, artificial flavorings, colorings, sweeteners, alcohol, and caffeine.

This basically cuts out all processed food from the diet, which can be very beneficial to health, according to research published in Nutrition and Metabolism. In fact, research conducted on the Daniel Fast specifically found that after 21 days, subjects had lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and lower C-reactive protein - a marker for inflammation.

Gray-Area Foods on the Daniel Fast

Gray-area foods are particular foods where inclusion into the Daniel Fast is not clear. For those who follow this diet as part of a church group or congregation, it is important to ask about certain foods to ensure everyone is on the same page. If doing this diet alone, it is a personal decision on what to include past the basic guidelines.

Fermented Foods

Fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, kimchi, vinegars are not specifically mentioned as permitted or not on the diet. Fermented foods are beneficial for gut health because of the bacteria they contain, according to Harvard Medical School. If fermented plant based foods are allowed, look for those that are naturally fermented.

Vinegars are often a gray-area food because of the process in which they are made. Carbohydrate foods, such as apples, grapes, and rice are fermented and the alcohol produced is turned into acetic acid by natural bacteria.

Leavened Breads

Yeast and leavening agents are also not specifically allowed or disallowed. The Bible makes several references to unleavened bread during Passover and other passages. Consuming or baking foods with yeast or baking powder is another personal or group preference when adhering to the Daniel Fast.

Plant Based Milks

Plant-based milks are a common food in the houses of plant based eaters and omnivores alike. The Daniel Fast is permissive of plant foods, but most adhere to the non-additive and preservative aspect of the diet. Most plant based milks are fortified with calcium and vitamin D at a minimum and may contain preservatives and added sugar. If plant based milks are allowed, unsweetened almond, soy, coconut, flaxseed, hemp, oat, and banana milks are all good choices.

Decaffeinated Coffee and Tea

Coffee and tea are plant based drinks. Researchers studying the health effects of the Daniel Diet allowed their subjects to drink decaffeinated coffee and tea. Non-caffeinated teas, such as peppermint can be made from dried peppermint leaves, so it may be permissible. If decaffeinated coffees and teas are allowed, ensure there is no added sugar or flavorings to adhere to the diet.

Planning for the Daniel Fast

The Daniel Fast is not a nutrition plan that you can start tomorrow without thinking. There needs to be some planning ahead to ensure that you keep your energy high and you don't suffer from any nutrient deficiencies throughout your 21-day journey. The Daniel Fast is not a diet of convenience, you will have to cook meals at home. Use these tips to help you as you plan to start your Daniel Fast:

  • Have a clear list of what foods are approved and not allowed.
  • Make a grocery list of what you need to shop for in order to cook healthy meals at home.
  • If you are not an avid cook, find some recipes to reference to keep yourself on track.
  • Have a few go-to snacks, such as nuts and fresh fruit and veggies on hand to grab quickly throughout the day as you get hungry.
  • Stay hydrated throughout the day - carry a water bottle with you to help with sudden addition of extra fiber to your diet.

Meal Prep for the Daniel Fast

The Daniel diet may be a crash course in nutrition education and cooking. It is essential to plan for this diet. There is no processed food allowed, so everything must be prepared. Spend some time before each work week to prep foods so you always have food ready to be assembled when you need it. Follow these meal prepping tips to ensure you have food available to eat when you're hungry:

  • You will need to think ahead about your sources of protein - prepare a batch of different types of beans over the weekend to use all week.
  • Prep some overnight oats in the refrigerator and top in the morning with fresh berries
  • Have frozen fruit on hand to make smoothies in the morning for breakfast or snack - add nut butters for protein and an avocado for fat.
  • Have approved snacks on hand, such as raw nuts, fruits, veggies, and dried fruit without added sugar.
  • You can make your own nut butter, or visit a grocery store that has a machine that grinds it for you, this ensures you are only getting the nuts and not extra sugar or preservatives.

Health Considerations on the Daniel Diet

There are some precautions when starting a diet such as the Daniel Fast. Those with heart conditions, diabetes, and kidney disease should consult with their primary physician before starting this diet. Children should not participate in the Daniel Fast. The risk for nutrient deficiencies is high and the side effects from the lack of essential nutrients happens more quickly and is more detrimental in children.

If you or a group is considering beginning the Daniel Fast or the Daniel Plan, contact a registered dietitian who can provide nutrition education to ensure all nutrient needs are being met. In addition, if you have a pre-existing medical condition or are on medications in which your diet can affect the dosage, such as blood thinners, it is necessary for you to be in contact with your primary healthcare team.

Your physician may recommend a supplement or multivitamin if they are worried you are deficient, but note individual supplements should never be taken without permission, as toxicity can be deadly. Some nutrients to be watchful for are vitamin B-12, iron, vitamin D, zinc, calcium, and omega-3 fatty acids.

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