The Daniel Fast is used as a method of self-deprivation to help individuals draw themselves closer to God. The eating plan followed on this fast is based on Daniel's words in the Book of Daniel in the Bible. This regimen is considered a partial fast because you can eat and drink throughout the day instead of total abstinence — you just have to be mindful about what foods you eat.
What is the Daniel Fast?
The Daniel Fast is an eating plan based on plants and is meant to be followed for 21 days. In the Bible, Daniel speaks of eating only vegetables and water, no wine, meat, or delicacies. Many have interpreted these words as being able to only eat foods grown from seed, which is essentially a vegan diet. The Daniel Fast takes it a step further.
While there are many versions of the diet, most adhere to the same principles when following a Daniel Fast. Research conducted on the Daniel Fast published in Lipids in Health and Disease call it a "purified vegan diet." When deciding exactly what you can eat on the Daniel Fast, some of your decisions will either come as a group, if you are participating as part of a congregation, or personal decision.
What Can You Eat On The Daniel Fast?
The Daniel Fast is a diet that includes all plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, plant oils, and legumes. For those who strictly adhere to the traditional Daniel Fast, this means no meat, fish, seafood, alcohol, preservatives, additives, refined grains, or caffeine. The diet also restricts all processed sugars, even <ahref="https: www.livestrong.com="" article="" 492804-refined-vs-natural-sugars="" "=""> </ahref="https:>natural sugars, such as raw sugar, agave, maple syrup, and honey.
All fruits are encouraged and allowed on the Daniel Fast. Fruits are an important source of energy, vitamins, antioxidants, and polyphenols. Polyphenols are a special class of nutrients that have been studied for their potential to promote health. The Nutrition Bulletin states that polyphenols have been shown to lower blood pressure and cholesterol and may decrease the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Berries, apples, pears, plums, and citrus fruits are all examples of fruits high in polyphenols. Most fruits contain vitamin C, which is also a powerful antioxidant and helps the body make collagen, important for wound healing and skin health. Fruits can be eaten raw, frozen, dried, and canned. Always choose fruit without added sugar or syrups if choosing any form other than raw.
All vegetables are allowed on the Daniel Fast. Starchy and non-starchy vegetables are treated the same on the Daniel Fast. Those that have pre-existing medical conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, should always follow the recommendation of their healthcare team when choosing to eat starchy versus non-starchy vegetables.
Starchy vegetables include potatoes (source of vitamin C, potassium and fiber), peas (source of protein, B-vitamins, and iron) and corn (source of protein, fiber, and potassium). Non-starchy vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, onions, celery, and carrots are high in water content and low in calories, so you should feel good about increasing your vegetable intake.
Eating whole grains on a Daniel Fast can be a bit tricky. Some individuals who participate in the Daniel Fast choose to eat only unleavened breads, meaning it is made without yeast or baking powder, for example. There are many options for getting whole grains on a Daniel Fast. Air-popped popcorn, rolled and steel cut oats, quinoa, millet, brown rice, and barley are all examples of whole grains.
When looking for whole grains, read the ingredient list to make sure there are no preservatives, flavorings, or additives. In addition, no white or refined flour is allowed, so the whole grain should be labeled with the words "whole grain " or "100 percent whole grain." Whole grains are also a source of fiber. With your intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, you should meet your daily goal of 25 grams of fiber for women and 38 grams for men, recommends the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
The Daniel diet restricts all animal foods, so your protein will come from plant sources. Protein breaks down in your body into individual amino acids. Animal sources of protein have all amino acids, but plant proteins lack one or more amino acids. Some exceptions to that are quinoa and soybeans, both of which are plant sources of complete protein. While it will be very important to vary your protein choices throughout the day to get all of the amino acids you need, don't stress about it. As long as you are varying your protein sources throughout the day, you will get all of the amino acid you need.
Examples of proteins allowed on the Daniel Fast are all lentils and beans, such as black beans, lima beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, and navy beans. All nuts and seeds are allowed, as well as butters made from them.
Fats and Oils
Fat are an essential part of your diet on the Daniel Fast. They help provide you with calories needed for energy, help you feel satisfied after you eat, and help absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K <ahref="https: www.livestrong.com="" article="" 282513-a-list-of-fat-soluble-vitamins="" "=""> </ahref="https:>according to the National Institutes of Health. Healthy choices for plant oils include extra virgin olive oil, expeller pressed canola oil, avocado oil, flaxseed oil, peanut oil, and coconut oil. You can also get fats from nuts, seeds, and avocados. Omega-3 fatty acids are an essential fatty acid that is available in select plant based foods, such as walnuts, canola oil, chia seeds, and flaxseed and flaxseed oil, according to Linus Pauling Institute.
There is no added sugar or sweeteners allowed on the Daniel Fast, but if you have a sweet tooth, there is a way to get around it. Dried fruit without added sugar is an excellent way to curb the sweet cravings. Be mindful of serving sizes though; 1/4 cup is a serving of dried fruit and should be enough to satisfy the need for sweet. In addition, if you have a stevia plant, the leaves can be dried and added to drinks for a slight sweetness.
Water is the preferred drink of choice on the Daniel diet. Hydration will be very important during your 21-day partial fast. If you are following a traditional Daniel Fast, then your intake of fiber will most likely increase, which means you will need more water to avoid constipation. According to an article published in Nutrition Reviews, some foods, such as watermelon, strawberries, celery, lettuce, and squash can be up to 99 percent water, so you can stay hydrated by eating and drinking.
Milk is not allowed, as it is an animal product. Depending on the type of fast you are doing, either traditional or modified, plant based milks may be allowed. Look for those that are not sweetened and without any additives, preservatives, colorings, or flavorings.
Juice is allowed, preferably using fresh fruit at home to make 100 percent fruit juice with no added sugars. Caffeinated coffee and tea are not allowed, but drinking decaffeinated tea and coffee is a personal preference. Researchers studying the Daniel Fast published their findings in Lipids in Health and Disease and allowed their study participants to drink decaf coffee and tea.
Health Considerations for the Daniel Fast
Because you may be drastically altering your diet, you may experience headaches and other mild symptoms. If you are unsure about the symptoms you are having, contact your doctor. There is a strong potential for nutrient deficiencies on the Daniel Fast, so it may be helpful to contact a registered dietitian before beginning the Daniel Fast, who can provide some education on how to get all of the nutrients needed on this diet. Individuals with pre-existing conditions should consult with their primary care physician before beginning their 21-day Daniel Fast.
- Lipids in Health and Disease: Both a traditional and modified Daniel Fast improve the cardio-metabolic profile in men and women
- The Nutrition Bulletin: The role of polyphenols in modern nutrition
- NIH: Vitamin C Factsheet
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Fiber
- Nutrition Reviews: Water, Hydration, and Health
- NIH: Weighing in on Dietary Fats
- Linus Pauling Institute: Essential Fatty Acids
- Lipids in Health and Disease: Effect of a 21 day Daniel Fast on metabolic and cardiovascular disease risk factors in men and women