Based on the words of Daniel in the Bible, the Daniel Fast restricts your normal food intake to include plant foods. It is not a fast where all food is restricted. A research study published in Lipids in Health and Disease describe the Daniel diet as more of a "purified vegan diet." Like most religious fasts, the Daniel fast involves using sacrifice, which from a religious point of view is meant to deepen the relationship between you and God. As a result, you should consume the Daniel fast's permitted foods, and in their natural state, as much as possible. Consult a medical professional if you have any questions concerning health conditions and fasting.
What is the Daniel Fast or Daniel Diet Plan?
The Daniel Fast is a plant based diet. It is void of added sugars, alcohol, caffeine, meat, additives, or preservatives. It is meant to be followed for 21 days. The Daniel Fast has been studied for its potential to reduce LDL cholesterol, blood pressure, body weight, and C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation and indicator of chronic disease.
A modified version of the diet, known as the Daniel Plan was created by Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church and author of The Purpose Driven Life. He, along with doctors, Mehmet Oz, David Amen, and Mark Hymen promote the diet, and parishioners of the church have successfully lost weight.
The Daniel Plan is meant to be a longer term, healthy diet. It consists of 50 percent of daily food as non-starchy vegetables, 25 percent healthy animal or vegetable protein, and 25 percent starch or whole grains. Fruits are allowed as a side dish. This plan does allow meat, coffee, tea, butter, and sweeteners such as honey, maple syrup, and stevia extract.
Fruits for the Daniel Fast
All fruits are considered good to eat during the 21-day Daniel Fast and are important sources of nutrition. They contain essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants your body needs to properly function. For example, vitamins A and C are powerful antioxidants that protect your body from free radical invasion and strengthen your immune system.
They also contain natural sugars for added energy during your fast. Frozen and canned fruits are good options if they do not contain added sugars or preservatives. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends getting 2 cups a day of fruit, with 1/2 cup being one serving. With the Daniel Fast, those recommendations are sure to increase in order to meet calorie needs for the day. Using a formula to estimate your calorie needs might be helpful when planning your fruit servings for the day.
Vegetables for the Daniel Fast
Vegetables are a cornerstone to the Daniel Fast. Vegetables are a plentiful source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. The National Institutes of Health indicate that fruit and vegetable consumption, when eaten with a healthy diet, can lower your risk of stroke, heart disease, and some types of cancer. All vegetables qualify as permitted foods for the Daniel Fast.
Vegetables also contain fiber. Fiber can help reduce cholesterol and improve digestive and gut health. Vegetables can be eaten raw or steamed for a softer texture. Canned or frozen vegetables are also an option. Look for those with no added salt, artificial preservatives, sauces or gravies. Vegetables can be eaten at every meal and as snacks as part of the Daniel Fast.
If following the Daniel Plan versus the Daniel Fast, vegetables are separated into starchy and non-starchy. Starchy vegetables include corn, potatoes, peas, parsnips, and pumpkin. Some examples of non-starchy vegetables, which are also usually high in water content, are broccoli, cabbage, eggplant, mushrooms, radishes, and peppers.
Whole Grains on the Daniel Fast
Only whole grains, rather than refined grains, are permitted on the Daniel Fast. Whole grains include foods like oats, popcorn, whole wheat bread, brown rice, quinoa, barley, and rye. Whole grains are sources of plentiful fiber, B and E vitamins, magnesium, copper and zinc.
Recent research published in Journal of Chiropractic Medicine claims there is evidence to believe that whole grain intake can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, colorectal, pancreatic, and gastric cancers. The researchers indicate that this type of prevention may come from 2 to 3 servings a day of whole grains.
Refrain from adding anything but water to your whole grain dishes. Dairy milk, chicken or beef stock and broths are not allowed on the diet. In addition, refined grains, such as white flour, are not permitted on the Daniel Fast. Herbs and spices are permitted and can help add flavor to vegetables.
Consuming an adequate amount of liquid is important while on your fast. The Mayo Clinic suggests men should consume 15.5 cups of water per day and women should drink 11.5 cups per day. Of course, this depends on body size, physical health, and activity level. Although water is the only liquid you can consume, because fruits are permitted, you can drink 100 percent juice, puree or blend fruits for your drinking pleasure.
Some fruits and vegetables can be up to 99 percent water, according to research published in Nutrition Reviews. Strawberries, cantaloupe, lettuce, squash, watermelon, and celery are all good options to stay hydrated. If water gets too mundane, another option is to add fruit to your water, berries and cucumbers both stand up to being in water for many hours while offering a hint of flavoring.
Since the 21-day Daniel Fast restricts meat and seafood, you can derive your protein from permitted sources, such as beans, seeds, nuts, nut butters, and high protein grains. It is possible to consume adequate levels of protein on a Daniel Fast. Examples of these foods include kidney beans, black beans, lentils, macadamia nuts, Brazil nuts, peanuts, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds and almonds.
The Journal of the International Society for Sports Nutrition indicates that a normal adult, non athlete, should consume 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. For a 150 pound man or women, you should consume 55 grams of protein per day. When eating protein, especially plant based sources of protein, quality matters.
Most plant based protein is missing one or more essential amino acids to make it a complete protein. Complete plant proteins are foods like quinoa and soy. Incomplete plant proteins are legumes, beans, seeds, nuts, and grains. Pairing incomplete proteins together can help your body have all of the amino acids it needs. Examples of properly paired proteins are rice and beans, and peanut butter and whole wheat.
Always check the nutritional labels to ensure your protein foods do not contain added sweeteners or artificial preservatives. Nut butters often contain added sugar, so making your own nut butter is a good option.
Plant based oils and fats are permitted on the Daniel Fast. Healthy oils include extra virgin olive oil, flaxseed oil, canola oil, peanut oil, and coconut oil. Canola, soybean, and flaxseed oils all contain omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are important in infant development and possibly play a protective role in heart disease, dementia, and cancer prevention, according to the National Institutes of Health. Nuts, seeds, and their butters are also good sources of fat on the Daniel Fast.
Health Concerns with the Daniel Fast
Even with the health benefits that can come from the Daniel Fast, there are some drawbacks if followed for longer than 21 days. The study in Lipids in Health and Disease found that the study participants had a decrease in their HDL cholesterol when following the traditional Daniel Fast.
HDL cholesterol is your good cholesterol and this helps remove bad cholesterol from the body. The goal is for this to stay high. The researchers noted that when adding lean proteins to the diet, HDL could be raised.
There is also the potential for nutrient deficiencies with the diet. Vitamin B-12 is only found in animal foods and the research on this diet does not mention the acceptability of supplementation. The National Institutes of Health advise that B-12 deficiency could cause anemia, constipation, fatigue, and weakness.
Iron deficiency may also be a concern. Animal sources of iron are well absorbed in the body, called heme iron. Plant based sources of iron, named non-heme iron are not as easily absorbed. Plant based foods, such as white beans, spinach, lentils, and chickpeas are all sources of iron. Eating these foods with a source of vitamin C, such as tomatoes, strawberries, or bell peppers will help the body absorb the iron better.
If you are taking any medications, or have any medical issues such as diabetes, heart disease, or kidney disease, it is important to speak with your health care provider before beginning the 21 day Daniel Fast.
If you are on the Daniel Fast and experiencing unpleasant symptoms, such as digestive issues, skin or hair problems, fatigue, or anything unusual, contact your healthcare team. If you want to try the Daniel Fast and aren't sure where to start, contact your local dietitian/nutritionist who can guide you and ensure all of your nutrient needs are met.
- MayoClinic; Water: How much should you drink every day?; April 7, 2010
- Lipids in Health and Disease: Both a traditional and modified Daniel Fast improve the cardio-metabolic profile in men and women
- Daniel Plan Website
- Nutrition Reviews: Water, Hydration, and Health
- Journal of Chiropractic Medicine: Health Benefits of Dietary Whole Grains: An Umbrella Review of Meta-analyses
- Journal of the International Society for Sports Nutrition: Vegan diets: practical advice for athletes and exercisers
- NIH: Vitamin B-12 Factsheet
- The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: 20 Ways to Enjoy More Fruits and Vegetables
- NIH: Omega-3 Factsheet
- NIH: Plants: Partners in Health