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What Is the Daniel Fast?

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Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD - Blogs
By Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RDRegistered dietitianJanuary 28, 2019

Anytime a celebrity name-drops a diet, there’s instant buzz. That’s what happened when Chris Pratt, an actor best known for his roles in the Jurassic Park and Lego Movie franchises, recently mentioned on Instagram that he’s trying the Daniel Fast.

The Daniel Fast is based on stories in the book of Daniel in the Bible. In two instances, the prophet Daniel restricted his diet for extended periods, abstaining from indulgent foods like meat, bread, and wine and allowing himself only water and simple plant foods (likely vegetables, lentils, and beans). According to the stories, these fasting periods left Daniel not only surprisingly healthy but also enriched with greater wisdom and knowledge about God.

Today, this short-term eating plan is still done by some Christians as way to show their commitment to God. The modern-day version allows for all fruits and vegetables, whole grains like brown rice and quinoa, nuts and seeds, legumes, oils like avocado and coconut, and soy foods such as tofu. They avoid all meat and animal foods, fish, dairy foods, all sweeteners and added sugar, breads made with yeast, solid fats like butter, all processed foods, alcohol, and caffeinated drinks like coffee and soda.

Keep in mind that the Daniel Fast is not meant to be a weight loss diet--it’s supposed to be a spiritual experience of prayer and self-sacrifice, similar in some ways to Lent. It’s not a traditional “fast” because there are no restrictions on the amount of food you can eat. But the allowed foods are so filling and low in calories that you could end up dropping some pounds. And as long as you’re eating enough food to sustain you (and keep your blood sugar stable if you have diabetes, for instance), it should also be safe. In fact, one study conducted at the University of Memphis found that men and women who did the Daniel Fast for 21 days had reductions in blood pressure, cholesterol, and insulin (but no significant changes in weight).

Though the Daniel Fast is only meant to last three weeks long, the basic tenets of the diet are ones you could absolutely incorporate in the long term: a focus on whole fruits and vegetables foods and fewer processed foods, more water and less soda, and making whole grains, nuts, and beans every day staples.

Correction: This post was updated to more accurately represent the Biblical inspiration for the fast.

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About the Author
Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD

Sally Kuzemchak is a registered dietitian in Columbus, Ohio. An award-winning reporter and writer, Sally has been published in magazines such as Health, Family Circle, and Eating Well and is a Contributing Editor to Parents magazine. She is the author of the book The 101 Healthiest Foods For Kids. She blogs at Real Mom Nutrition, a “no-judgments” zone all about feeding families.

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