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Various diet trends keep coming up every other day and gain popularity because of its efficacy or celebrity status! The diet that we are talking about today has that celebrity status, plus, some really great benefits. However, unlike the other diets, its not a new one, but dates way back to the time of The Old Testament!

If you are a Chris Pratt follower, you already know about this one, since he popularised it in his Instagram story last year. That’s right, its the Daniel Fast diet!

Fasting is an age-old custom that is followed across all religions. Many people from various countries and religious backgrounds observe some or the other variant of ‘fasting’. Christian religious scriptures also has many references to this, which had disappeared over the past decades, but are making a comeback now.

What is this Daniel fast diet?

The Daniel fast diet plan is a short term diet plan which has its roots in the Book of Daniel, which appears in the Old Testament. Here, Daniel decides to focus on vegetables and other wholesome foods and abstains from meat and other animal products, as well as wine.

Two references prominently have a mention about this-

• Daniel 1:12, which states, “Please test your servants for ten days, and let them give us vegetables [pulses] to eat and water to drink.”

• Daniel 10: 2-3, which says, “In those days I, Daniel, was mourning three full weeks. I ate no pleasant food, no meat or wine came into my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled.”

After this, Daniel was surprisingly healthy and mentions that he felt a renewed sense of vigour.

This diet has been around since time immemorial, but it has been researched and written about since only recently-2007 to be specific.

Various books and blogs have been written about it, where authors advice a 21 day diet based on fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes and complete abstinence from meat, dairy, caffeine, alcohol and processed foods.

Daniel also mentions that he did not ‘anoint’ himself, which means that there was no use of lotions or any external products for his skin.

Although the modern plans do not have any specific guidelines in this regard, they generally highlight the importance of sacrificing all the material ‘wants’ in order to attain a higher spiritual level.

Which Foods are allowed?

If you are already a vegan, you may feel that this diet is no different from your regular one. But there is one very important criteria which distinguishes this from your regular diet- emphasis on whole, natural foods, which are least processed and do not contain any added preservatives.

By and large, the things that you can incorporate in your meal are-
  • Beverages-you can drink distilled, filtered or spring water, fresh fruit or vegetable juices. These have to be in moderation, just to flush out the toxins.
  • Fruits-should be fresh or cooked. Dried and canned ones can be used only if they don’t contain sugar, oil, colour and other preservatives. Fruits should ideally be low on glycemic index (less than 50 GI score), which means that they should not cause a significant rise in your blood sugars after consuming them.
  • Vegetables-fresh, frozen, cooked and even canned ones can be included, with the condition that they should not have added salt.
  • Whole grains-these are the ones which are the least processed. You can include wheat, brown rice, quinoa, millets, amaranth, oats and barley. Try to avoid breads, as they contain yeast. But if you find flat breads or the ones made without yeast, those can be a great option to get your carbs.
  • Legumes-these include all varieties of pulses. Dried or canned ones can be used, but again, the canned ones should not contain salt or other preservatives. Soybean and its products are also a great option, as long as they don’t contain any additives.
  • Nuts and seeds-you can incorporate raw, sprouted or roasted nuts. They should not contain added salt.
  • Oil-plant based oils can be used, but in very limited quantities.
  • Herbs and spices-flavourings are extremely important while following any diet to keep yourself from getting bored. Using fresh herbs and spices is a fantastic way to flavour your meals. Rock salt, sea salt or Himalayan salt can be used, but sparingly.
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What is not allowed?

Anything that doesn’t fit in the above mentioned criteria is completely banned in the Daniel Fast diet. To make things easier, here is a list of foods that are not allowed-
  • Meat and eggs-Daniel himself has mentioned abstinence from meat in his book. Animal products of any kind are not allowed during this 21-day period.
  • Dairy-It is again an animal product and hence, is in the ‘restricted’ section! Non-dairy substitutes like soy milk, coconut milk, almond milk can be used instead.
  • Processed food-Any food that is processed or contains any additives is a complete no-no. These include many fried, frozen and even some vegan-friendly products.
  • Sweeteners-Its not only about restricting ‘sugar’, but also about avoiding other natural sweeteners such as honey, jaggery, maple syrup, etc. Obviously, artificial sweeteners cannot even be considered due to high amounts of chemicals present in them.
  • Solid fats-Butter, ghee, margarine and other animal fats are off the ingredients list during this diet. Nut butters can be an exception to this, only if ‘nuts’ are the only ingredient.
  • Other beverages-Beverages apart from plain water or juices-mainly caffeinated and ‘empty calorie’ ones have to be given up for 3 weeks. This includes, coffee, tea, wine, soda and other soft and hard drinks. If plain water seems too boring, you can infuse it with fruits, vegetables or spices.

Is it healthy?

A small study conducted by Richard Bloomer of The University of Memphis the 21 day diet modification as per the Daniel Fast diet can help to improve several risk factors associated with metabolic and cardiovascular diseases[1].

Various other human trials have shown that consuming natural foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts, which do not contain preservatives or saturated fats, but are rich in fiber and micronutrients may provide various health benefits[2].

Daniel Fast diet is even better than a normal vegan one, since it eliminates processed, preserved and artificial foods.

What are the benefits of the Daniel Fast diet?

The benefits of consuming natural, unprocessed food like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, etc. are due to the presence of fiber, water, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants in these foods.

Let’s categorise the health benefits of this diet as physical, spiritual and emotional.

Physical

Daniel Fast diet has various physical benefits in the body, since it gives a break to many systems in the body- the most important one being the digestive system. This gives the body extra time and energy to restore and detoxify itself.

The nutrients released from the food that is broken down in the intestines, travel to the liver, which is the major organ of the body’s detoxification system. When the body receives clean food, the liver and the immune system is free to work on restoring and healing other parts of the body.

Spiritual

Spiritual growth is the ultimate reason for fasting. It allows the soul to cleanse and detoxify itself. Fasting can help you strengthen your belief in God. It brings you closer to Him. A clean spirit becomes more sensitive to His voice. We learn to acknowledge His need for our survival, more than our pleasures.

Fasting gives you a new sense of satisfaction and the realisation that absence of material pleasures is nothing compared to what you have gained.

Emotional and Mental

Fasting may help to relieve anxiety and stress. It can clear your mind of negative thoughts. Fasting has been associated with improved memory and cognitive function. Fasting may improve your mood and alertness.

Should you try it?

Dr. Wayne Jonas, a family physician and executive director of Samueli Integrative Health Programs at the University of California, Irvine, says that if you are fairly healthy, without any chronic conditions, you can complete the Daniel fast without any issues.

However, if you have conditions that require dietary monitoring-such as diabetes, cardiovascular, kidney and other diseases, you should consult your health practitioner before following any other diet.

Also, if you are pregnant or lactating, you should talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian so that there is no nutrient deficiency.

Recipes

A diet which is different from your routine and which has strict guidelines may often seem daunting. But with some proper planning and the right menu, it becomes easier to follow.
Here are 3 recipes to get you started-

Daniel Fast Banana Bread

Ingredients
2 ½ cups almond flour

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 large overripe bananas, mashed

1/3 cup coconut oil, melted

2 flaxseed “eggs” (see instructions below)

1/4 cup chopped pecans

Instructions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use about 1/2 teaspoon coconut oil to grease a 9” x 5” x 2 ½” loaf pan.

Make flaxseed “eggs” by putting 2 tablespoons of flaxseed meal and ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons of water in a small bowl. Stir, and let sit for about 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, mix dry ingredients (except pecans). Add mashed banana, coconut oil, and flaxseed “eggs.” Stir well. Pour in pecans and stir again until thoroughly combined.

Pour mixture into prepared loaf pan. Bake for 40 minutes or until toothpick in center comes clean.

Let bread cool in pan 10 minutes. Remove bread from pan and let cool completely on a wire rack. Store tightly wrapped in aluminium foil or plastic for up to 3 days, or freeze up to 3 months.

Cabbage Rolls

Ingredients
10-12 large cabbage leaves regular or Napa

5 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/2 pound mushrooms sliced

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup cooked brown rice

2 cups white beans

1 cup shredded carrot

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

1 teaspoon crushed oregano/Italian herbs

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

8 ounces tomato sauce

Instructions
Preheat oven to 350°.

Bring a large pot of water to boil; cook cabbage leaves, a few at a time for about 2 minutes or until softened. Drain and cool.

Heat oil over medium heat in a large skillet; sauté mushrooms and onion until tender.

Add rice, beans, carrot, parsley, salt and pepper; stir gently until well blended.

Prepare a shallow 2-quart baking dish by brushing with vegetable oil.

Spoon mixture onto individual cabbage leaves; roll up and place seam-side down on baking dish.

Cover with foil and bake at 350° for 30 minutes.

Heat tomato sauce and Italian herbs in a small saucepan, stirring often to prevent sticking.

Serve cabbage rolls with heated sauce.

Stir-Fry Vegetables with tofu

Ingredients
1 cup tofu

1 red onion, sliced

3 stalks celery, thinly sliced

½ cup broccoli, chopped

1 bell pepper, sliced

3 carrots, peeled and sliced

½ cup cauliflower, chopped

1 cup zucchini, thinly sliced

1 cup yellow squash, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoon Asian seasoning (or a mix of garlic powder, onion powder, ginger powder and black pepper)

Instructions
Stir-fry all vegetables in 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil until tender.

Add tofu and cook for 1-2 minutes.

Add salt and seasoning.

Serve alone or over brown rice.


References
1. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20815907
2. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2941756/