Healthy ways to break the Yom Kippur fast

November 3, 2015

On Yom Kippur, one of the holiest holidays in the Jewish faith, Jews choose to abstain from eating or drinking for a full 24 hours. At the end of Yom Kippur, it's traditional to have a large, celebratory meal, known as Breaking the Fast. While it may be tempting to pile on the food after a day of hunger, that's not a very healthy decision. Here's how to eat in a healthy way after a Yom Kippur fast, and why it's better than having a big meal immediately.

Healthy ways to break the Yom Kippur fast

1. What happens when you fast?

  • The human body has several methods for surviving when it isn't receiving any food.
  • After the first six hours of fasting, the body starts to pull glucose (energy-storing sugars) from fat, liver, and muscle tissue.
  • Only 24 hours without food isn't enough to do harm, but it's more than enough to lower good blood sugar levels.

2. Dehydration and sugar loss

  • Since Yom Kippur fasting prohibits any food or drink, the most immediate need after fasting is to hydrate.
  • All fasts should break with a glass of water before any other food.
  • As for proper fast-breaking foods, it's important to remember that the body needs to replenish its blood glucose levels.
  • Natural sugars in moderate amounts are the best bet.

3. Start with fruit

  • Soft fruits like bananas, grapes, and watermelon are ideal fast-breaking foods.
  • They have more water, plus they're packed with natural sugar and nutrients that are easy to digest in comparison to heavier foods like meat and bread.
  • A cup of soft fruit brings the body back to normal ahead of a full meal.

4. Steamed vegetables

  • With the sugars and nutrients of fresh fruit forming a good foundation after the fast, some lightly steamed vegetables will make for a good meal that has a bit more substance to it.
  • It can be tempting to go for fatty, savoury items like meat and cheese, but the stomach is probably still too delicate at this early stage.
  • Steamed and salted carrots, greens, and yellow squash are safer and more likely to make the body feel good rather than heavy or bloated.
  • The Yom Kippur fast is all about spiritual fulfilment and mindfulness.
  • Breaking the fast in smart, healthy ways maintains that tradition and teaches a valuable lesson about how to feed the body while also feeding the soul.
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