Just as you should rightly plan your fast from the beginning, you should also have a plan on how to end or break your fast, as if not done safely you just may find yourself feeling unwell and/or undoing some of the benefits that you have gained from your self-disciplined break from food.
If you have been fasting for a short or extended period it is always important to re-introduce your body to the right foods in the right manner, so it’s important to know what the best foods to break a fast are.
It doesn’t matter whether you are breaking a short or extended fast, you should always ease back into eating, so that you do not overwhelm your digestive system as this may cause some irritation, bloating or pain. A serious condition known as refeeding syndrome may also occur if foods are not introduced correctly.
Please view my medical disclaimer before reading on.
How Does One Ease Into Eating??
Easing back into eating is more important when you have been undertaking a fast of more than 24 hrs as this is a period where you digestive system begins to slow down and go into somewhat of a “hibernation” and will begin to stop producing digestive fluids.
Re-introducing foods too quickly when your stomach does not have the enzymes and acids itneeds to break down the food may cause some irritability and discomfort, as the digestive system needs to “wake up” again and is not ready for large amounts of food.
In fact, the longer that have fasted for, the longer you should take to slowly ease into eating again.
To work out how many days you need to take to return to regular eating, many experts suggest to half the amount of days that you have fasted and use that number of days to slowly introduce foods and build the enzymes back up in your gut.
For instance, if you were on a 4-day fast, then you should allow 2 days of gentle eating or 4 days for an 8-day fast and so forth..
Before we go into the best foods to eat, it’s important to understand what refeeding syndrome is and why it is important to introduce certain foods slowly to avoid this particular condition happening to you.
Refeeding syndrome can occur when large amounts of foods or nutrients are consumed rapidly after prolonged periods of malnourishment. This rapid refeeding can cause a major shift in fluids and electrolytes causing hormonal and metabolic changes which can result in some serious complications and can be fatal, if not recognized.
This condition is not usually associated with shorter fasts but should be taken into consideration for any extended fasts that last over 4 days, to be on the safe side. This is why a slow re-introduction of food is important.
Take It Slow..
Even without taking refeeding syndrome into consideration, it makes sense to re-introduce foods in a slow and controlled manner.
You have just endured hours or days of self-control to get to the point that you are at and you have done so for a reason. You do not want to undo all that hard work with some silly decisions that could reverse some of the benefits that you have accomplished from your fasting period.
If you have undertaken an extended fast you may find that your taste can be enhanced and you may even find that foods that you ate pre-fast are not as enjoyable, and may even make you feel sick.
This can be the case if you go straight back into eating junk food. Remember that you have given your digestive system a rest from these bad foods and allowed yourself to flush out toxins during the fasting period. You don’t want to go back and re-introduce these foods back into your diet and just slip back into old habits again.
Any weight loss that you have had during your fast, can come back just as quickly as it left you, if you do not do the right things. Take your time in re-introducing good, healthy food back into your diet and you will feel much better for it.
How To Re-Introduce Foods
Depending on the type of fast you have undertaken this may affect how you go about introducing your foods. For instance, if you have been on a water fast, then you may want to begin with introducing some fruit and vegetable juice, but if you have been on a juice fast, then this would not make sense.
As a general rule though, you should generally only have small amounts of whatever food that you decide to break your fast with, no more than 500 calories. You should take your time chewing to allow for the enzymes in your saliva to be produced in order to aid digestion.
The key is to begin with low-glycemic, easy to digest foods that won’t upset your stomach or cause your blood sugar to spike.
Foods To Break A Fast
When breaking a fast, try to introduce organic foods to avoid introducing and unwanted chemicals into your system or at very least make sure that it is cleaned thoroughly.
- Homemade fruit and veg juice – This can be a good way to introduce enzymes and micronutrients gently, particularly after an extended water fast
- Raw fruits – Choose low GI fruits that have plenty of fiber such as apples, bananas, oranges, pears, plums, cherries, grapes and mango
- Vegetable or bone broth – This is another gentle way to begin introducing plenty of nutrients into your system
- Cooked vegetables and vegetable soup – Cooked vegetables are softer and easier to digest than raw vegetables
- Fermented food and drink – Fermented foods have plenty of probiotics and enzymes to help build your gut microbiome back up. These foods can include kefir, kombucha, pickles juice, sauerkraut, kimchii
- Nuts – Almonds, walnuts, pecans are great to re-introduce Omega-3 fatty acids
- Eggs – Eggs contain animo acid called Leucine, as well as protein and many other vitamins and minerals
You should generally avoid eating meat as a first meal and if you have undertaken an extended fast of a week or so, you may not want to eat meat or other foods that are hard to digest for 2-3 days to allow adequate time for your digestive system to build up again.
There Is No Rush
Although the prospect of eating after a prolonged period becomes may be very exciting for some, it’s very important that you do not go out and just gorge yourself with whatever you feel. You can end up quite sick.
There have been fasts that I have undertaken where after 10 days, I have not wanted to break my fast because I am feeling great and there have been times when I can’t wait to end it, so that I can enjoy eating again, but at the end of the day, you must take it slow and introduce the right foods in small amounts.
You should always plan your fast right from the start and this planning should include what foods you intend to break your fast with and the type of diet that you will move to when your fast is over.
Use your fasting period as a time to reflect on your eating habits in the past and how you intend to break those habits and start fresh. Remain in control and you will continue to see good results and improved health long term.