Picture this: you just completed a fast (be it 12 hours, 24-hour, or even 3-days long). You are obviously really hungry and are craving the piece of cake in the fridge that has been torturing you since you began fasting. Your first thought would be, “I’ve done well fasting, the least I could do is reward myself with a piece of cake!”. In all honesty, this is the last thing you would want to do. Not only would eating this piece of cake cancel out the healthy benefits of fasting, but it would also cause some digestive issues such as bloating that, honestly, you could do without. So now that cake is definitely out of the question, which are the best foods to break a fast?
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Truth be told, it is very easy to go back to your detrimental eating habits after a long period of fasting (4). And the worst part of it all is the realization that the job is not yet done even after you have successfully completed the fast. The stress that comes thereafter when deciding the best foods to break a fast is all too much. There are many theories or ‘suggestions’ on what foods are best to break a fast, but the bottom line is this – whatever foods you choose, they should be easily digestible, and devoid of excessive carbs and sugars. But which are these foods exactly? Which are the best foods to break a fast?
Best Foods To Break A Fast: Top Foods That Will Make The Transition From Fasting Easy
Some of the best foods to consume while breaking a fast include:
Does bone broth break a fast? Yes, it does. In fact, bone broth is one of the number one foods you should consider when thinking of what to eat to break a fast. This is because bone broth contains a lot of electrolytes, which when consumed, will help to replace the ones lost during fasting. Furthermore, it is rich in Magnesium, Sodium, Calcium, and Potassium that are all too desirable for a healthy body. Furthermore, bone broths contain protein and are also easily digestible, making them the best choice when breaking a fast.
One point to note is that while breaking a fast, it would be helpful to go for bone broths that contain healthy protein and carbs as well, just make sure that the carbs are easily digestible, such as pasta, lentils, and tofu.
In the same vein, avoid those bone broths that contain heavy cream, high fiber, and raw vegetables, which can be a lot for your digestive system to handle right away.
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Apple Cider Vinegar Diluted In Water
Multitudes of people around the world cannot stop raving over the health benefits of apple cider vinegar, and rightfully so. One of the reasons why this type of vinegar is so loved by many is that it can be a great choice when breaking a fast. Just add one to two tablespoons of the vinegar in water and drink the mixture. The apple cider vinegar in the water will help stimulate the digestive tract (that was dormant during fasting).
Furthermore, some believe that it will also make you feel fuller once you begin eating again and that it will improve the digestion of your first meal.
Spinach Or Kale
These green leafy vegetables contain enormous amounts of nutrients and minerals, such as Vitamin C, B2, B6, E, A, K; Magnesium, Iron, Copper, Potassium, Calcium, Folate, and Manganese. The health benefits of these nutrients should never be underestimated. In the same way, these leafy vegetables also help in digestion and the prevention of constipation, which are two of the biggest worries among people who fast. Furthermore, kale and spinach also help to maintain blood sugar, which is affected by fasting. You may want to cook them if consuming these leafy greens in your first meal after a fast, to make them easier to digest.
Fish is a great source of protein, vitamin D, and healthy fats. For this reason, fish should definitely be on your list of the best foods to break a fast. If eating fish right away might be too much for you, try starting out with fish broth.
Eggs are some of the most readily available and the most convenient sources of protein out there. Furthermore, eggs also contain a lot of the aforementioned protein, making them the number one choice among many dieters.
The protein found in eggs is helpful when breaking a fast as it will help prevent the loss of muscle. So, if your goal is to lose fat and gain muscle, then you should definitely consider eating some eggs when breaking your fast.
Eggs are also rich in leucine, an amino acid lauded for its role in muscle growth. Apart from this, there are many other reasons why eggs should be your go-to. For one, they are easily digestible, low in calories, protein-rich, and the fact that they are so filling makes them reduce appetite.
Nuts are great as they are vitamin-rich and help to restore nutrient balance in the body after a fast.
Chia seeds contain phosphorus, copper, magnesium, iron, and Selenium, which makes them great to consume while breaking a fast. Furthermore, they are also rich in healthy fats, proteins, and fats that the body needs to replenish itself after not getting food for a period of time.
Broccoli Or Cauliflower
Cooked broccoli and cauliflower are good options for breaking a fast. These vegetables contain Vitamin C, B6, B2, K, B5, B9, A and Iron, Magnesium, and Manganese.
Ensure you cook them before consuming them to make them easier to digest.
As watermelons are made up of more than 90% water, they are great fruits to consume while breaking a fast as the water makes them easy to digest and helps hydrate you.
Despite their high sugar and carb content, these nutrient-packed fruits make for the best foods to eat while breaking a fast. They contain healthy carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals that will quickly replenish your body.
It is , however, important to note that the high-sugar and high-carb content in bananas make them a less suitable choice for breaking an extended fast, as they may lead to blood sugar spikes. If you do choose to break your fast with a banana, eat it with something rich in protein and healthy fat (such as nut butter) which will slow down digestion and absorption of the entire meal.
Fermented Foods Such As Unsweetened Yogurt
Fermented foods such as yogurt, kimchi, and sauerkraut contain good gut bacteria. This means that when they are consumed, they provide the gut with good bacteria and enzymes that aid in the entire digestive process.
The probiotics in yogurt also make it an easy-to-digest food as well.
If you would like to ease into eating again, then you should try consuming smoothies rather than whole fruits and vegetables, this is because smoothies contain less fiber, and would be more gentle on the digestive system.
Dried fruits such as dates, apricots, and raisins contain large amounts of nutrients, which is why they should be on your list (8). They do contain some natural sugar, so have them as part of a meal that also contains protein and healthy fat to slow down absorption.
Despite being looked down upon by some for being a fatty fruit, avocado might just be the best choice for someone who’s breaking a fast. The fruit is low in calories and rich in healthy fats, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, folate, potassium, and copper.
The bottom line is that while breaking a fast, you want to avoid foods that contain large amounts of sugar, complex carbs, fiber, and fat.
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Best Foods To Break A 16-Hour Fast
To break a 16 hour fast, consume any of the above mentioned foods in moderation. Your first meal should not be more than 500kcal or 50% of your normal intake.
Also, ensure that you consume whole foods and a mix of macronutrients to replenish your body. Another tip is that you should avoid carb-loaded meals and sugary beverages, as they will cause a spike in your blood sugar levels, and also make fasting for the next period even harder, as your hunger hormones will be raised.
Best Foods To Break A 24-Hour Fast
The same thing goes for a 24-hour fast. The same foods listed above would work well to help you break a 24-hour long fast.
Best Foods To Break A Fast Keto
The good thing is that most of the foods mentioned above are keto-allowed foods, so you can safely consume them while breaking a fast while still maintaining ketosis.
Best Foods To Break A 3-Day Fast
For extended periods of fasting, some of the tips you would like to remember are:
- Avoid excessive carbohydrates and sugar
- Consume easily-digestible foods in small portions
- Consuming nourishing soups and bone broths that contain cooked veggies and easy-to-digest proteins such as fish and poultry.
- Furthermore, for a longer fast, it may be wise to avoid the following foods:
- Dairy products
- Red meat
- Seeds and seed butter
- Nut and nut butter
- Raw cruciferous vegetables
Also, note that breaking an extended fast may cause you to experience the following:
- Gas pains
- Diarrhea or loose stools
- Passing out of undigested foods
To avoid or minimize these side effects of breaking an extended fast you may want to consider shortening the length of your fast (9).
How To Break A Fast?
As it has been mentioned before, while breaking a fast, you need to avoid high-carb, high-sugar foods. Furthermore, it is also advised that you go for easily digestible foods that won’t give your body a hard time.
You need to remember that normally (while we are not fasting), our bodies use up metabolic energy to produce digestive enzymes and juices to break down the food we consume. However, when we fast, these digestive enzymes and juices are no longer produced as they are not needed.
This means that while fasting, our bodies are devoid of digestive enzymes and juices. Therefore, we need to be careful when breaking a fast because it will take some time before the body produces these necessary chemicals that are needed to break down food, which means that the food you eat to break a fast can sit in your stomach for a while before it is actually processed (6).
To help the body in this process, therefore, it is recommended that one consumes easily-digestible food.
Other helpful tips when breaking a fast include:
- Ensure that you start off by drinking some water.
- The protein sources you should consume include the likes of poultry and fish, as they are more easily digestible than red meat.
- Go for small portions of foods that are easily digestible to avoid overwhelming the body.
How Many Calories Break A Fast?
It is recommended that the meal you take to break a fast be at most 500 Kcal or 50% of your regular calorie intake.
What Can I Drink While Fasting?
There are a number of drinks that you can consume while fasting in order to avoid breaking the fast. They include:
- Unsweetened tea and coffee
- Diluted apple cider vinegar – might break the fast.
Foods To Avoid While Breaking A Fast
Some of the foods that you may want to steer clear from while breaking a fast include:
- Raw cruciferous vegetables, as they contain a lot of fiber that may make digestion difficult. In fact, cruciferous vegetables are known to contain a trisaccharide called raffinose that is difficult to digest.
- Alcohol- it is best to avoid alcohol when coming out of a fast, especially one that is more than 3 days long. This is because overconsumption of alcohol could cause ketoacidosis, a situation where ketones are very high in the blood while the blood glucose level is dangerously low. Symptoms of ketoacidosis include abdominal pain and vomiting. While the condition is common in alcohol addicts and people who have an over-dependence on alcohol, it is also likely that people who do not eat enough/those who fast then consume a lot of alcohol with little to no food intake thereafter may suffer from ketoacidosis (1, 2, 3).
- Processed and high-glycemic carbohydrates.
- Foods containing lactose, as lactose can be difficult to digest.
What Is Refeeding Syndrome And How Can You Avoid It?
But what does refeeding syndrome have to do with fasting and breaking a fast? Well, it is one of the side effects of resuming food consumption after long periods of not eating or malnutrition.
When you begin eating again after long periods of not eating or malnourishment, cortisol, insulin, and noradrenaline are suddenly reactivated in the body. This then causes the movement of major intracellular ions such as calcium, potassium, and phosphorus, into the cells of the body.
Since the body cells have not been receiving these ions, this movement becomes excessive, leading to an insufficiency of these ions in the blood.
Refeeding syndrome is usually characterized by:
- Hypophosphatemia, which is having very low phosphorus levels in the blood.
- Low levels of potassium, calcium, and magnesium in the blood.
- The syndrome subsequently causes heart abnormalities, respiratory problems, cardiac failure, convulsions, and even comas.
- Refeeding syndrome may cause confusion, weakness, malaise, seizures, high blood pressure, difficulty or inability to breathe, heart failure, heart arrhythmias, comas, and even death. These symptoms usually appear two to four days after the start of the refeedings.
To avoid refeeding syndrome:
- Avoid consuming high-carb foods while breaking a fast
- Always consult a physician before actually going on a fast and follow their advice
- Stay hydrated while fasting
- Take supplements while fasting
You may think that fasting was the hard part of it all, but the stress that comes along when picking the best foods to break a fast is more than you may imagine.
While breaking a fast, your focus should be on easy-to-digest foods that won’t overwhelm your body. Remember that your body has spent some time not digesting anything, and so you want to ease it back into the whole digestive process.
Some of the best foods to consume while breaking a fast include diluted apple cider vinegar, bone broth, spinach, kale, eggs, fish, nuts, chia seeds, dried fruits, cooked broccoli, cooked cauliflower, watermelon, bananas, and fermented foods like unsweetened yogurt.
These foods are not only easy to digest, but they are also rich in nutrients and electrolytes, which is why consuming them while breaking a fast will help to replenish the nutrients and electrolytes lost during fasting.
In the same vein, there are some foods that you should avoid like the plague while breaking a fast. These include alcohol, dairy products (for those with lactose intolerance), raw cruciferous vegetables, and processed and high glycemic carbohydrates.
Also worth noting is that the meal you consume to break a fast should be at most 500kcal or 50% of your regular calorie intake.
The Bottom Line
There are many health benefits associated with fasting, one of them being the potential loss of weight. And even though the fasting part of it all is important, what is even more crucial is what you eat to break the fast, depending on the foods you consume right after fasting, you may either cancel out the beneficial effects of the fast or supplement it.
For this reason, it is ideal that everyone who goes on a fast does some thorough research on what the best foods to break a fast are. Even though there are various restrictions as to what you can or cannot eat while breaking a fast, one thing is for certain – the foods must be easily digestible, and high carb, high-sugar foods are definitely out of the discussion.
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This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Alcoholic ketoacidosis (2006, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Alcoholic Ketoacidosis (2020, emedicine.medscape.com)
- Alcoholic ketoacidosis: a case report and review of the literature (2016, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Fasting: Health benefits and risks (2015, medicalnewstoday.com)
- Refeeding syndrome: what it is, and how to prevent and treat it (2008, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The adaptation of digestive enzymes to the diet: its physiological significance (1980, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The refeeding syndrome. Importance of phosphorus (2018, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The unexpected truth about dates and hypoglycemia (2016, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- What to know about 48-hour fasting (2020, medicalnewstoday.com)