The Daniel Fast has become more popular over the last few years. More and more people have leapt into this partial fast and experienced its plethora of benefits. However, many wonder if they can fast at all, especially if living with a chronic Illness. Below is the experience, lessons, and advice from the Daniel Fast: a Type 1 Diabetic’s Experience.
Welcome with me my friend and team member Tracy, a type 1 diabetic for 13 years, who recently completed the Daniel Fast for the first time.
Is The Daniel Fast Safe For Diabetics
This is a question I asked myself in some form or another over the years. I’ve done a variety of fasts – from a single day liquid only fast to a 40-day fast of one item or a category of items.
However, I never felt brave enough to tackle the Daniel Fast.
One concern I had was the lack of protein and higher level of carbs that many on this fast ingest. As a diabetic, it has been ingrained in me for a long time to eat a protein every time I eat. This is a bit more challenging on a fast such as this one.
Then there’s the complete cutting out of any processed sugar. As a type 1, insulin-dependent diabetic, sugar lows are always a risk. When they do, whatever is quick and handy is what’s used to rebalance blood glucose. That often means candy or juice.
The last concern was could I do it? Could I really give up all meat and dairy and processed food items for 21 days? This seemed insurmountable. Especially since I knew I’d be the only one in my family of 6 willing to tackle the challenge.
I’d have the additional element of cooking “normally” for my family.
However, having studied the Daniel Fast more over the last year, having a desire for spiritual preparation for a series of special gatherings at my church and a prayer retreat, and desiring a break in my eating routine, I determined in my mind to do it.
But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which
he drank; so he sought permission from the commander
of the officials that he might not defile himself. Daniel 1:8
But was it safe for people with diabetes?
It would be if I did 4 things.
Getting Ready For The Daniel Fast As A Diabetic
1 – Pray: Although I wanted prayer to be an integral part of my fast, praying leading up to the fast was important. I didn’t want to enter it without wisdom and discernment, which come from the Lord.
2 – Plan: I researched foods allowable on the Daniel Fast, made a list of meal ideas, and a grocery list. I also read up on the Daniel Fast, refreshing what I knew and learning more.
3 – Prepare: I shared with a friend so I’d have accountability and made the first grocery trip (which would be one of several, as the Daniel Fast focuses on fresh food). The day before (and on subsequent days here and there), I prepared food that met the Daniel Fast OK list that would be quickly and easily ready.
4 – Proceed with Caution: As a type 1 diabetic, I knew making drastic changes to my eating habits would affect my blood glucose levels. I had to be mindful of what and when I ate and how often I checked my blood glucose levels.
The Daniel Fast Experience
There are several whole grains on the allowable list for this fast (Amaranth, barley, brown rice, buckwheat, bulgur, millet, oats, quinoa, rye, sorghum, spelt, whole wheat, and wild rice), but knowing I didn’t want to go heavy on carbs, I limited my grains.
This doesn’t mean every diabetic has to follow so strictly. As a matter of fact, having gone through the experience once, I will probably add in more grains next time I do the fast.
The grains I did include were:
- Old fashioned oats (I didn’t have steel cut, but they are even more wholesome)
That’s it. I didn’t have any bread because my body doesn’t typically get along well with wheat and quite frankly, most of the other grains I’ve never tried. (In all honesty, this is the first time I’ve cooked quinoa – which is now on my regular grocery list.)
So, why not more grains? Especially wonderfully delicious homemade bread and other healthy carbohydrates?
While the Daniel Fast is relatively restrictive, I wanted this fast to make a substantial impact – both physically and spiritually. To do that, I wanted to feel the sacrifice in depth. To me, bread and other recipes filled with grains would feel like cheating. Well, not cheating exactly, but I felt I’d enjoy them too much to feel the full impact of sacrifice of the fast.
What did I eat, then?
Lots of them.
Nuts And Seeds
Nuts are easiest to stock up on, because they’ll keep the whole 3 weeks of the fast (and much longer). My favorite nuts are:
- Chia Seeds
- Sunflower Seeds
I purchased raw when available.
I ate A LOT of nuts! This was the main source of protein, which is essential during a fast where meat and dairy are eliminated. (Think I missed cheese the most!)
The added bonus of nuts is they are a handy snack in those moments I just needed something to tide me over. For added benefit, I didn’t have to calculate anything or take insulin when I grabbed a handful of nuts to get through to the next meal.
Stocking up on fresh fruits is also very helpful. Some will stay good for the whole 3 weeks, but I also made subsequent trips to the grocery store for more.
Now, there’s something interesting that happened in association with eating fruits on the Daniel Fast, but I’ll talk about that in the what I learned section.
I didn’t limit the fruit or even the amount of fruit. I thoroughly enjoyed:
Now, your fruit list may be much longer. I hope this is the case! However, there are many fruits that either I don’t enjoy or weren’t in season doing the Daniel Fast in early spring. It’ll be interesting to see what’s different when I tackle this fast in the fall.
Then there are vegetables. Again, I’m a pretty picky eater (my bitter taste buds are the strongest and I have major texture issues), so my veggie list wasn’t near as long as what’s available to eat.
Pretty much, if it grows from or in the ground, it’s good to enjoy. I did, however, avoid white potatoes, knowing there were many other nutritionally dense options.
The last foods on my list were:
- EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
- Coconut Oil
- Peanut Butter (organic, with nothing but peanuts & salt)
- Chia seeds
- Flaxseed meal
- Herbal teas (another great option to help you get to the next meal)
- Orange Juice (not from concentrate, with nothing added)
- Herbs & Spices
Not sure how familiar you are with the Daniel Fast or if you noticed what was missing, but I didn’t really eat beans and legumes. These aren’t foods much on my regular grocery list or ones that I enjoy, so it’s no surprise I didn’t rush out and stock up on them.
However, they are a great addition to the Daniel Fast! I highly encourage you to make sure they’re on your grocery list.
What else I avoided was anything processed – even my usual supplement powders. Next time, I may add them in, after I check to make sure there’s not added sugar (I typically get sugar free).
So, how did I make out with this limited, fairly restricted diet for 3 weeks?
What I Learned on the Daniel Fast as a Type 1 Diabetic
The first thing I learned is that I could do it. I made it the whole 21 days!
This, for me, was a great victory. Especially since I didn’t cave in to processed foods or sweets during sugar lows.
I’m now confident I can do the Daniel Fast again, with even greater success and physical and spiritual impact.
Hopefully, that encourages you, too!
Second, I learned that the body reacts VERY differently to eating whole foods 24/7.
The first three days, there wasn’t a dramatic difference in my blood glucose levels. On day 4, I felt awful: no energy, mentally foggy, run down, and in general not good. (This is typical of any fast or dramatic diet change. The body is saying “goodbye” to all the junk!)
Then day 5 arrived. Now, I never had a lot of energy during the fast. Not a single day. Not sure why this was, but I’ll be honest by throwing it out there.
Nonetheless, I did feel much better for the rest of the fast. And my blood glucose levels dropped dramatically. For several days, I experienced several lows a day.
It took me that long to figure out to recalculate and calibrate my insulin intake.
Finding Insulin Balance On The Daniel Fast
What I found gave me great balance was:
- Dropping my basal (the regular insulin drip of a pump) by 25%. In actuality, I probably could have dropped it up to 50%. My doctor likes to keep my basal and bolus (the insulin given when eating or correcting) equal throughout the day. Since I dropped my basal just a little, there were times I took no insulin for a meal and never went high.
- Dropping my bolus by 50-75%, depending on what I ate. It seemed that without having more complex and processed carbs (which often come with added fat) or protein from meat, my body took the fiber content of what I ate into greater account. Where typically I would take 5 units of insulin for an apple and peanut butter, there were several times I took none.
Now, your experience may be very different. You may find you have greater or lesser need to drop back your insulin levels while on the Daniel Fast. I’m certainly not making any medical recommendations.
This is just my experience! That I hope will help encourage you and arm you with the ingredients for success.
I didn’t do any hardcore exercise or physical activity during this 3 weeks, because I wanted to get a grasp on what my blood glucose levels would do just based on how and what I ate. Exercise, as always, requires an even larger drawback on insulin amounts.
Weight Loss On The Daniel Fast
Did I lose weight? This question might be burning through your mind.
I did, however it was very minimal because it took me a little over a week (almost halfway through) to get my blood sugar balanced. Whenever we experience low blood sugar, the body sends strong signals to store, store, store!
If we’re able to keep our blood sugar level within range, avoiding lows, the resulting weight loss will be even greater.
So, make sure you have weight to lose!
(You might think eating so many nuts – high in fat – would prevent weight loss, but this isn’t the case because we normally eat much more fat in our meat protein sources and in processed foods.)
Weight loss shouldn’t be the main goal of the fast, but it’s an added benefit that can help achieve the next level of better health for a great many people.
Modified Daniel Fast For Diabetics
If you’re reading this and have type 2 diabetes, I hope this information is helpful. Especially if you’re not insulin-dependent, the results may vary.
You may find the need to dramatically cut back on diabetic medications. Remember to always talk with your doctor about any drastic changes in diet or a fast like this.
If you have type 1 diabetes, I hope this is encouraging. Even with the limitations and challenges of this chronic disease, fasting is possible. And greatly beneficial.
I didn’t eat a lot of grains, but given the results of consistent lower blood glucose levels, I can’t see any reason not to add these Daniel Fast friendly foods to the menu.
Have you gone through the Daniel Fast as a diabetic? We’d love to hear your experience, about the lessons you learned, and the blessings it brought.
God blesses our sacrifice and obedience. And He makes a way for us to obey and serve Him, even when we live under limitations and challenges of this fallen, broken world.
Arm yourself with:
- Proceeding in wisdom
Experience the abundant blessings of the Lord!
But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself
with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank.
Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow
him not to defile himself. And God gave Daniel favor
and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs… Daniel 1:8-9