Earlier this year, Chris Pratt told his Instagram followers that he was doing the Daniel Fast program, which he described as “21 days of prayer and fasting.” We have to admit that the Lego Movie star is looking pretty good these days, so we tapped registered dietician Margarete Carneiro to get the skinny on this ancient regimen—including whether or not it’s good for you.
So, what is it? The Daniel Fast diet is an eating plan inspired by a biblical figure named Daniel from the Old Testament. In the story, Daniel forgoes rich foods (“I ate no pleasant food, no meat or wine came into my mouth”) and has “nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink.” Today, followers of the diet eliminate animal products, caffeine and alcohol and focus on plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. It’s basically a vegan diet—with more restrictions. Most people follow the diet for either 10 or 21 days (depending on which Bible verse they choose to follow), while some stick to the plan long-term.
But is it healthy? According to Carneiro, studies have shown that the Daniel Fast diet (and plant-based diets in general) could decrease body weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and C-reactive protein (a marker of inflammation in the body) as well as improve insulin function. She also likes that the diet doesn’t have any calorie restrictions. So far, so good.
Are there any downsides to the diet? It’s worth noting that research on the Daniel Fast is limited. Carneiro also cautions that those with chronic diseases (such as diabetes or hypertension) should consult a physician before starting a new eating regimen. And for those who want to follow the plan long term, she recommends a vitamin B-12 supplement (a vital nutrient found primarily in animal products). Something else to keep in mind? Any diet that’s too restrictive is going to be hard to follow in the long term—if you do lose weight on the Daniel Fast diet, it might be hard to keep it off once you’re back to eating normally.
So, should I try it? “The Daniel Fast is easy to follow and satisfying, as it does not restrict calories,” Carneiro tells us. “It’s also loaded with healthy substances found in fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds (such as dietary fiber, antioxidants, phytochemicals, and essential fatty acids).” But we’re wary of any plan that eliminates entire food groups. Our verdict? For best results, stick to something with proven long-term benefits, like the Mediterranean diet or Nordic diet, instead. (Sorry, Chris, wine and pasta are just too good to give up.)