The 5 Best Foods to Break a Fast (plus 4 fasting hacks)
What to eat and when to eat it? Sounds simple, but this can prove to be a very difficult question to answer. If you have ever found yourself going through the mental gymnastics of trying to figure out what to eat, you know just how confusing and frustrating it can be. Not to mention the added stress of choosing the best foods to break a fast.
What is Fasting?
Fasting is the voluntarily forgoing of food and drinks containing calories for a specified period. Customarily, a fast may last for hours or maybe even days. Fasting has been linked to an abundance of health benefits, including increased metabolic rate, decreased blood pressure, reduced inflammation, and increased appetite control. This is because when fasting, digestion is put on hold and your body can focus on healing and other functions.
One of the most popular variants of fasting is known as intermittent fasting or IF. This type of fast typically lasts only several hours, focusing more on the time between meals and patterns, which can be adjusted depending on the person. There are multiple types of IF with one of the most popular being 16:8 intermittent fasting.
What is the 16:8 Pattern of Fasting?
Simply, it means that during a 24-hour period (i.e., a day), you spend 16 hours fasting. The other eight hours is an intake window when you eat as you normally would. This form of fasting has become a popular lifestyle choice because it is a relatively safe option for most people that requires minimal effort and is flexible enough to be adjusted to fit your individual lifestyle.
Since fasting is only temporary, knowing how to incorporate foods to break your fast is essential to compliment all the health benefits gained. Now, it goes without question that some foods are better than others when to comes to breaking your fast.
5 Best Foods to Break a Fast
As a rule of thumb, it is best to gently break a fast by not overwhelming the digestive system. This is because breaking your fast with foods that are especially high in fat, sugar, or even fiber can be difficult for your body to digest, leading to bloating and discomfort. Instead, you want to concentrate on refueling your body with nutrient-dense foods that are easily digestible.
Here are some of the best foods to break a fast:
Raw or cooked vegetables are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals to fuel the body. If choosing raw, consider options such as squash or leafy greens, such as spinach, which are easy to digest. And avoid cruciferous veggies with lots of fiber, which can be more difficult to digest. You can also break your fast by eating a vegetable-based soup, which allows for greater variety and more nutrients.
Smoothies can be a delicious yet gentle way to introduce nutrients to your body. Smoothies are a simple and efficient way to pack a bunch of nutrients into one dish.
3. Fermented Foods
Fermented foods are great for your gut bacteria. Eating fermented foods will help kickstart your digestive tract by repopulating good bacteria and enzymes. Yogurt is one great example of a fermented food to break a fast since it’s loaded with gut-friendly probiotics and is incredibly versatile.
4. Healthy Fats
Foods rich in healthy fats are nutrient dense and provide satiation while helping to avoid major insulin spikes. Both eggs and avocados contain healthy monounsaturated fat, which also contain benefits such as helping decrease the risk for heart disease by reducing blood pressure and triglycerides as well as reducing inflammation.
Having a small portion of protein at your first meal after a fast can be a good option because it provides essential amino acids to help rebuild and repair the body. Try consuming proteins that are easily tolerated in the digestive system such as fish or, better yet, a protein shake.
Beyond choosing what to eat, another important consideration when breaking your fast is how much you eat, specifically trying not to overeat. Overeating can be easy to do after a fasting period, especially when feeling hungry.
4 Tips to Control Your Hunger
Although fasting does not focus on the amount of food you eat, overeating during non-fasting periods can cancel out the health benefits of fasting. Luckily, there are several things you can do to control your hunger while in the fasted state.
1. Stay Hydrated
Feeling thirsty is often confused with hunger, so keep yourself hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
2. Drink Coffee or Tea
Brewed coffee and tea are both fast-friendly beverages as long as there is no added sugar, sweeteners, or dairy products.
3. Get Plenty of Rest
Poor sleep, stress, and alcohol all have profound effects on appetite as they disrupt hormone and blood sugar control.
4. Adequate Protein
During your eating window, it is important to consume adequate amounts of protein to keep your body full and satisfied.
When you’re ready to break a fast, focus on easily tolerated foods that provide you with the nutrients it needs to replenish your body. Breaking a fast with the wrong foods can undermine the health benefits of the fast, so it is important to listen to what your body needs. Once your body is able to tolerate gentler foods, feel free to add in other healthy foods when breaking your fast.