Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) is upon us, and what does that mean for most of us? Fast time. That’s right, no food and no water (for some) for 24 hours. As most will focus on what to and how much to eat before the fast, it's important to think about how big should the last meal be? Should we load up on carbs or protein? Should we avoid salt? However, no one really focuses on what should be eaten after Neilah (the final prayer) when the fast comes to an end. Most of us are too blinded with hunger, and so reach for the first edible thing we see, whether it be a chocolate bar, a piece of cake or a giant bagel smeared with cream cheese and topped off with lox.
While most foods served at break-the-fast meals are delicious and will certainly help to put a stop to those intense hunger pains, is there a way to break the fast in a healthier way? The answer is: Yes!
For starters, experts recommend that people break a fast (however long it be) slowly with foods that are easily digestible to help avoid gastrointestinal problems. Quickly consuming foods that are hard to digest and heavy in the stomach, such as bread, fried foods, full fat dairy products and of course meat, can make one feel ill.
So what foods (and drinks) should we reach for after the stars come out and the Yom Kippur fast is over?
What will be the first thing you reach for after the fast officially ends? A plate of hunger satisfying food or a nice big glass of water? While most of us would like to say water, the truth of the matter is that most people will fill up their plates before pouring themselves anything to drink. Though it may seem obvious to drink plenty of water after a fast, unfortunately most of us will not rehydrate properly.
While fasting on Yom Kippur, most people will feel tired, have difficulty concentrating and may even get a headache or start to feel dizzy (especially towards the end). While this is partly due to the fact that they haven’t eaten anything for a number of hours, and blood sugar levels are beginning to fall, it is probably mostly due to the fact that they are dehydrated!
While a 10 percent drop in our body’s water supply will land us in the hospital, a mere 2% drop can trigger signs of dehydration, including trouble concentrating, headaches, fatigue and difficulty focusing on smaller print, such as a book or a computer screen. In fact, mild dehydration is one of the most common causes of daytime fatigue as blood carries oxygen to the brain, and when blood volume is low (due to dehydration) the brain receives less oxygen than it needs, resulting in fatigue and difficulty concentrating. So before gobbling up plenty of food (to get rid of those hunger pains), make sure to drink a glass (or even) two of water.
While fresh fruits are normally reserved for the dessert portion of a meal, when it comes to breaking the fast, watermelon and other easily digestible fruit with a high water content such as grapes and honeydew, should be the first thing you grab. While these foods may not seem the most “filling”, they are the perfect way to break a 25-hour fast, as they don't require a significant amount of energy to digest. They will therefore quickly provide the body with energy and essential nutrients, so that we can get back to feeling “semi-normal”. Opt for fruits that have a high water content, such as watermelon, to help rehydrate your body as quickly as possible and avoid citrus fruits, such as grapefruits, as their high acidic content may upset your stomach.
After indulging in a few slices of fresh fruit, it can be a good idea to have some fresh (not store bought) vegetable soup. As most of us know from when we have been sick with the stomach flu, (non cream) soups are easy on the stomach, and easy to digest. The vegetables inside will also load your body up with Vitamins A through E as well as many essential minerals.
Now as healthy as it would be to just consume fresh fruits and vegetables for the post-fast meal, most of us will need something more feeling – i.e carbs! Once you have gotten your system moving again with fruits and vegetables, you can start to include complex carbohydrates. While bagels are generally the stars of most North American break the fast meals, they are not necessarily the most nutritious. Instead, reach for some sweet potatoes. With a GI score of only 54, a serving of sweet potatoes will provide just the right amount of energy without sending your blood sugar levels on a rollercoaster ride. They are also loaded with beta-carotene, Vitamin C and potassium. If you are the one preparing the food, mash them up with some cinnamon to create a tasty creamy dish that is easy on the stomach and contains no fat.
While it is probably rare to find a dish of scrambled eggs at a break the fast meal; hard boil eggs and even quiches will generally find their way onto the table. Apart from being easy to digest (and easy to prepare), eggs are one of the easiest ways to restock your body with protein as one eggs supplies six grams of high-quality protein and all 9 essential amino acid.
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