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Fasting: It's Not Just for Yom Kippur

Both secular Jews and non-Jews alike might be surprised to learn that Yom Kippur isn’t the only Jewish holiday that calls for fasting.

There are six other major traditional tzomot (Jewish fasting days), and more if you include fasts for the tzaddikim (righteous ones).

Almost every, if not all, religions, have at least one fasting day. Beyond the scope of spiritual observance, though, is fasting healthy for you?

Yom Kippur provides an opportunity for us to start anew. Not only spiritually, by reflecting upon how we can be more kind, compassionate and involved with our community, but also from a health perspective: Yom Kippur can provide a metabolic reboot of your system.

Bagels, blintzes, kugel and more break-fast comfort food

Most people eat traditional Ashkenazi comfort food to break the Yom Kippur fast and oftentimes for other fast days as well.

While some of us who observe Yom Kippur and other Jewish fast days may feel like we are performing a mitzvah, most people when breaking the fast do so by bingeing on either sugary foods or juices and simple carbohydrates that quickly convert into sugars.

Perhaps it’s worth having a philosophical discussion concerning fast days with the following question: Would Ha-Shem really want us to refuel our bodies with substances that are poisonous to the body?

Sure, most of us are too weak from a 25-hour fast to want to imbibe in alcohol, and certainly not toxic drugs, but many processed foods--anything that contains wheat flour, added sugars, high-fructose corn syrup--are toxic to the body.

In essence, most of us, instead of supplying the body with clean-burning fuel post-fast, are ingesting too much poison (read: sugar) for their first post-Yom Kippur meal, thereby negating the benefits of the fast!

Reflect not only on being more of a mensch, but also on your food addictions

Some people who are trying to lose weight but have a difficult time, even though they may exercise regularly, might have a clogged liver, which results in a sluggish metabolism. Eating processed foods for years and decades places a burden on the liver, which is the main detoxification organ of the body.

Periodic fasting provides the liver, as well as the insulin-secreting pancreas (regulates blood sugar) and bile-releasing gallbladder (digests fats) a much-needed rest.

In addition to reflecting on how you can be a better person on Yom Kippur (hopefully not just the period from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur, but all year), take note if you have difficulty fasting.

If so, it could be because your body is suffering from drastic fluctuations in blood sugar levels, spurred by frequent consumption of sugar, wheat- and white flour.

Traditional break-fasts are counterproductive

You’ve done a mitzvah by fasting for 25 hours. You’re missing out on an opportunity to truly reset your physical body if you eat common Ashkenazi foods like bagels and kugel. By extension, your spiritual body will suffer, too.

Someone who has rock-steady blood-sugar levels, achieved by a low-glycemic diet with many vegetables, may be able to better focus on Torah study. And perhaps someone eating a kosher, low-glycemic diet will be more of a mensch because they won’t have as many mood swings as someone who eats lots of sugary foods.

Beyond the observant Jewish community, the intermittent fasting movement is gaining in popularity. This might be a healthy fad, as long as people break the fast with pure, wholesome foods.

Speaking of which, zero-calorie Miracle Noodle is perfect for break-fasts!

Try to eat plenty of vegetables at lunch and dinner every day. You can even throw in a couple veggies with your omelette in the morning. Eat as few calories as possible to satisfy you. Miracle Noodle is 97% water, but because this zero-calorie natural noodle substitute also contains fiber, it will actually keep you full longer--without the guilt. Miracle Noodle is the perfect surrogate for traditional high-starch chicken noodle soup.

Occasional low-calorie diets and fasting can be both spiritually and physically beneficial  but check with your doctor if you have liver or kidney problems, are on medications, or have any chronic disease or compromised immune system.

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