The Jewish Holiday of Yom Kippur (September 19) is considered the holiest day of the year for the Nation of Israel. It is observed by completely fasting for 25 hours and spending the day in prayer and self-reflection.

“For on this day atonement shall be made for you to cleanse you of all your sins; you shall be clean before Hashem. It shall be a Shabbat of complete rest for you, and you shall practice self-denial; it is a law for all time.” (Leviticus 16:30-31)

Though fasting is a part of spiritual practice in most religions, it is seeing a revival in health circles as well. Some of the health benefits of fasting include controlling blood sugar and blood pressure, fighting inflammation, enhancement of heart health, boosting brain function and prevention of neurodegenerative disorders, aiding of weight loss and boosting of metabolism, increasing of growth hormone secretions vital for growth, extending longevity, cancer prevention, and a resetting of bodily functions as well as physical and spiritual awareness.

However, even the most devoted fasters will say that more important than fasting is how one breaks their fast. Should one eat too quickly, too much, unhealthy foods or without mindfulness, they can actually undo any of the physical or spiritual benefits gained from their fast.

“When we fast on Yom Kippur, we’re recognizing that it’s wonderful to be on the level of angels that don’t have to eat or drink. We’re clinging directly to God and focusing on our spirit instead of our physical body,” explained Yael Eckstein, Global Executive Vice President of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ). “But, when it's time to break the Yom Kippur fast, we remember that we are in this body, which is a blessing. By taking care of it, we can connect our spirit with our body more closely to accomplish God’s will.”

Here are some important guidelines for breaking one’s fast:

If one has been on a total fast, like on Yom Kippur, one should drink plenty of water to rehydrate the body and ease the stomach back into action.

Introduce foods gradually in order not to overburden the digestive system. Slowly returning to food intake is important for the body and also allows time for the spirit to integrate the new-found clarity on one’s relationship to food.

Fasting diminishes enzyme production and the mucus lining in the stomach, making the stomach walls more vulnerable to irritation. Therefore, one should reintroduce foods by beginning with the simplest and easiest-to-digest such as fruit and vegetable juices and soups. Substances such as coffee and spicy foods can be irritating, and should not be ingested until one is fully integrated back into eating.

Small, light portions are very important. Overeating immediately following a fast is considered much worse than overeating when one is not fasting, as one’s system needs to adjust to normal digestion and assimilation. Overeating and/or not eating lightly can result in stomach cramping, nausea, and even vomiting.

As one reintroduces food, one should pay attention to the feeling of fullness, and at that point stop eating.
It is best to start to break the fast by eating a small meal every 2 hours or so, gradually working into larger meals.

Chewing food thoroughly is always important. However, after a fast, it is especially helpful as it aids in proper digestion.

There is also a suggested order for reintroduction of foods. This is a bit more relevant when one is on a longer fast than just a day fast. However, it is best to start with fruits and vegetable juices, then whole fruits (watermelon is considered the number one best choice), then vegetable or bone broths, probiotic-rich foods such as high quality, unsweetened yogurts, green vegetables, other vegetables, cooked grains and well-cooked beans, nuts, eggs, dairy and meat.

One should avoid breaking a fast with carbohydrates as these are harder to digest, can spike insulin, and cause bloating as well as sleepiness and drowsiness. However, one can eat rice cakes, a ripe banana or sweet potatoes, which provide the right amount of energy without overly shaking up one’s blood sugar levels.

This time of year is one of the best for fasting as the weather in most places is not overly hot or cold and many fruits and vegetables are in season. In addition, if God decreed that this is the time to fast, it must be the best time for greater spiritual connection with the One who created us.

After all, doesn’t God know best?

Author's Bio: 

The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews is a non-profit organization founded in 1983 to promote understanding between Christians and Jews, and build support for Israel. Learn more about the IFCJ here:
The IFCJ was founded by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, a leading advocate of religious freedom who has dedicated his work to building bridges of understanding between Christians and Jews. Learn more about Rabbi Eckstein here: