7 tips for staying healthy during the Yom Kippur fast

Eat light before the fast, with small amounts of carbs, some protein and fruit like grapes.
Photo by Larry Koester/Flickr

By Dr. Tzvi Dwolatzky

There is a marked difference between the intended feeling of being uncomfortable with not eating or drinking for 25 hours and actually becoming ill as a result of not getting enough liquids and nutrients.

Yom Kippur not only requires emotional preparation, but physical as well. A person can take several important steps before the holiday in order to achieve the best physical condition possible to perform better on Yom Kippur, which this year falls on the evening of Sept. 27.

Here are seven tips to prepare you for an easy fast:


Ask your physician if your health allows you to fast

Many chronic medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart disease or arthritis, do not usually prevent you from fasting as long as your condition is stable. This is usually the case for pregnant and nursing mothers as well. Clearly an acute illness accompanied by fever, vomiting or diarrhea will prevent you from fasting. Before going any further, you should check with your doctor whether your health allows you to fast.

Start early

At least a week before the fast, you should cut down on the daily amount of coffee and caffeinated beverages. Also, take it easy with salty foods. Keep away from alcohol because it stimulates the loss of body water. The use of artificial sweeteners should also be kept to a minimum.

Drink a lot of liquids, but don’t overdo it

It is very important to be well hydrated before the fast. For at least two days before the fast, make sure to drink adequate amounts of fluids. Remember that the healthiest thing to drink is water. Keep a bottle of water with you and note how much you drink – about half a gallon is generally sufficient. But don’t overdo it. Drinking too much can wash out essential salts from your body.

Eat regular meals before the fast

It is important to get your body into a routine before the fast. Make sure to eat regular meals on the days before the fast. And don’t skip breakfast, which is probably the most important meal of the day. Keep away from very rich and spicy foods. And eat in moderation.

Take it easy before and during the fast

On the day before the fast, refrain from strenuous physical exercise. Don’t run around too much doing chores — spoil yourself and take it easy. Keep out of the hot sun and spend the day in cool surroundings as much as possible. This is certainly true on the day of the fast as well.

Have a light meal before the fast

When sitting down to the meal before the fast, a light meal is preferable. Eating extra amounts of food does not help to keep you going for 24 hours. Rather eat small amounts of carbohydrates (bread, potato, rice, pasta), some protein (fish, chicken) and fruit (grapes and watermelon). Keep spices and salt to a minimum.

The break-fast meal

Well, you managed the fast very well, now it is time to eat. Go slow! Eat some carbs and drink some fluids.

This article was printed with permission from Rambam HealthCare Campus, a 1,000-bed academic hospital in Haifa, Israel.

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