God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food.'” Gen. 1:29
Great Lent is a wonderful time to start integrating the practice of Christian fasting into your life. As you know, Lent (the lengthening of days) is a time of spiritual reflection in remembrance of Jesus’s 40 days fasting and praying in the desert. Here the Christian fasting tradition aligns nicely with the healthy benefits of plant-based dieting. This plant-based diet includes avoiding highly processed foods, heavy portions of carbs and lowing sugar (including alcohol).
Fasting is one of the oldest known Christian spiritual practices. The origins are, of course, Jewish. The extremity of these fasts vary greatly throughout Christian history. The “Angelic diet,” as it is sometimes referred to looks back to the what Adam and Eve ate in the Garden of Eden for its inspiration.
We only recommend a reasonable diet, which includes eating only plant-based foods on Wednesday and Friday. This is a typical practice in the Eastern Church for all lay Christians. This practice is so old it is mentioned in the Didache [did-ah-kay], a first-century manual for training Christians.
Here is a fun article on how the Greeks eat during the Lenten fast. It looks delicious. Remember that some fasts include seafood and fish on certain days. We recommend skipping all the complexity of Orthodox fasting and just go plant-based. It makes it easier on everyone.
Also, the Daniel Fast has become very poplar in some circles. That is more often a cleanse diet, or people take on a fasting challenge for a given period of time. Here is a link to a spreadsheet of recipes compiled for you by A Couple Cooks.
Science-wise, the jury is in on the health benefits. This quick read from the University of Texas Cancer Center covers it nicely.
A healthy immune system is essential for reducing your risk for cancer because it can recognize and attack mutations in cells before they can progress to disease.
Plant foods reduce inflammation. Plants’ essential nutrients work to resolve inflammation in your body. The same tiny phytochemicals and antioxidants that boost your immune system also go around your body neutralizing toxins from pollution, processed food, bacteria, viruses and more.University of Texas Anderson Cancer Center
Some tips include:
- Use healthy cooking methods
- Whole grains
- Lower sugar intake
- Plant-based means a majority of your food is plant-based not all
Try to change your diet SLOWLY. People who are go big, or go home, ussually wind up going home in the long haul. We want you in this thing until Judgement Day. So, slow and stead wins the race on this tome.
Lastly, as we always say, the key to changing daily habits is community support. Your church is the best one. See if you can encourage them to support Christian fasting. You are also welcome to join our PraXis group that meets weekly to practice, diet, fitness and mindfulness in the Christian tradition.