Throughout recorded human history, fasting has been integral to most cultures and their traditional health practices. Accordingly, you can apply this fact to practically all regions and religions of our world.
Since biochemistry unraveled some of the processes behind the health benefits of fasting, it has gained immensely in popularity lately.
After most people have forgotten about fasting traditions, we must look closely at how to break a fast correctly without feeling uncomfortable or destroying the results.
Therefore, this article precisely answers this question based on science. Moreover, you will be introduced to the best foods to break a fast.
What Is Fasting?
Fasting means that you stop eating entirely for a specific time.
Widely used methods have a fasting period of 12 to 24 hours, but some last for days.
Although you aren’t allowed to eat, you can consume the following drinks during fasting:
- Water and mineral water
- Tea without milk, milk substitutes, and sweeteners
- Coffee without milk, milk substitutes, and sweeteners
While these beverages cannot significantly impair fasting’s health, they are often restricted during religiously motivated fasts.
Not only that fasting used to be a traditional method for weight loss, but also the following purposes:
- Improved mental focus
- Prevention of dementia
- Prevention of insulin resistance
- Slowing down the aging process
This ancient healing tradition’s roots lie primarily in autophagy, an intracellular recycling process that science is currently unraveling.
While shorter “intermittent” fasts are more common, some prefer extended fasts.
48-hour fasting is the most extended duration that can still be within the boundaries of intermittent fasting. Accordingly, if we go beyond 48 hours of fasting, we refer to it as extended or prolonged fasting.
Intermittent fasting (IF) is an eating pattern alternating between fasting and eating periods.
There are different intermittent fasting schedules, but the most popular is eating within a time window of about 8 hours.
This means that during 16/8 intermittent fasting, you fast for 16 hours daily. Nevertheless, it is also possible to fast for 14, 18, or 20 hours a day. These fasting schedules are also known as Time-Restricted Eating (TRE).
- Detoxification of the body
- Removal of pathogens
- Renewal of old and dysfunctional cell parts
- Reduction of bone and muscle atrophy
- Prevention of neurodegenerative diseases (e.g., Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s)
- Prevention of cancer, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes
- Reversal of the aging process
- Extension of life span
However, a prolonged fast lasting longer than 48 hours will probably reduce the digestive enzymes produced by the pancreas and intestines.
Therefore, resuming eating after a prolonged fast often requires more attention.
If we eat continuously, the body needs time to get used to fasting. But this is logical, natural, and not particularly alarming.
Fasting gives the entire digestive tract a particular time to recover, which it often lacks today.
Since the food industry taught us to eat around the clock, our bodies frequently use metabolic energy to produce enzymes that can process food.
Accordingly, you may know the feeling when all the energy and blood flow into the stomach and digestive tract. As a result, you can’t think clearly after eating.
When we fast, the digestive enzymes are neither needed nor produced so that the body can supply the metabolic energy to other organs, such as the brain (Puigserver et al. 19856).
For this reason, some people report sharpened focus, mental clarity, and increased productivity when fasting, which I can also confirm.
What Is Breaking a Fast?
The definition of the word “breakfast” is the first meal of the day.
Accordingly, its origin lies in the late middle English verbs “break” and “fast.” And that means breaking the fasting period of the previous day.
With this in mind, it does not mean you must fill up your belly within minutes of waking up.
Accordingly, breakfast, whether you eat it at 5:00 AM, noon, or 6:00 PM, is breaking the fast.
Only in the 15th century did people begin to recognize the word “breakfast” as a meal you eat shortly after waking up.
Since fasting is a natural process that has ensured humanity’s survival, most people have no problems breaking shorter fasting.
In our world of abundance, we have merely forgotten how to maintain a healthy balance between eating and fasting.
Nonetheless, with intermittent fasting over 16, 18, or 24 hours, hardly anyone has a problem breaking the fast.
Since fasting for religious purposes has been shared for centuries, people hardly thought about how to break a fast correctly.
Due to contradictory dietary advice and the conventional misconception of what is healthy, people increasingly welcome guidance when breaking a fast.
If people believe in losing weight by eating six meals a day and steadily eating highly processed food-like products due to lack of time, breaking a fast becomes more complicated.
Hence, it can require planning to start eating again to achieve physical comfort, long-term health, and weight loss goals.
Side Effects of Breaking a Fast
When breaking the fast with the right food, shorter fasting periods can hardly cause side effects. But with prolonged fasts, that can be different.
Since intermittent fasting is much simpler than prolonged fasting, you should have little trouble breaking a fast.
Because the classic 16/8 intermittent fasting program has exactly two rules:
- No breakfast
- No snacks
Since breakfast is the most important meal, your body will provide a hormone cocktail when you wake up, providing sufficient energy until lunch.
Believe it or not – within a maximum of two weeks, you will have forgotten about hunger in the morning.
Should you experience physical side effects during intermittent fasting, in 90% of all cases, it helps to include more salt in your diet. This way, you can prevent common symptoms, such as headaches.
Other mistakes that can cause side effects are:
- Too little water
- Too little movement
- Processed food during eating periods
Additionally, no sweeteners or milk are allowed in your tea or coffee during intermittent fasting, as they can negate the benefits.
If you break the fast for the first time after an extended period, diarrhea can initially be wholly natural and reflect the intestine’s cleansing. However, if this continues, it might be due to refined carbohydrates in your diet.
If you fast for more than 36 hours, the body limits digestive enzymes’ production, leading to possible gastrointestinal problems if you break the fast with a meal.
Hence, possible complications may include the following:
- Nausea and vomiting (exceptional cases)
Due to the lower amount of digestive juices that break down food, the food can remain in the stomach longer.
Therefore, the body may need several hours to produce enough enzymes to break down the food.
For this reason, unless you are a fasting veteran, you may experience stomach problems or diarrhea during this time.
There are three methods to reduce these side effects of fasting:
- Fasting more often
- Shorter Fasts (Intermittent Fasting)
- Use of best foods to break a fast (see below)
Eventually, the body gets used to the new circumstances during fasting and does not stop producing digestive enzymes. Therefore, breaking the fast will be much more comfortable with the routine.
After three months, you will break your fast with almost any meal much more comfortably due to increasing experience.
Nevertheless, in the following exceptional cases, irritations might still be possible:
- After culinary vacations
- If you dare to go over new fasting durations (3-day or 7-day fasting)
- If you consume a lot of carbohydrates before fasting
For this reason, bingeing on refined carbohydrates and sugar when fasting is not a good idea. Not only that, it can destroy health and weight goals, but it also induces a damn hard time fasting.
Carbohydrates and junk food before fasting increase cravings during the fasting period and can promote keto flu symptoms.
These are headaches caused by your body flushing out stored water and electrolytes. Keto flu symptoms can occur if you deplete your carbohydrate stores for the first time with fasting.
Best Foods to Break a Fast
The best foods to break prolonged fasts are natural whole foods. Do not eat processed foods. That is a general rule, regardless of your diet.
Here are the Top 10 foods (in order) to break intermittent as well as more extended fasting periods without feeling unpleasant:
1. Bone Broth
Let’s start with the evergreen among the best foods to break a fast. Who doesn’t know bone broth is a healthful food after a bowel disease?
For a good reason, it has been prescribed by doctors over and over again:
- It is full of electrolytes,
- It is liquid and easily digestible,
- And it contains healthy fats helping to absorb nutrients.
Due to the natural fatty acids, it also tastes great.
Since the body loses water and electrolytes when fasting by depleting carbohydrate stores, bone broth might be the best food to break a fast.
Bone broth contains the essential electrolytes magnesium, potassium, calcium, and sodium.
After fasting, organic bone broth helps absorb nutrients more efficiently, not only those in the broth but also in other foods.
Moreover, bone broth can:
- Supply collagen for skin, hair, muscles, and bones
- Improve sleep through anti-inflammatory amino acids, such as glycine
- Stabilize blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity
- Calm the gastrointestinal tract
- Deliver healthy fats without carbohydrates
2. Apple Cider Vinegar
While apple cider vinegar is hyped as a panacea today, the Babylonians already used it for its health benefits 7000 years ago.
For many reasons, organic apple cider vinegar with the mother is among the best foods to break a fast:
- Increases satiety and reduces the risk of overeating (Petsiou et al. 20147)
- Reduces blood sugar response and promotes insulin sensitivity (White et al. 20078)
- Stimulates fat burning and helps lose weight (Li et al. 20139)
- Releases stomach and intestinal neutralizing hormones and ions (Petsiou et al. 201410)
- Reduces heartburn and acid reflux
Furthermore, apple cider vinegar supports digestion in many ways. For example, apple cider vinegar can improve stomach acidity, gall bladder function, and fat digestion.
It helps people with problems digesting fats and break the fast. Additionally, it supports those people who cannot produce enough stomach acid.
Therefore, the addition of apple vinegar can help when breaking a fast.
Moreover, apple cider vinegar helps fasting beginners integrate healthy fats into their diet more comfortably.
Therefore, supporters of low-carb diets such as the keto diet swear by apple vinegar.
Apple cider vinegar is incredibly popular since it supports gut flora, neutralizes pH, and provides energy.
Not only as a health elixir but also for breaking a fast, you can prepare this diluted apple vinegar drink:
- One glass of water (250ml)
- 1-2 tablespoons apple vinegar
Just dilute the vinegar with water and stir once. Then the drink is ready.
Since diluted apple cider vinegar is not everyone’s cup of tea, you might use it as a salad dressing. If you break a prolonged fast, ensure the salad does not contain raw cruciferous plants (see below).
Good apple cider vinegar is:
- Unfiltered with vinegar mother,
- And organically farmed.
One of the most popular protein sources is also one of the best foods to break a fast. Accordingly, it is no secret that most people can easily digest chicken.
That’s why chicken is the most proven meat to break a fast. Moreover, you can consume it as chicken soup, which is ideal for breaking extended fasts.
You can move on to the chicken as soon as the stomach has calmed down after sipping some broth.
Even when breaking the fast, I always eat it with the skin because the collagen supporting hair, skin, muscles, and joints hides there.
Furthermore, chicken provides vitamins and minerals such as (*):
- Vitamin B6
Fish is an excellent protein source, consumed when breaking a fast or as the first solid meal afterward.
If you want to play it safe when breaking the fast, you can also try it with a bowl of fish soup at the beginning before you switch to fish meat.
Nevertheless, fish should not be too much of a problem at the first meal since it hardly strains the digestive system in most people.
- Omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA)
- B- and D-Vitamins
5. Avocados and Avocado Oil
Often mistakenly called a vegetable, avocado is probably the fattest fruit in the world.
Besides being an excellent weight-loss fat source, avocado is among the best foods to break a fast.
For most people, avocado is easily digestible and keeps them full longer than other foods.
Accordingly, even 5 hours later, people who ate avocados are still a third less hungry than after eating other foods (Wien et al. 201311).
Hence, avocado is ideal for preventing overeating after fasting. Especially after fasting for days, this can come in incredibly handy.
Furthermore, avocado, rich in water-soluble fiber and fats, increases the absorption of nutrients from other foods after fasting.
This is a great base to start if you want to replenish your body with nutrients after fasting. Also, avocados supply rough amounts of nutrients by themselves (*):
- B, C, E, and K vitamins
6. Olives and Olive Oil
Like the avocado, the olive is a superfood with plenty of healthy fats boosting nutrient absorption.
In like manner, it is packed with monounsaturated linoleic acid, which is widely known for its health benefits. Moreover, olives and extra virgin olive oil have anti-inflammatory effects due to many bioactive substances.
These polyphenols have antioxidant effects and reduce cancer risk (Notarnicola et al. 201113).
Accordingly, olive oil is perfect as a salad dressing when breaking a fast or rounding off cooked vegetables. However, I prefer frying ghee, butter, or coconut oil as these fats have a higher smoke point.
Nevertheless, olive oil is the first choice to slow down the aging process through autophagy if this is your primary goal. Because of their numerous bioactive substances, olives provide proven anti-aging effects:
- Oleuropein strengthens the skin through antioxidant and UV protection (Cañuelo et al 201214)
- Tyrosol increases life expectancy and stress resistance (Rahmani et al. 201415).
- Olive oil counteracts age-related bone loss and contributes to bone formation in older people (Fernández-Real et al. 201216).
- Furthermore, olives are the best snack after fasting, as they bring back plenty of salt into the body, besides the healthy fats and polyphenols.
However, purchase a first-cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil to maximize health benefits.
7. Grass-Fed Butter and Ghee
Since healthy fats are essential for nutrient absorption, grass-fed butter, and ghee should not be missing from the best foods to break a fast.
Since butter contains very little lactose, it is the only dairy product you can safely use to break a fast. Because ghee also lacks milk proteins, clarified butterfat is an even better option.
With both foods, species-appropriate feeding with herbs and grasses makes the difference. Therefore organic grass-fed ghee and butter are packed with nutrients such as:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin K2
- Omega-3 fatty acids
The esters of butyric acid, butyrates, are short-chain fatty acids that serve as food for your gut bacteria, helping to restore balance within your gastrointestinal tract.
Additionally, grass-fed milk contains about six times more conjugated linoleic acid than grain-fed cows.
8. Coconut Oil
Due to its high lauric acid content, coconut oil is one of the most suitable fats for frying and helps you lose weight (Liau et al. 201119).
Besides, it is lesser-known that coconut oil has strong anti-inflammatory properties (Intahphuak et al. 201020).
Accordingly, coconut oil can help build up healthy bacteria and other intestinal microbes after breaking the fast.
Moreover, lauric acid in cold-pressed virgin coconut oil fights harmful bacteria and viruses such as flu, HIV, measles, or herpes.
Since coconut oil is not the same as coconut fat, you should only put virgin, cold-pressed coconut oil from organic farming into your shopping cart.
If you’re fasting to lose weight, coconut oil is the ideal fat for frying a meal when breaking a fast.
Fermented foods are rightly known to support gut bacteria.
After days of fasting, fermented foods help you recolonize the digestive tract with healthy bacteria and reduced enzymes during the fasting cleanse.
While organic sauerkraut is a prime example of fermented food, it’s also the world’s most vitamin C-rich food.
Accordingly, sauerkraut contains probiotics, good bacteria that act against toxins and harmful bacteria. Thus, sauerkraut is an excellent food for recovering the intestinal flora after prolonged fasting, which boosts the immune system (Quigley et al. 201821).
Probiotics in sauerkraut can help to overcome a bacterial imbalance in the gut. For this reason, it can prevent or reduce diarrhea (Johnston et al. 201222).
Furthermore, probiotics can also help with other side effects, such as flatulence and constipation (Hungin et al. 201323).
10. Green Vegetables (Cooked)
Most green vegetables, such as broccoli or brussels sprouts, are cruciferous plants rich in fiber, nutrients, and vitamins.
On the one hand, the nutrient profile of cruciferous plants is ideal for fasting. On the other hand, they are hard to digest if eaten raw.
Therefore, I only eat them cooked when breaking a more extended fast.
Of green above-ground vegetables, broccoli is probably the most digestible. Especially in combination with a protein like chicken or fish, you can use broccoli to complement a solid meal for breaking a fast.
Healthy fat such as grass-fed butter or olive oil can round out the vegetables and help absorb nutrients. Also, salt them sufficiently after fasting.
Although spinach and cabbage are excellent sources of nutrients, you should only reach out for them when breaking shorter fasts. When prolonged fasting, you can eat these vegetables at the earliest as a second meal after breaking the fast.
However, all these green vegetables are excellent sources of minerals and vitamins, like (*):
- Vitamin A, B2, B6, C, E, K
Hence, non-starchy green vegetables are a great way to replenish your body with nutrients after extended periods of fasting.
Worst Foods to Break a Fast
When you start fasting, the body may mistake the unfamiliar state for a stressful situation.
Accordingly, you should avoid foods you know to be more stressful for your digestive tract than others.
Hence, only reach out to meals you know are easy to digest for you to break a fast comfortably.
Also, some foods and drinks are problematic for many people and should, therefore, be avoided when breaking a fast:
- Any dairy products
- Seeds, nuts, and nut butter
- Raw cruciferous vegetables
- Brussels sprouts
- Red cabbage
- Foods high in lectins
- Bakery goods
- Grains (esp. whole grain)
For this reason, we want to avoid lectins after fasting as a precautionary measure.
Although conventional wisdom blames red meat for being problematic, few people have problems with it.
After all, meat has been in our food cycle much longer than most of today’s fruit and vegetables, so our microbiome can handle it well.
However, 6-8 hours after breaking a fast, people usually can eat more problematic foods and meals as long as they generally feel comfortable eating them.
How to Break a Fast
Break your fast with all-natural, unprocessed foods. Bone broth, avocados, and chicken are excellent choices. You can accompany them with diluted apple cider vinegar.
Eat slowly. Because you might risk overeating, drink enough before breaking a fast.
Afterward, it would be best to break the fast with real food. Therefore, even when breaking intermittent fasting periods, don’t eat the following highly processed foods:
- Fast food
- Ready-made sauces
- Ready Meals
- Bars (incl. protein)
Those who fast to legitimize highly processed junk food will miss results.
On the other hand, it is just human to not strictly stick to diets on special occasions.
If exceptions do not become the rule, they can be justifiable. With this in mind, you can use 36-hour fasts to recover from them quickly.
How to Break an Intermittent Fast
Breaking 16/8 intermittent fasting doesn’t have to be a drama. Avoid dairy products, nuts, and raw cruciferous plants in the first week.
After that, your body will gradually adjust to the fact that you don’t eat breakfast until noon. Therefore, there should be enough digestive enzymes; you will eventually break the fast with regular food.
Whenever you take a step further and, for example, fast for 20 hours, it is advisable to be careful again – just as you were in the first week of 16/8 fasting.
Soups, salads, meat, or fish with cooked vegetables can usually be eaten without complications when breaking an intermittent fast. The less junk food you are used to, the easier it is.
Moreover, adding salt and healthy fat, such as grass-fed butter or olive oil, to your food makes sense, especially when you have no problems digesting fat.
If you are used to a diet rich in refined carbohydrates, it might take two to four weeks until you no longer feel slight discomfort during fasting.
How to Break a Fast After 24 Hours (OMAD)
If you fast for 24 hours or do the 23/1 schedule One Meal a Day (OMAD), you must be more careful than with shorter intermittent fasting periods.
However, bone broth is a harmless breakfast in any case. If you are starting with OMAD or 24-hour fasting is an exception, you can also start with a small tuna-avocado salad:
- Dice avocados
- Strain tuna (can) from its water and chop
- Add olive or avocado oil and apple cider vinegar
- Season with Pink Himalaya or Celtic Sea Salt
With this in mind, sufficient salt will help fasting beginners prevent headaches. If you already have more experience with fasting, chicken and cooked vegetables are generally not a problem.
If you want to practice OMAD permanently, your digestive tract will adjust to it, and after about a month, you can also break the fast with your favorite foods.
How to Break a 3-Day Fast
When fasting for more than 48 hours, we are already in the zone of prolonged fasting. Accordingly, 72-hour or 3-day fasts are probably the most popular duration for fasting cures.
Break the fast with bone broth or a diluted apple vinegar drink to play it safe after this considerable fasting duration.
Thus, the digestive tract is supported and not overtaxed if the enzymes are still sufficiently present. Furthermore, the chicken or beef used to make the broth can supply the body with lost electrolytes when breaking the fast.
Afterward, you should pay attention to your body. If you feel well, you can move on to tuna-avocado salad or chicken with cooked vegetables.
If you are hungry, eat some avocado pieces or olives. After 1-2 hours, you can try chicken or avocado salad.
How to Break a 7-Day Water Fast
Every year at Easter, I use Holy Week to schedule an annual cleansing for my body.
I do this not because I am religious but because it takes a fixed date to tackle this prolonged fasting challenge consistently. So why not use the traditional easterly fasting time?
To me, 7-day fasting represents the justifiable maximum of autophagy fasting, detoxing, renewing broken cells, and contributing to higher life expectancy.
And often, old traditions do have a meaningful background. In my homeland, you traditionally break the Easter fasting with a “smoked broth.”
Accordingly, this is a broth cooked from smoked Easter meat. Do you think it’s a coincidence that Christians traditionally break a fast with an easily digestible soup packed with electrolytes?
Since religious fasting has always been aimed at mental cleansing, and we know it improves cognition through autophagy, the broth is probably no coincidence (Raefsky et al. 201725).
Accordingly, I suggest the following procedure for breaking the 7-day water fast:
- One tablespoon of apple vinegar diluted with 5 ounces of water
- Afterward, bone broth (without meat) with a good pinch of sea salt
- If hunger remains: Avocado with salt and olive oil or olives
- 1-2 hours later, avocado and tuna salad when hungry
- 2-4 hours later, 200g of chicken or fish fried in ghee with cooked broccoli
However, it is essential to listen to the body. If you don’t feel well after breaking the fast, give your gastrointestinal tract more time to rest. Eventually, taking some more time after 168 hours won’t hurt.
Probiotic foods, such as sauerkraut, can support recovery the next day. Nevertheless, keep your hands off industrial probiotic products like yogurt drinks.
Furthermore, you can reintroduce leafy greens, various non-starchy vegetables, and more healthy fats into your diet.
How to Break a Fast Vegan Style
If you want to break your fast the vegan way, I recommend staying away from anything your gut might have trouble with, such as:
- Esp. whole grains
- Processed foods
- Raw cruciferous vegetables (cooked is fine)
Most of these plant-based foods show a very high lectin content, so you don’t want to expose your gut to them after an extended fast.
With this in mind, you might have experienced mood swings after overloading with high-lectin foods since the gut microbiome has difficulty dealing with it.
However, in my opinion, the best foods to break a fast on a vegan diet are (in order from more prolonged to intermittent fasting):
- Diluted apple cider vinegar
- Avocado (salad) with sea salt and olive oil
- Cooked broccoli with sea salt and olive oil
How to Break a Fast on Keto
When fasting with a ketogenic diet, one gets faster and deeper into autophagy and ketosis.
Also, ketosis is a new-fangled expression of our body’s ability to burn fat for energy. Therefore, fasting harmonizes with keto.
So if you break a fast on keto, you will aim to stay as deep in ketosis as possible. For this reason, you want to break your fast with a high content of healthy fats.
Accordingly, you should have no problems with fat digestion if you are already fat-adapted. If you’re starting with keto, stick to the discussed guidelines of breaking fasts conventionally.
Since healthy fats are the main focus of keto, the following options for breaking a fast are handy:
- Bone broths in any variations
- Avocados or avocado salads with plenty of olive oil
- Fatty fish, such as salmon or mackerel, fried in coconut oil, butter, or lard
These dishes will certainly keep you in ketosis. Once you get used to intermittent fasting, you can experiment with various healthy fats and low-carb foods.
Best Meal to Break a Fast
If you only fast for shorter periods, you don’t need to worry too much about how to break a fast. After all, it is not rocket science, as you might initially think.
Nevertheless, intermittent fasting cannot legitimize highly processed carbohydrate-rich foods. If you reward yourself with donuts after fasting, the fasting period’s health benefits are nullified.
Therefore, the best foods to break a fast are low in starchy carbohydrates and rich in healthy fats that promote nutrient absorption.
However, it would be best not to overeat when breaking the fast.
Especially after extended fasts, take up eating again with a small meal and eat slowly. Furthermore, traditionally known remedies such as bone broth or diluted apple cider vinegar are the best foods to break a fast.
On the one hand, they activate your gut microbiome. On the other hand, these foods supply your body with those essential nutrients lost during extended fasts.
If you’d like to learn how to fast correctly in a playful way, get my free 30-Day Intermittent Fasting Challenge PDF printable.
How to Break a Fast FAQ
What is the best food to eat after fasting?
The most traditional and best food to break a fast is bone broth. While it supports the gut microbiome, it also provides the body with essential electrolytes.
How do you break intermittent fasting fast?
The fastest way to break a fast is to start eating. After getting used to intermittent fasting, you can break the fast with almost any dish except fast food. If you want to play it safe instead, get some bone broth.
Are eggs a good way to break a fast?
Since many people have trouble digesting it after fasting, eggs are food to avoid when breaking a fast. If you have been fasting intermittently for months, you might also comfortably break a fast with eggs.
How do I break my 7 day fast?
I usually break 7-day fasts with bone broth or diluted apple cider vinegar to play it safe. After some time, I follow up with avocado or easily digestible protein like chicken or fish.
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Stephan is a writer and a true man of science, holding multiple diplomas and master's degrees in different research areas. His greatest passion is closing the gap between the conventional perception of health and the latest scientific evidence – always following the data.