The Bible's Book of Daniel is often cited by both religious and health experts as an ancient foundation for a plant-based diet. That's because in Chapter 10, where The Daniel Plan has its roots, the book describes the vegan fast the Prophet Daniel followed: “I ate no delicacies, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled." In the book, after those 21 days, Daniel appeared healthier.
Fast-forward a few thousand years, and medical researchers are now studying the real impact this biblical diet can have on our health.
The plan is a plant-based program inclusive of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and healthy oils. No caffeine, alcohol, additives, or preservatives are allowed. Usually, participants partake in the plan for a period of 21 days, often as part of a religiously motivated fasting period.
The results are quite spectacular. In 2010, researchers from the University of Memphis embarked on a series of studies on the diet. Here are some of the benefits they found:
1. It fights inflammation and helps lower cholesterol.
In the first study, 43 subjects were examined before and after the 21-day period. They found that cholesterol fell from an average of 171 mg/dl to 139 mg/dl, LDL cholesterol from 98 to 76 mg/dl and systolic blood pressure from 115 mmHg to 106 mmHg.
At the same time, inflammation as measured by the C-reactive protein also fell from 3.1 to 1.6 mg/L, and calories dropped from 2,185 daily to 1,722. The researchers noted that tolerance of the plan was high, and there were no side effects.
2. It's a natural source of antioxidants.
The researchers then reported the diet's impact on antioxidant and oxidative stress markers, important factors in overall health. The same subjects showed improved markers of antioxidant status with lower oxidative stress — think of this as rusting of the body — after 21 days on the program. In other words, the diet was a great source of natural vitamins and antioxidants, no supplements needed.
3. It protects against diabesity.
In a separate group of 39 subjects on the 21-day program, the scientists measured “cardiometabolic," or heart metabolism, factors. They found that weight dropped 5.5 pounds on average, insulin sensitivity improved, insulin levels fell toward normal, and blood sugars fell from 101 mg/dl to 92 mg/dl.
In light of the epidemic of "diabesity" racing through the Western world, these are exciting results.
4. The diet works just as well with small additions of lean meat and milk.
Finally, in 2013 the group published the results of the impact of adding one serving a day of lean meat and skim milk to the otherwise plant-based program. Observing 29 subjects, they found similar reductions in blood fats and markers of inflammation after 21 days.
They concluded, “Our results indicate that the addition of lean meat and skim milk to a traditional Daniel diet appears as beneficial as the vegan-based Daniel diet, if not yielding slightly more favorable results with regard to changes in HDL cholesterol and certain lipid panel ratios."
We are suffering an epidemic of chronic disease in the U.S. It's affecting our children and shortening their lifespans. How do we reverse this trend?
Along with movement, exercise, stress management, and avoiding tobacco, the key is to change our dietary habits. The Book of Daniel provides an ancient, yet still relevant, path to success. Have a little faith and give it a try.
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