Going a day without eating "is to force us to look within ourselves, to repent, introspection," Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, who leads the Ohev Sholom National Synagogue in Washington, D.C., told NPR, without earthly distractions such as what to have for lunch getting in the way.
Of course, fasting on Yom Kippur is not supposed to be comfortable. But there are a few ways to make the fast a little bit easier, and, in doing so, a little healthier, too.
Don't Overdo It The Night Before
Even though the imminent fast might seem daunting, gorging on a too-big meal the night before <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/16/why-am-i-hungry_n_1677364.html">could just make you hungrier the next day</a>. Big, celebratory meals are more likely than your run-of-the-mill Tuesday night dinner to include decadent rather than nutritious picks, which can trigger quick changes in blood sugar that ultimately leave you hungrier, Healthy Living's Meredith Melnick reported.
Fill Up On Fiber
Instead, look for foods that will fill you up for longer without triggering next-day pangs."The focus should be in eating foods rich in nutrients," Toby Smithson, R.D., L.D.N., C.D.E., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutritiion and Dietetics tells The Huffington Post. "It's only a 24-hour period, it's not like you need to overload or overindulge, and you'll probably just feel sick [if you do]." Smithson, who keeps kosher, recommends a lean source of protein like chicken and foods high in fiber, like veggies, for your last meal before the fast. If you're hosting the meal, serve vegetables in soup, alongside the main dish or in a big salad, suggests Faye Levy, author of more than 20 cookbooks, including <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Healthy-Cooking-Jewish-Home-Holidays/dp/0060787848/ref=la_B001IR3M7W_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1348501554&sr=1-2">"Healthy Cooking for the Jewish Home"</a>, and <a href="http://www.jpost.com/Authors/AuthorPage.aspx?id=120">cooking columnist for the <em>Jerusalem Post</em></a>, in an email to HuffPost. Beans and lentils are also great options she says.
Hydrate To Avoid Headaches
For many, the prospect of going without a morning caffeine fix can seem especially daunting. And with good reason: Experts estimate that about half of all people who drink caffeinated beverages every day are likely to face <a href="http://articles.cnn.com/2009-04-06/health/hm.caffeine.withdrawal_1_caffeine-withdrawal-caffeinated-products-caffeine-intake?_s=PM:HEALTH">some noticeable symptom of skipping the drink</a>, like headaches, according to CNN. A number of people report headaches during not just the Yom Kippur fast, but also during the <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11279933">first day of Ramadan</a>, too. Caffeine withdrawal may be to blame, but dehydration can also <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15613218">cause fasting headaches</a>, according, accroding to a 1999 study. Dehydration will certainly start to occur during the fast, says Smithson, also the founder of <a href="http://diabeteseveryday.com/">DiabetesEveryDay.com</a>, so it's a good idea to load up on water the night before. Skip the sodas and juices, she says, because of the added sugars and empty calories, and avoid large amounts of alcohol since too much will only worsen dehydration (and that headache). Some recommend <a href="http://articles.latimes.com/2010/sep/16/news/la-heb-yom-kippur-20100917">cutting back on the caffeine</a> a week or so before Yom Kippur so that abstaining during the fast won't come as such a shock.
Keep Sodium In Check
Too much salt before the fast can leave you feeling thirstier than normal the next day. But cutting back is easier said than done, with Jewish staples like chicken soup clocking in with higher sodium counts than you may like. "Kosher chickens and meat can be rather salty anyway," warns Levy, "so it's best not to add more, or if you must add some to a soup, add just a pinch." If you're hosting the meal, making your own broth from scratch is a great way to cut back on salt, says Smithson.
Feeling Faint? Go For Juice
Some people swear by ending the fast with a tall glass of juice. Levy says for her, water comes first, then the sweet stuff. While juices aren't usually beverages Smithson would recommend, they will raise your blood sugar quicker than having a meal right away, she says, which can help if you're feeling a little light-headed at the end of the day.
Don't Overdo It The Night After
As much as you might feel entitled to two bagels after sundown, the fast isn't exactly an excuse to overeat. As <a href="http://health.usnews.com/health-news/blogs/eat-run/2012/09/13/break-the-fast-without-breaking-your-diet">Bonnie Taub-Dix writes for U.S. News</a>: <blockquote>For some people the sound of the shofar -- a ram's horn whose blast signals the end of Yom Kippur -- is like the sound of a gunshot before a race: There's a mad dash from temple to table after evening services.</blockquote> While that hunger is certainly understandable, try to eat slowly, giving your body time to digest before you scarf down loads of calories without realizing. "I agree with my mother that it's best to eat a light meal," writes Levy. "I like the custom of Jews from North Africa of serving <a href="http://www.jpost.com/LandedPages/PrintArticle.aspx?id=188394">harira</a>, a soup with beans, as you get plenty of liquid along with the [fiber]."
Know When To Nibble
If at any point during the fast, you start to experience nausea, vomiting or dizziness, it's time to have at least a little something. "The point is not to make you ill," says Smithson. Keep in mind, too, that people who are seriously ill or may become seriously ill by fasting are <a href="http://www.aish.com/h/hh/yom-kippur/guide/Fasting_on_Yom_Kippur.html">exempt from the fast entirely</a>.
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