Tag Archives: #Nutrition

Fasting and religion

Religions involves different practices and rituals in accordance with the area, culture and historical time in which they were developed. Religions can offer advice on behaviour and diet as ways to strengthen the body and purify the spirit. Fasting practices vary widely. Fasting is considered a limiting of or absence of food consumption for a specific period of time. Fasting is generally intended to promote using the body’s energy reserves without causing malnutrition or starvation (1).

Fasting is a common part of many religions. Fasting is part of Judaism and also Christianity, with the practice of Lent. Fasting is practiced in Islam during Ramadan. Fasting is also part of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Taoism.

Greek Orthodox Christian fasting

Greek Orthodox fasting is practiced during Nativity, Lent and the Assumption (2). The Nativity fast is forty days before Christmas. Lent involves fasting forty eight days before Easter. The Assumption fast involves fasting fifteen days in August prior to the Assumption.

Greek Orthodox fasting involves abstaining from meat, eggs, dairy and alcohol. Bread, fruit, vegetables, nuts and cereals are eaten (1).

Islamic fasting

Muslims fast during the month of Ramadan. Ramadan is the ninth lunar month of the Hijra (Islamic calendar). Food and drink are not allowed during daylight hours. Water is not allowed during daylight hours. The fast is broken by consuming two unrestricted meals, after sunset and before dawn (2). Ramadan is a type of intermittent fasting.

Certain people are exempt from fasting. These include children, pregnant/breastfeeding women, chronically ill, elderly and people travelling long distances (3). Adults are allowed to make up missed days of fasting on other days of the year or during their lifetime.

The length of fasting varies due to Hijra being a lunar calendar. Ramadan lasts approximately twenty nine to thirty days, falling at different times in the year, over a thirty three year period. The average length of daily fasting is twelve to fourteen hours but it can last eighteen to twenty two hours in extreme latitudes (4). Abstaining from caffeine and tobacco during Ramadan is recommended.

Judaism and fasting

Yom Kippur, the Jewish fast occurs on day ten of the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar. There is restriction from eating and drinking fluids, including water. It is known as the day of Atonement. This abstention from food and drinks is supposed to improve the ability to concentrate on repenting (1).

The Jewish fast lasts twenty five hours. It begins prior to sunset on the evening before Yom Kippur. It ends after nightfall on the next day (1). Yom Kippur is treated as a Sabbath. On that day, no work, cooking, driving, shopping etc. can be undertaken (1). My blog The Jewish diet and Kosher foods in the UK provides information on Jewish dietary laws and Kosher foods.

Buddhism and fasting

Buddhist fasting involves eating a typical vegetarian diet throughout the year. Meat and dairy products (which sometimes includes milk) are excluded (1). The food consumed can vary among different countries i.e. Chinese Buddhists generally drink milk. However, Taiwanese Buddhists consume soybean products in general (5), (6). Eating garlic, garlic chives, Welsh onion, asant, leeks is prohibited. Alcohol and processed foods are also prohibited (1).

Hinduism and fasting

The Hindu literature (Vedic literature) upholds the sacred nature of life. The traditional system of medicine in India – Ayurveda, promotes the consumption of fruits, vegetables, wholegrain foods and avoidance of overcooked, over ripe, refined and highly processed food products (7).

Hinduism allows for different interpretations of the religion. Dietary recommendations and restrictions vary as a result (7). Hinduism advocates a lifestyle that promotes physical and mental health and longevity (1).

The majority of religions share the common aim of physical, mental and spiritual well-being. Fasting is a common element of most religions. It can be concluded that fasting is used as a method of purification to obtain a sense of freedom.


1) Venegas-Borsellino, C., & Martindale, R. G. (2018). From Religion to Secularism: the Benefits of Fasting. Current nutrition reports.

3) Ramadan Health Factsheet 2021 (2021) Muslim council of Britain.

2) Trepanowski, J. F., & Bloomer, R. J. (2010). The impact of religious fasting on human health. Nutrition journal9, 57. https://doi.org/10.1186/1475-2891-9-57

4) Leiper JB, Molla AM, Molla AM. Effects on health of fluid restriction during fasting in Ramadan. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2003;57(Suppl 2):S30–8. https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.ejcn.1601899

5) Lee Y, Krawinkel M. Body composition and nutrient intake of Buddhist vegetarians. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2009;18(2):265–71.

6) Chen CW, Lin YL, Lin TK, Lin CT, Chen BC, Lin CL. Total cardiovascular risk profile of Taiwanese vegetarians. Eur J ClinNutr. 2008;62(1):138–44. https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.ejcn.160268

7) Twari SC, Pandey NM. The Indian concepts of lifestyle and mental health in old age. Indian J Psychiatry. 2013;55(Suppl 2):S288–S92. https://doi.org/10.4103/0019-5545.105553

Celebrating Easter with food!

Easter is a time of celebration with family and close friends. Easter is a religious time for practicing Christians. Easter time is celebrated throughout the world with food. Different countries use different foods to celebrate this time of year.

Hot Cross Buns – United Kingdom

Hot Cross Buns are a sweet tasting spiced bun usually made with currants or raisins and ground cinnamon is included in the recipe. They are marked with a cross on top. They were traditionally eaten on Good Friday in the United Kingdom. However, they are now available throughout the year in supermarkets and bakeries.

Pashka – Russia

Pashka is a traditional Russian Easter food. It is made from cheese curds and has the consistency of cheesecake. It can come in both cooked and uncooked forms. It is pressed into a mould into the shape of a pyramid. It is normally white in colour. This symbolises the purity of Jesus Christ. The letters ‘XP’ are pressed on the food which mean that ‘Christ is risen’ from the dead.

Tsoureki (Easter Bread) – Greece

Tsoureki is a soft, sweet, aromatic bread. The three braids represent the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (the Holy Trinity). The hard boiled eggs served with it, are dyed red which symbolises the blood of Christ. The red egg is a symbol of rebirth (resurrection of Christ).

Easter Dove (Cake) – Italy

This dove shaped cake or Colomba pasquale has been used to celebrate Easter in Italy for nearly a century. The dough is made with flour, yeast, sugar, natural eggs and butter. It is mixed with candied orange peel. The dough is then topped with both almonds and icing before being oven baked.

Baked Ham – United States

Many families in the United States eat baked ham on Easter Sunday. The ham can be glazed with honey and brown sugar, giving it a sweet taste.

Easter Mammi – Finland

The Finnish Mammi dessert is traditionally made with rye flour, water and powdered malted rye. Dark molasses, dried powdered orange zest and salt are used to season it. It can be served with cream or milk. Many centuries ago, Mammi was enjoyed during Lent in Finland.

Capirotada – Mexico

Capirotada is a traditional Mexican bread pudding often eaten around Easter time. It symbolizes the Passion of Christ. It can be filled with raisins, cinnamon, cloves and cheese.

Torta Pascualina – Argentina

Torta Pascualina is filled with hard boiled eggs, ricotta, artichoke, parsley and spinach. It is often eaten during Lent. The eggs in Torta Pascualina are used to symbolize the Resurrection of Christ.