Tips for a healthy Ramadan

It is best to start weaning yourself off your daily fixes well before Ramadan to minimise cravings. What to eat and what to avoid this Ramadan

  • Gulf News
  • Published: 17:13 August 3, 2010

Liwa Date Festival 2010
  • Image Credit: Alex Westcott/Gulf News
  • It is advisable to break your fast with a few dates and water.

Have a light meal:

Do not stuff yourself with food and drinks during or between Iftar and Suhoor. This contradicts the spirit of Ramadan and defeats the whole object of fasting. Health problems can emerge as a result of excess food intake which can 'clog' your digestive system.

At Iftar it is advisable to have a very light meal first — like dates and juices or soup and reserve the main meal for later after the Maghrib prayers perhaps or even after Taraweeh (special night prayers). The body's immediate need is to get water and an easily available energy source in the form of glucose for every living cell, particularly the brain.

What to eat:

  • Due to the long hours of fasting, we should consume slow digesting foods including fibre-containing foods (which last up to 8 hours) rather than fast-digesting foods (which last for only 3-4 hours).
     
  • Slow digesting foods contain grains and seeds like barley, wheat, oats, millet, semolina, beans, lentils, whole meal flour, unpolished rice, etc (called complex carbohydrates).
  • Fibre-containing foods are bran, whole wheat, grains and seeds, vegetables like green beans, peas, spinach, the leaves of beetroot (iron-rich), fruit with skin, dried fruit especially dried apricots, and prunes, almonds, etc.

Foods to avoid:

  • Anything hot, spicy, hot or salty. Too much salty food will make your body retain water and give you the feeling of being bloated, while spicy foods also induce thirst.
  • Sweets and sugary foods are fast-burning and will only last for 3-4 hours. Moreover, these will turn into fat, increase cholesterol levels and make you gain weight.
  • Fried foods are unhealthy and should be limited. They cause indigestion, heartburn and weight problems.

What to drink:

Drink sufficient water between Iftar and bedtime to avoid dehydration.

Drinks with high caffeine content (coffee, tea, chocolate, sodas and even decaffeinated teas and coffees) should be avoided. Caffeine leaches calcium from your system, which means you feel less full all the time.

Avoid drinking tea at suhoor (dawn), as tea increases salt excretion in the urine, which is needed for your body during fasting.

Do not skip Suhoor:

Dieticians warn that those who are fasting should not skip the morning meal as this is needed to get you through the day. Many people eat a late night meal and sleep through till the dawn prayers. This is not advisable.

Self-discipline:

As Ramadan fasting is basically an exercise in self-discipline, for those who are chain smokers, food nibblers or caffeine addicts (coffee, tea, coke, and chocolate), it is a good opportunity to break the habit, hoping that the effect will continue when the month is over.

It is best to start weaning yourself off your daily fixes well before Ramadan to minimise cravings.

Fasting and weight loss:

Fasting is a good way of losing weight, however some people even put on weight during Ramadan. The basic equation is simple – you must balance the calories that you take in with the calories that go out. If you consistently eat more calories than you burn, you will tend to store up the excess as fat. Exercising will help you maintain your body weight; it will help burn calories and get rid of stress.

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