Dubai: The month of Ramadan provides a unique opportunity to reconnect with our bodies, as well as our minds and our faith. When performed mindfully, fasting can create many lasting health benefits and create a natural detox. Gulf News speaks to Dr Ryan Penny, a Homeopathic Practitioner at The Hundred Wellness Centre, and Farah Hillou a licenced nutritionist, registered dietician and a certified practitioner of functional nutrition.
Both give tips for a healthy and revitalising Ramadan.
Exercise while fasting if you want to burn more calories
Ryan: Movement can change your mindset and give your mood a boost. Try to commit to a 30 to 60-minute slow walk just before Iftar. Low intensity exercises are recommended before breaking your fast as they reduce the risk of injury, allow you to burn fat in a fasted state and provide an excellent distraction. But if you want more of an intense training, it is best to wait approximately two hours after iftar for high intensity exercises such as weight training or cardio, so that you can safely digest first.
Is it possible to lose weight in Ramadan?
Ryan: If you are currently trying to lose weight, Ramadan doesn’t have to cause a pause in your regime. Try to end your fast with a large glass of water alongside some watermelon or berries. Fruits with a high-water content fill your stomach quickly, which will reduce your hunger and allow you to make healthier choices for the rest of your meal.
Farah: Over-eating is very common, and it’s important that we stop eating when we are 80 per cent full. We also need to be mindful about chewing food thoroughly.
Eat iftar like this
Ryan: For iftar, start with something light such as a few dates, a salad or a soup. Dates can help balance the blood sugar levels after a day of fasting and stop you from overeating. Make sure you are drinking enough water; it is so important to keep your hydration levels as high as possible.
Farah: Always dates for a burst of energy, followed by room temperature water, a small bowl of soup (usually vegetable or lentil), and then salad (a bread-less fattoush for me). This is usually followed by a saucy stew prepared with mixed vegetables, a source of protein like meat or chicken, and a controlled portion of rice or legumes.
Is meal prepping the solution?
Farah: Planning and preparing your meals beforehand can really save on time and energy. Knowing in advance what will be served for iftar and suhoor can be a relief particularly when several dishes are prepared and there is limited time. Cooking the day before or on weekends greatly helps. Writing down “the menu” helps envision it and pin-points any missing important key foods or nutrients like more vegetables.
Have a well-balanced suhoor
Ryan: Have a smoothie for suhoor. Smoothies and shakes provide an excellent option for suhoor, as they can be prepared the night before and stored in the fridge to grab when you wake up. Add protein powder, which helps you feel fuller for longer, as well as banana, avocado, berries or peanut butter. The blend of protein, carbohydrates and fat will provide a balanced meal to set you up for the day.
Farah: Or make energy balls instead. I often go for a few energy balls that I’ve prepared earlier (with dates, nuts, nut butter, seeds) - or a fruit (banana/berries) with a handful of nuts (almonds/walnuts) - or a slice of wholegrain gluten free toast with hummus and chopped vegetables - or gluten free oats with almond milk, almond butter, pumpkin seeds and fruit.
Consider taking supplements
Ryan: In order to keep your body and immune system in the best possible condition while fasting, it might be helpful to take some supplements and vitamins alongside your daily meals.
With iftar, take enzymes, peppermint oil, ginger or psyllium to support digestion and absorption and reduce bloating. Take an immunomodulator with your evening meal, which supports optimal immune function, strengthening the body against disease causing agents such as viruses, bacteria and fungi.
At suhoor, consider a natural multivitamin with minerals that will further benefit your health.