Iftars can be lavish and luxurious events in this city. Whether you’re enjoying your friends and family’s hospitality, where there’s a rich array of dishes and different refreshments, or you are marking the occasion with a trip to one of Dubai’s numerous five-star hotels, to relax in a Ramadan tent, it can be difficult to resist the temptation to over indulge. When presented with a wealth of different cuts of meat, several types of fish and sumptuous displays of alluring sweets, it takes a strong willpower not to sample what’s on offer.
Nevertheless, if you’re fasting during Dubai’s long hot days, you may well pay a price if you decide to overindulge. Registered dietician and certified diabetes educator, Dubai Health Authority, Dr Inaam Kandil, recommends breaking your fast modestly, with water and dates. “People here are culturally used to eating dates, and they also contain good nutrients. They have sugar, fibre, vitamins, minerals and iron, so they are good to start with, when you’re ending your fast,” she says.
Dr Kandil advises that water is preferable to soft drinks, although you can end your fast with half a glass of fresh fruit juice if you prefer. “Fruit should be included in a meal if you’re fasting because the fructose that fruits contain, is slower to absorb than refined sugar. However, we don’t want people to exceed the limit of eating one fruit at a time or a cup of cut up fruit,” she says.
Broadly speaking Dr Kandil believes that people should try and stick to a balanced diet during the holy month and manage their portions as they should in their everyday lives. “If you’re eating a piece of meat, such as chicken or fish, it should weigh between 90 and 120g cooked,” she says. “This is the weight with no skin, no bones and no fat. In terms of starches, if it’s rice, depending on whether you’re a female or male, the portion should be between one or two cups of rice. For males, the portion should be between one and two cups, depending on the individual’s size, weight and energy levels.”
The dietician also recommends that people limit their red meat intake and that in general, they shouldn’t consume it more than two or three times a week. “This includes all forms of red meat, whether it’s a piece of steak, ground beef or any other type,” she says.
Dr Kandil believes that many people can become susceptible to social pressure when they attend iftar gatherings. She says moderation, when it comes to diet, “depends on people’s behaviour and their culture. During Ramadan, people don’t always stick to the meals they eat in their ordinary lives in their homes. They go to different majlis and houses, where food is laid out between iftar and suhour and there is a social pressure to eat. Sometimes people are embarrassed to turn food away and they feel forced to eat it, which is additional to what they should be eating.”
Hydration is key
Most specialists believe that between iftar and suhour, you should be drinking a minimum of six to eight glasses of water if you’re fasting. If, during the day, you become dehydrated, it will cause your blood sugar levels to rise, which could lead to complications, particularly if you’re diabetic. While Ramadan is a period of spirituality, charity and reflection, if you are fasting, you should remember to take small and sensible steps to ensure that the holy month doesn’t have a detrimental effect on your health.
Fasting and diabetes
According to Dr Kandil, the first and most important thing for diabetics is controlling their blood sugar. “If someone suffers from Type 2 diabetes and they already on medication, then fasting will help your diabetes, but the most important point is control,” she says.
If you suffer from Type 1 diabetes, you may be advised not to fast at all for medical reasons. “People who have Type 1 diabetes and who are on intensive insulin, and they have low or very high blood sugar, then those people should be exempted from fasting because it will cause more complications.
“Our policy is that all people with diabetes should visit the doctor one or two months prior to fasting to be evaluated for blood sugar control and any other complications,” she says.
Any caffeinated drink, whether it’s coffee, tea or a soda, should be consumed in moderation, especially during suhour. These drinks act as diuretics and they dehydrate people very quickly. In general, you shouldn’t be exceeding two cups between iftar and suhour.