Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam. For many Muslims around the world, Ramadan means a month of fasting from sunrise to sunset, forgoing food and water during the day.
Fasting in the peak of summer can be challenging due to the long fasting hours and high temperatures and humidity. Long hours of fasting during Ramadan can also lead to people making wrong food choices when they open their fast.
“Besides eating healthy iftar and suhour meals, it is very important to hydrate well during the non-fasting hours,” says Dr Wafaa Ayesh, Director of Clinical Nutrition, DHA. “Including fruits and vegetables with high water content and staying indoors — especially when the sun is overhead — can also help in prevention of dehydration while fasting.”
Choosing the right food
Dr Wafaa explains that it is important to pay attention to the quality of the food you eat during Ramadan. Fasting for a whole month can be a challenge and often people experience certain dietary discomforts due to the change in eating routine. All these discomforts can be minimised with some preplanning and forethought.
Do not skip your suhour, or the pre-dawn meal. Unfortunately, some find it difficult to get up for their suhour. They would rather have a heavy meal before bedtime and sleep through to the morning. After a night of sleep, the body needs to replenish its nutrient stores to last throughout the day with minimal digestive discomfort. Starting the fast without the suhour meal can cause people to feel sluggish during the day and make it difficult to sustain the fasting.
It is important to plan suhour meals — eat slow-digesting and absorbable foods that are rich in fibres such as complex carbohydrates (whole-wheat breads, rice, pasta, potatoes and wholewheat grains such as bulgur). These foods give energy that can last for many hours unlike foods high in sugar, which provide energy for only a short time, and then lead to a drop in blood sugar levels, leading to low energy.
Eat protein-rich foods together with complex carbohydrates such as milk and dairy products (yoghurt, labneh and cheese, preferably white, which has a lower fat content) or legumes (beans or chickpeas) that will make you feel full for a longer period.
When it’s time to break the fast, avoid filling up on greasy foods in the form of cakes and deep-fried savoury snacks. For Iftar, break your fast with a few dates, a glass of fresh juice and a bowl of soup. Dates, juices and soups are good sources of carbohydrates and help bring your low blood glucose to normal levels. Liquids (water, juice and soup) also help maintain the fluid and electrolyte balance in the body and replenish whatever was lost during the day.
Having a light iftar and eating a healthy dinner consisting of proteins, complex carbs and vegetables a couple hours after iftar to avoid the risk overeating and causing indigestion.