The holy month of Ramadan is a great opportunity to focus on bringing back a balanced and healthy lifestyle.
Fasting in Ramadan can improve your health only if you follow a proper diet.
What happens to the body during fasting? The body enters into a fasting state 8 hrs after the last meal, when nutrients from the food have been fully absorbed.
In the normal state, body glucose, which is stored in the liver and muscles, is the body’s main source of energy.
During a fast, this store of glucose is used up first to provide energy. When the glucose stores have run out later in the fast, fat becomes the next source of energy for the body.
In severely prolonged fasting periods, the body will start to use protein for energy. This is known as starvation and is proven to be unhealthy since the protein is being released from the breakdown of muscles.
However during Ramadan, fasting extends from dawn till dusk so that you could replenish energy stores in the non fasting hours and hence this prevents the breakdown of muscle from protein.
It is important to have balanced food and fluid intake between fasts. Your diet should be simple and not differ too much from your usual intake on normal days.
What are the benefits to fasting? Our body needs a lot of Energy to digest the food. Fasting enables the digestive system to rest and this saved energy goes to cleansing and detoxifying the body.
Fasting is beneficial in the following situations:
- May help in weight loss if done correctly
- May help to reduce bad blood cholesterol levels and increase good cholesterol (HDL)
- Fasting is a blessing to help overcome addictions- to caffeine, nicotine, alcohol.
- May help to alleviate disorders of the gastrointestinal system, like constipation, bloating, and gastritis.
- Acts like a period of cleansing which gives your liver and kidneys a chance to detoxify by eliminating metabolic wastes and toxins
May help refresh the body and increase energy and concentration
During this holy month, you should have two main meals (Iftar and Suhoor ) plus a light meal and small healthy snacks in between. There should be a relevant amount of time spaced out between meals, and Suhoor should be taken as late as possible.
- To break your fast, always start with a cup of water to rehydrate your body, followed by a source of carbohydrate( dates or fresh juice since they are a quick source of Energy and easily digested.)
You can have low fat soups (eg. Broth) which also aid in digestion and rehydration in addition to a variety of salads with low fat dressings as well.
- Your main meal should constitute of a variety of foods from all groups.
Lean meats, chicken or fish cooked or grilled as source of Protein. Potato, brown rice or whole grain breads or pastas as a source of carbohydrates.
- Make sure to include a lot of vegetables and avoid the use of butter or shortening for cooking.
- Make fruits your dessert snacks!
- As for the suhoor (pre-dawn meal), it should be a wholesome moderate meal that provides energy for the rest of your day. Therefore it’s important to include complex carbohydrates foods that help release energy slowly during the long hours of fasting. Such foods are found in grains and seeds, like barley, wheat, oats, millets, beans, lentils…
- Avoid sweets and refined simple carbohydrates on this meal to avoid feeling hungry the rest of the day.
- Increase intake of fiber- rich foods (these are digested easily too), bran, cereals, leafy vegetables, green beans and fruits like figs, prunes,,..
- Stay hydrated! Drink around 6-8 cups of water daily to help your body replenish the lost fluids.
- Avoid caffeine found in tea, coffee or some drinks because it acts as a diuretic.