The Holy Month of Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim calendar, a time when individuals concentrate on their faith, a time of worship and contemplation. This is also the month of fasting and prayers, where people fast from dawn to dusk. This is a time when the body rejuvenates itself, the blood supply goes less to the stomach and more to the heart, also helps remove fats deposits from blood vessels. Fasting helps us detoxify by removing toxins from stomach and intestines and also boosts our immune system and has better insulin sensitivity.
If we eat sensibly during this time we can reap full benefits. With the scorching summer heat and a daily fasting period of about 15 hours, adapting to the changes in eating habits and daily routine affect different people in different ways. Though the body experiences erratic changes eating well and eating right will give your body the nourishment it needs and bring about the discipline into fasting whilst preparing your body to adapt with the sudden routine change.
Although fasting during Ramadan can get difficult, bearing in mind the below will ensure good health and avoid health problems.
- What happens to your body during the fast
The body typically enters into a fasting state eight hours after Suhoor, when the nutrients from your last meal are absorbed. During this period, glucose which is the body’s normal source of energy begins to deplete gradually and fat becomes the substituting source of energy required by your body. Helping your body adjust to the changes depends on what you consume during this time. Choosing foods that are nutrient dense over energy dense will help you sustain during those long fasting periods.
- Regulate meals and portions
Avoid skipping meals, especially the Suhoor meal. Eating slow carbs as you wake up will give you lasting energy through the day. If you don’t have a large appetite early in the morning, a glass of milk, few nuts and dates is recommended. For those who eat heavier meals in the morning, whole meal bread with egg or wheat kaboos with hummous or chicken is ideal. Fruits and vegetables are also beneficial. Remember to consume at least 2-3 glasses of water before you begin fasting not just to maintain better hydration levels throughout the day, but also help your body gets rid of toxins.
- Breaking your fast with a healthy diet
Generations have been breaking their fast at Iftar with dates for a very important reason which many are either unaware of or do not take into account. Dates are a perfect source of sugar as well as potassium that compensates for energy/glucose lost during the long fasting hours. After breaking your fast, go slow on your food intake. One should consume what is called ‘complex carbohydrates’ or slow digesting foods so that food lasts longer (about 8 hours) making you less hungry during the day. A mix of carbs, proteins, fruits and vegetables should be included in your meals. Try to avoid fried food . This is the ideal way to keep a good balance of all the nutrients your body needs after the fasting period. Light physical activity is also recommended and will help keep your body supple and fit.
- Fasting; A self-discipline
Fasting, especially for those who are chain-smokers, food nibblers or caffeine addicts (coffee, tea, coke, and chocolate) is an exercise in self-discipline. Fasting gives the individual the opportunity to break these bad habits. However, we need to keep in mind that it is extremely difficult to give these habits up all at once without prior notice. It is therefore advisable to begin weaning yourself off these daily fixes at least two weeks prior to Ramadan, this will make the transition smoother and will minimize craving during the actual fasting period.
Ramadan is the time to practice self-restraint, a time to cleanse the body from impurities and focus on others as well as your belief. Be safe and healthy this season – Ramadan Kareem!