During the Holy month of Ramadan, healthy adult Muslims practice daily fasting from dawn until sunset. Traditionally, one breaks the fast at sunset with a meal called Iftar and then eats again pre-dawn at Suhoor.
By following simple guidelines, it may help you lose weight and decrease blood pressure and cholesterol. Alternatively, over-indulging at Iftar and Suhoor can cause weight gain. The Holy month is often seen as a time to practice self-control, self-discipline, sacrifice and empathy for those less fortunate. It is encouraged to try to maintain these practices even outside of fasting hours.
At the same time fasting during Ramadan carries a high risk of dehydration as food and drink are limited to before sunrise and after sunset. Furthermore, as fasting individuals are encouraged to wake up very early to have their Suhoor (or pre-dawn meal), sleep deprivation and dehydration can lead to headaches.
Here are some tips on healthy fasting:
• Drink plenty of water and eat hydrating foods during Ramadan
Drink plenty of water between Iftar and Suhoor. High temperatures can also make you sweat more, so it is important to drink fluids to replace what you lose during the day (at least 10 glasses). You can also increase water intake by eating hydrating foods. Try adding watermelon to your Suhoor meal or eat it as a sweet treat after Iftar. The traditional Arabic fattoush salad contains plenty of hydrating cucumber and tomato. Avoid caffeinated drinks such as coffee, tea and cola, because caffeine can make some people urinate more often, which may lead to dehydration. Also remember that fizzy drinks with sugar will add calories to your diet.
• Consume the right foods at Suhoor to last through the fasting hours
Suhoor should be a wholesome meal providing you with enough energy to last until Iftar. Choose the right foods to sustain you through the fast. Eating complex carbohydrates, such as fruit and vegetables, beans, chickpeas and lentils, will provide you with a long-lasting source of energy throughout the day. Include low fat dairy products, such as low fat labneh or laban, with your meal and try to incorporate healthy unsaturated fats like avocado, unsalted nuts, salmon, olives and olive oil.
• Replenish your energy levels by eating a healthy, balanced Iftar
Eating three dates to break your fast is a traditional and healthy way to begin Iftar. Dates are an excellent source of fibre. Incorporate plenty of vegetables to provide vital vitamins and nutrients. Choose whole grains, which provide the body with energy and fibre. Enjoy grilled or baked lean meat, skinless chicken and fish, to get a good portion of healthy protein. In general, avoid fried and processed foods high in fat or sugar. Enjoy your meal and avoid overeating by eating slowly.
Aside from the unhealthy weight gain, consuming fatty and sugary foods also cause sluggishness and fatigue. In addition, you should limit your intake of salt, especially during Suhoor, as this increases thirst.
• Don’t skip Suhoor
As the saying goes, ‘breakfast is the most important meal of the day’. And during Ramadan, it becomes even more important!
Although skipping Suhoor to have uninterrupted sleep may sound appealing, you shouldn’t.
Skipping Suhoor prolongs the fasting period as your body will need to rely on the previous meal to provide you with all the nutrients and energy until Iftar (dinner). Due to the longer hours of fasting, you are more likely to feel dehydrated and tired during the day. Furthermore, skipping Suhoor also encourages overeating during Iftar, which can cause unhealthy weight gain.
So what to eat during Iftar and Suhoor?
Iftar is the time you replenish energy level so every effort should be made to consume foods from all major food groups: fruit and vegetables, rice and alternatives, as well as meat and alternatives (which include dairy). Suhoor needs to be wholesome to provide enough energy to last during the long hours of fasting.
Thus, to have balanced and healthy Ramadan Iftar and Suhoor should include the following foods:
• Fruits and vegetables
Rich in fibre, fruits and vegetables are essentials during fasting as they increase the feeling of fullness and help prevent constipation. They also contain vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals that are vital for good health.
• Rice and alternatives
High-fibre carbohydrate foods like brown rice and wholemeal bread take longer to digest, helping to sustain energy levels longer.
• Meat and alternatives
Skinless chicken, fish and low-fat dairy products are a great source of protein while limiting your fat intake. Furthermore, they help repair and build body tissue, and build up your immune system. Consuming high-calcium dairy products also helps maintain strong bones. Those that are lactose intolerant can choose lactose-free milk or calcium-fortified soybean milk.
A well-balanced diet is key to healthy fasting during Ramadan!
Pentacare is wishing you and your family healthy, blessed and prosperous Ramadan!