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  • 7/19/2013

Healthy Ramadhan: Eat and Live Well

fruits and vegetables

Fasting during the month of Ramadhan can be good to your health if it’s done correctly.

Benefits of fasting during Ramadhan include:

· Fasting promotes weight loss

· Rests digestive system

· Resolves inflammatory diseases and allergies e.g. arthritis and skin conditions such as psoriasis

· Reduce blood glucose level

· Reduce cholesterol level

· Reduce high blood pressure

· Increase fat breakdown

· Fasting can help overcome addictions such as smoking, caffeine etc

Weight loss process

Stage 1- first response of the body to fasting is the breakdown of glucose for a source of energy.

Stage 2- When the store of glucose is exhausted, ketosis begins; this is the breakdown of fats to release energy.

So Ramadhan can be the ideal time to lose weight and be healthier, but only if we remember to eat well. Here are some pointers to help you maximise the benefits.

Don’t skip Suhoor

Some people skip Suhoor, the pre-dawn meal, and prefer to eat through the night instead of waking up in the early hours of the morning. But doing so can slow down metabolism, leading to weight gain and lethargy.

As the clock is essentially reversed when you fast all day and eat all night, feasting during the non-fasting hours is quite unhealthy. It is better to eat Suhoor and catch up with sleep later in the day rather than give up on the essential nutrients needed while fasting. Allow your metabolism to reset as your body begins to change the way it does things.

Have a light Iftar

Traditionally, Iftar around the world consists of rich, greasy, fried and sugary dishes, as people view the meal as a treat - a form of compensation for fasting. Following a long fast, people also tend to eat considerably more than usual in a short span of time.

It is recommended to break the fast with a few dates and water, following the Sunnah (practice) of Prophet Muhammad. Dates have a revitalising effect, similar to fruit juices, while water rehydrates and reduces the chances of over-indulgence.

Dates are good source of sugars. They are sufficient to bring low blood glucose level to normal level. Dates are considered the best source of quick energy in the form of sugar as they contain many important minerals such as magnesium, phosphorous, zinc, potassium, calcium, iron, selenium, fibre, vitamin B and Vitamin K. The mineral content of dates is good for red blood cells, bones, teeth and blood clotting.

Follow this with a few lighter snacks, perhaps taking a short break to complete prayer before having a balanced dinner – start with a soup and salad and remember to pace yourself; it takes 20 minutes for the stomach to tell the brain that it is full. You can also slow down your meal by drinking plenty of water to start stretching the stomach earlier and make you feel full.

After a large meal, blood sugar levels spike, causing our pancreas to secrete a lot of insulin to bring the levels back down. This extra sugar is stored as fat. So, in order to maintain an even level of blood sugar, it is better to eat small, well-proportioned meals and snacks throughout the evening rather than a heavy meal in one go.

Recommended foods and what to avoid

Throughout the month, we basically have an early breakfast, skip lunch and eat dinner at dusk. But what exactly should we be eating?

It is best to keep food intake simple but varied, covering all the major groups: fruit, vegetables, carbohydrates, meat, fish and dairy.

Eating more complex carbohydrates also helps release energy slowly during the long hours of fasting. These are found in foods such as barley, wheat, oats,rice, beans, lentils and wholemeal flour.

It is also good to up your fibre intake during Ramadhan, as this is digested slowly.

Fibre-rich foods include cereals, figs, bran, whole wheat, grains, seeds, potatoes, vegetables and almost all fruit (especially apricots and prunes). Leaving the skin on when eating a baked potato acts as a fibrous buffer that keeps some of the sugars away from the stomach. The more fibre you eat, the harder it is for the stomach to get at the sugars. So, it is better to leave the peel on apples, cucumbers, peaches, apricots, dates, kiwis, and other fruit.

Heavily processed, fast-burning foods that contain refined carbohydrates (sugar and white flour), as well as fatty food like cakes, biscuits, chocolates and sweets, should be avoided.

Nutritionists also recommend avoiding caffeine-based drinks such as tea, coffee and cola-based drinks, as caffeine is a diuretic that stimulates faster water loss, leading to dehydration.

Abstinence from water for 8 to 10 hours is not necessarily bad for health as the body has its own water conservation mechanism. But, make sure you consume plenty of water through the night to keep yourself hydrated during the fasting hours.

Are there any health risks during fasting?

· Heartburn- the thought of food and smell makes the brain to release more acid in the stomach, causing heartburn. Eating fatty food at night increase the risks of developing heartburn.

· Poor control of diabetes- if eating excess food.

· Unintentional weight gain.

How to avoid unintentional weight gain?

· Mix 200mls of hot/warm water with lemon- drink it before eating food, maximum 3 times a week as it can cause stomach ulcers.

· Mix Green tea, ginger and peppermint- drink it 1 hour after food. This will help to increase metabolism and therefore aid weight loss.

· Calories- remember the calorie content in each meal. The calorie content per day for men should not be more than 2000 and for women 1500.

Lastly, remember that Ramadhan is meant to be a time for Muslims to empathise with the poor and needy, so over-indulgence and elaborate feasts go against the principles of the month.

And since Ramadhan is a great time to start new good habits and stop the bad ones, why not continue eating this well - even after Ramadhan? Diets need a long-term commitment to show the benefits; you eat every day so use this time to kick-start a new healthy way of eating and living.




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