Fasting can be a healthy habit that benefits the body and boosts mental and physical health.
The benefits of fasting
The holy month of Ramadan is an opportunity for meditation, prayer, worship, self-improvement, and good deeds, moreover, it can boost health through fasting, as its most prominent benefits include:
Regulating harmful cholesterol: Fasting decreases blood cholesterol, which reduces the risk of heart attacks, strokes and other diseases.
Maintaining normal blood sugar levels.
Reducing appetite: Fasting gets the body accustomed to eating smaller amounts of food, which gives the digestive system a chance to rest and shrinks the stomach gradually and reduces appetite, which leads to better results than diets.
Burning fat: Fasting pushes the body to burn its fat reserves, which cleanses the body of harmful toxins.
Promoting mental health: the process of fasting boosts mood, memory and learning ability, as it is considered an effective way to recharge the brain and enable it to withstand stress and adapt to change.
Adopting a healthy lifestyle: Ramadan is a golden opportunity to promote healthy habits such as eating fruits and vegetables, drinking water and quitting smoking, which helps adopt a healthy lifestyle after Ramadan.
The meal consumed right before fasting, which is known as Suhoor, is one of the most important meals in Ramadan, given that it has to contain the following foods:
Dates: rich in iron and natural sugars which provide the body with energy, as well as fibres, potassium, magnesium, calcium and many antioxidants, dates are an essential element of every Suhoor meal.
Yoghurt or milk: dairy products provide the stomach and digestive system with beneficial bacteria, furthermore, it is a good source of calcium and protein, which help hydrate the body.
Vegetables: lettuce and cucumbers contain vitamins, salt and fibres, in addition, their high water content provides the body with much-needed fluids during fasting, which protects from constipation and reduces thirst during fasting.
Brown bread or whole grains and oats: a good source of carbohydrates that are slowly digested, which gives the body energy for a long time.
Eggs, white cheese and dairy products: an excellent source of calcium and protein, necessary for bone health.
Water: water is an essential and indispensable component of a healthy suhoor table, as drinking sufficient amounts of water is key at the suhoor meal as well as throughout the post-fasting period, to compensate for the fluids loss and avoid dehydration problems.
Avoiding heavy foods and those that cause thirst: one should stay clear of hot and spicy foods, soft drinks, salty foods such as salted nuts and fish, fried foods, and sweets that contain a lot of oils, butter and sugar, during Ramadan.
It is part of prophet Muhammad’s Sunnah to start by eating dates because it contains easily absorbed sugars, that can reach the blood circulation quickly, which is exactly what the fasting person needs after long hours of abstaining from food.
Consuming enough water, milk or juice such as watermelon juice before starting to eat, to avoid dehydration and supply the body with the necessary fluids.
Furthermore, drinking soup prepares the stomach to receive food and supplies the body with part of the lost fluids during the day, which helps avoid indigestion.
The main course can be consumed after 15-30 minutes of eating dates and drinking soup and praying, and it must contain a type of starch-rich food such as rice or pasta, as well as a type of meat such as red meat, chicken or fish alongside cooked vegetables.
Many people suffer from lethargy after breaking the fast and find it hard to complete the activities of the day, especially performing Tarawih prayers, thus it is important to eat the meal gradually and avoid fatty and fried foods such as samosas and fried potatoes, which provide the body with a relatively large number of calories and cause indigestion.
Furthermore, it is recommended to avoid soft drinks and make sure to eat salad and fruit.
Another important recommendation is reducing the consumption of coffee in Ramadan and refraining from its consumption until at least two hours after Iftar and during Suhoor to avoid fluid loss.
Tips for diabetics in Ramadan
A person suffering from diabetes can still fast during the month of Ramadan, after consulting a specialist doctor to assess his health condition and his ability to fast, and the following tips can help diabetics fast:
Hasten to break the fast and delay Suhoor as much as possible.
Maintain the daily amount of food that is determined by a nutritionist.
Divide the amount of food into four parts, so that you eat meals including Iftar, suhoor and two snacks in between.
Keep your usual routine and rest in the afternoon and avoid exertion during fasting hours to avoid hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).
Avoid exposure to high temperatures to reduce fluid loss and dehydration.
Eat enough fresh vegetables and fruits because they are rich in water and fibre.
Avoid foods that are rich in salt as well as soft drinks that contain a large amount of sugar.
Monitor your blood sugar and break the fast if your blood sugar levels drop too low to avoid suffering from a diabetic coma.
By: Dr. Badreyya Al-Harmi, Consultant Public Health, Emirates Public Health Association