Having Healthy Food during Ramadan really matters for those are diet conscious, have a look at the tips and precautions you need to take in this season.
Fasting and Health
Fasting during the holy month of Ramadan can be made healthy if it is carried out by understanding the physiology of fasting. When our body is starved the energy required for the day to day routine is made available from the fat reserves in our body, which of course leads to observable weight loss. When we exceed the limits of fasting that’s for longer durations our muscle protein starts to breakdown which is not good for our health.
We also very well know that the holy month of Ramadan is a spiritual essence, but not to be taken as an opportunity to lose weight. However one should look at the physical benefits of fasting along with the essence of spirituality.
Various source of energy during fasting
Our body goes into the fasting state only after it has completed the breakdown of the last meal consumed and its nutrients absorbed completely.
The end product of all food we consume is Glucose which is stored in Liver and in our muscles. As we fast it is this stored glucose from the liver and muscles serves as the primary source of energy. After this phase when the primary source of energy is depleted our body fat cells are broken down and become the secondary source of energy to our body. And if we continue our fasting without replenishing ourselves with food our body starts to breakdown the muscular proteins as the source of energy. It is here when we define that the person is starving which is unhealthy. The individual looks very thin and weak. But during the holy month of Ramadan we are unlikely to reach the stage of extreme starvation since we break the fast daily.
Essence of healthy fasting during the holy month of Ramadan
Spiritual Essence of Ramadan is “self-discipline and self-control”.
A typical day of Ramadan fast is from dawn to dusk, and we replenish our energy needs with Suhoor (Predawn meal) and Iftar (meal at dusk). These two meals help us maintain the minimum required source of energy. This ensures a smooth transition from using glucose as the main source of energy, to the breakdown of fats for the secondary source of energy thus preventing the breakdown of muscular protein for energy.
The above phenomenon leads to a steady loss of fat and preserving the muscular structure. There is also a marked reduction in the serum cholesterol levels. All these in turn help an individual to be in better control of chronic Hypertension and Diabetes. Few days of fasting also increases the levels of essential biochemical’s like endorphins in our blood circulations which gives us a feeling of well being both physically and mentally.
We should also understand that the Fat cells are the store houses of toxins in our body and during a fast these toxins are also removed from our body; the process is called “Detoxification”.
Healthy fasting is to have a balanced diet and adequate fluids before and after the fast. Our kidneys regulate the body water and salts (Sodium and Potassium) which are lost through perspiration (sweating).
Our meals should primarily constitute of carbohydrates which is the major source of energy and also a little fat. So a proportional balance of Carbohydrates, Fats and Proteins are required. Is these components of food are not taken in a balanced manner instead of losing weight there are more chances of gaining weight.
Planning a balanced diet
During the fast one should always have a minimum of two defined balanced meals that is the Suhoor (Predawn meal) and Iftar (meal at dusk); Our food intake should be simple and should not differ too much from our routine normal diet. Our diet during fasting should essentially constitute of:
- fruit and vegetables
- bread, cereals and potatoes
- meat, fish, or alternatives
- milk and dairy foods
- foods containing fat and sugar
- Complex carbohydrates and fibres
Complex carbohydrates and fibres: Foods such as Barley, Wheat, Oats, millets, semolina, beans, all kinds of lentils, whole meal flour, Basmati rice, help in a slow release of energy during the long hours of fasting. Bran, cereals, whole wheat, grains and seeds, potatoes with skin, green vegetables, green beans, fruits (all kinds) apricots, prunes, and figs are slowly digested.
Healthy Meal Plan
It is a tradition that a fast is always broken by eating dates which provide an instant burst of energy. Drink plenty of water which shall rehydrate the system and will reduce the urge of over eating after a daylong fast and followed by dinner. It is also advised to follow the same for the Suhoor too.
Suhoor (pre-dawn meal)
The early morning Suhoor should be generally a light meal generally eaten about half an hour to one hour before dawn. The diet should be a balanced one and can be less in quantity than we normally eat.
- Whole wheat or oat cereal or whole wheat bread, 1-2 servings with a cup of milk; 1-2 servings of fruits, as a last item.
- A bowl of porridge with milk, one slice of toast and a handful of unsalted nuts; 1-2 servings of fruits, as a last item.
- Wheat-based cereal with milk, a plain scone or crumpet ; 1-2 servings of fruits, as a last item.
- A bowl of shredded wheat or breakfast cereal; 1-2 servings of fruits, as a last item.
- Cheese, then one teaspoon of jam with crackers or toast, and a handful of dried fruits; 1-2 servings of fruits, as a last item.
Iftar (meal at dusk)
Iftar is the time when we have to replenish our lost energy levels hence the food we are going to consume should constitute all major food groups.
- Chicken with boiled rice, vegetables and mixed salad; 1-2 servings of fruits, as a last item.
- Whole wheat bread with chicken, salad and hummus; 1-2 servings of fruits, as a last item.
- Baked fish with roasted vegetables with rice followed by 1-2 servings of fruits, as a last item.
- Pasta cooked with vegetables and chicken or fish, and a slice of plain cake with custard; 1-2 servings of fruits, as a last item.
- Fruits and mixed nuts may be eaten as a snack after dinner or tarawiaha or before sleep.
Dinner Meal Classification: Consume foods from all the following food groups:
- Chicken, beef, lamb, goat, fish, 1-2 servings (serving size = a slice =1 oz)
- Green pea, chickpea (garbanzo, chana, humus), green gram, black gram, lentil, lima bean and other beans, 1 serving (half cup). Beans are a good source of dietary fiber.
- Meat and beans are a good source of protein, minerals, and certain vitamins.
- Whole wheat bread, 2 servings (serving size = 1 oz) or cooked rice, one cup or combination. This is a good source of complex carbohydrates, which are a good source of energy and provide some protein, minerals, and dietary fiber.
- Milk or buttermilk, yogurt or cottage cheese (one cup).
- Those who cannot tolerate whole milk (Lactose intolerance) must try fermented products such as buttermilk and yogurt.
- Milk and dairy products are good sources of protein and calcium, which are essential for body tissue maintenance and several physiological functions.
- Mixed vegetable salad, 1 serving (one cup) which can constitute of lettuce, carrot, parsley, cucumber, broccoli, leaves of coriander, cauliflower or other vegetables in desired quantity. Add 2 teaspoons of olive oil or any polyunsaturated oil and 2 spoons of vinegar. Polyunsaturated fat provides the body with essential fatty acids and keto acids.
- Cooked (Steamed) vegetables such as guar beans, French beans, okra, eggplant, bottle gourd, cabbage, spinach, 1 serving (4 oz).
- Vegetables are a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin A, carotene, lycopenes, and other phytochemicals, which are antioxidants. These are helpful in the prevention of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and many other health problems.
- 1-2 servings of citrus and/or other fruits.
- Eat fruits as the last item of the dinner or soon after dinner, to facilitate digestion and prevent many gastrointestinal problems.
- Citrus fruits provide vitamin C. Fruits are a good source of dietary fiber.
Healthy suggestions during the holy month of Ramadan fasting
- Drink sufficient water between Iftar and sleep to avoid dehydration.
- Consume sufficient vegetables at meals.
- Always eat fruits at the end of the meal but remember to wait for a while before so as not disturb the food processing in your stomach i.e. fermentation, bloating etc..
- Avoid intake of high sugar (table sugar, sucrose) foods through sweets or other forms. Avoid spicy foods.
- Avoid caffeine drinks such as coke, coffee or tea. Caffeine is a diuretic and it stimulates faster water loss and water loss through urination. Three days to five days before Ramadan gradually reduce the intake of these drinks. A sudden decrease in caffeine prompts headaches, mood swings and irritability.
- Smoking is a health risk factor. Avoid smoking cigarettes. If you cannot give up smoking, cut down gradually starting a few weeks before Ramadan. Smoking negatively affects utilization of various vitamins, metabolites and enzyme systems in the body.
- Do not forget to brush your teeth before sleep and after Sahoor. Brush more than two times or as many times as practical.
- Normal or overweight people should not gain weight. For overweight people Ramadan is an excellent opportunity to lose weight. Underweight or marginally normal weight people are discouraged from losing weight. Analyzing a diet’s energy and nutritional component, using food composition tables or computer software, will be useful in planning an appropriate diet.
- It is recommended that everyone engage in some kind of light exercise, such as stretching or walking. It’s important to follow good time management practices for Ibada (prayer and other religious activities), sleep, studies, job, and physical activities or exercise.
- Sick people, travelers, and women in certain conditions are exempted from the fast but must make it up as they are able. Perhaps fasting in Ramadan is the most widely practiced of all the Muslim forms of worship.
This Ramadan let us attain full benefits from good dietary habits along with the spiritual essence of self-discipline and self-control so by the time the fasting month ends, you will feel both spiritual and healthier.