Islam encourages Muslims to make sure they are mindful of their health. Ramadan, the month of fasting for Muslims, creates a great opportunity for focusing on a balanced and healthy lifestyle. This month requires one to give the stomach a break, and by doing so one is able to expel the accumulated toxins from the body.
Here are some of top tips for eating healthy during that short time of a day in the month of Ramadan. So, to help one follow all the right habits, here is a list of simple tips to keep one and one's family healthy and happy throughout the month, when we're fasting for long hours, some of us in very hot climates or in the summer.
When fasting, we're slowly being dehydrated over the course of the day. So, once we break our fast and during the non-fasting period we need to have foods that put water into our body, not deplete it further. Fluids are very important for the health and vitality of the body during the fasting period and it is important to drink plenty of water, in addition to other refreshing drinks. It can be difficult to eat a lot of watermelon even though they're super-hydrating foods, but one can make juices out of the fruits and soups out of vegetables to give the body the additional water it needs.
Dietitians/nutritionists can tailor nutritional care to the lifestyle in Ramadan. The following are strategies to use to support a fasting family. A great way to break the fast is to enjoy the favourite dates. The fruit is extremely effective in raising the blood sugar quickly, because they're easily and quickly absorbed. One can also consider having coconut water and fruity drinks which are super-hydrating. They can be consumed at Suhoor or at Iftar. One can consider limiting coffee and tea, which are very dehydrating to the body, to about a half of what you normally drink.
All carbohydrates are required to be minimised during Ramadan. Complex carbohydrates are foods that help release energy slowly during the long hours of fasting. They are found in foods such as barley, wheat, oats, beans, lentils, whole meal flour and basmati rice. When one has one's carbohydrates, one should be sure about pairing them with protein-rich foods like beans, meat or eggs to balance.
Suhoor should be light and include slow-digesting food like pitta bread, salad, cereal (especially oats) or toast, so that one has a constant release of energy. Suhoor is an important meal that provides you with energy and hydration for the next fasting day.
The foods that should be avoided in Ramadan are deep-fried foods such as pakoras, samosas, high-sugar and high-fat foods including sweets such as gulab jamun, rasgulla and balushahi, high-fat cooked foods like parathas and oily curries. Here healthy alternatives are baked samosas, chapattis made without oil, baked or grilled meat and chicken, milk-based sweets and puddings such as rasmalai and barfee.
Cooking methods are a big part of balanced diet in Ramadan. Deep frying, frying and excessive use of oil are harmful. Cooking methods like shallow frying, grilling or baking are healthier, especially with chicken and fish.
Avoid fried and spicy foods as they may cause heartburn or indigestion and salty food too, as this can make feel thirsty during long hours of fasting. Plan the menu so as to avoid constipation, acidity, kidney stone, lethargy, dehydration, muscle cramps, headache, low blood sugar etc. which are the common health problems during Ramadan.
One needs to drink eight glasses of water daily from Iftar to Suhour to prevent dehydration and constipation. One should not try to drink excess fluids at night in fear of thirst during the day. This will lead to abdominal distress. Have a balanced varied Iftar which incorporates dates, soup, salad, a main dish, fruits . Don't eat a wide variety of foods at night or Suhour especially foods high in fat, thinking that they will prevent hunger pangs during the day. Avoid eating large amounts of food at Iftar which will lead to extreme fullness.
I'm not advocating that everyone forgot their favourite samosas or empanadas at Iftar. I love them, too! But, I do know that it is possible to bake them instead of frying. So, consider that option. Fried foods are heavy in oil and that makes them harder to digest, especially when they're the first foods to be eaten after a long fast.
These healthy meal ideas will give one a varied and balanced diet during this summer Ramadan. This will help one make more informed choices, minimise complications and maximise the benefit of fasting.
The writer is Chief Consulting Nutritionist & CEO, Weight Management Centre (Miss Nutritionist)
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