The holy month of Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and a time when many Muslims across the world fast during daylight hours for 29-30 days. During Ramadan (the word comes from the Arabic root ramiḍa or ar-ramaḍ, which means scorching heat or dryness) abstinence from food and drink between sunrise and sunset is required of most Muslims. Fasting has been known to cause fatigue, dehydration, headaches, dizziness and low blood sugar among other side effects. In order to avoid health risks, those fasting need to obtain the proper nutrients for healthy eating in order to have sufficient energy throughout the day.
Such diets should be a simple meal and not necessarily a feast and should not differ substantially from your normal everyday diet. Nutritionists urge for the consumption of food from all the major food groups, equally distributed between the two meal times. These include proteins, carbohydrates and vitamins. You hold the key to enjoy Iftar and Suhour by including the following meals in your diet.
Suhoor (pre-dawn meal)
These meals should comprise foods that provide long lasting energy which are carbohydrates and high-fibre foods such as wholewheat, oats, beans, and rice. Fruits and vegetables are foods rich in fibre and are digested slowly. Besides, they are a great snack between meals, and a healthy alternative to pastries and sweets usually consumed during Ramadan. For maintenance of salt and water levels in the body intake of fresh juice, water and fruits such as cucumbers, watermelons, melons, squash and pumpkins is important.
Iftar (post-dusk meal)
Most muslims like breaking their fast with dates and water because they help restore sugar and salt levels in the body thus rehydrating the body. Dates are not only easily digestible, sugar rich and full of energy, prevent constipation due to changing meal times, but also prepare the stomach for food after many hours of hunger and prevent overeating. After the dates one can take soup which is warm and soothing to the stomach. Soup provides the body with fluids, vitamins and minerals while offering a great way to incorporate vegetables.
What to avoid
Avoid caffeine, tea or cold drinks because they stimulate faster water loss due to urination, leading to dehydration. Also, try dry frying or grilling chicken, fish, meat or other foods. If you have to use oil, reduce the quantity and go for mono saturated fats (good fats) such as canola, corn oil and sunflower.
Do not work out during fasting hours. Do so when energy levels are at their best and rehydration is possible, such as after Iftar. Allow at least 2-3 hours after eating to begin your exercise routine, to give your body enough time to digest properly. Maintain hydration throughout your workout and don’t forget to drink plenty of water after, to replenish the water and mineral losses due to sweating. Water regulates your body temperature, lubricates your joints and transports nutrients throughout your body. Staying hydrated is particularly important during exercise.
Consult a doctor prior to Ramadan, if you are ill such as diabetes patients taking medication to control the levels of insulin in their bodies. The elderly, pregnant women, and the children should also seek guidance from a doctor on how to go about fasting.
If these rules are followed, this religious journey will not only be pleasant, but surely a fit and healthy nutritious trip that can be continued even after the fast has passed.