How to fast healthily during Ramadan
With the month of Ramadan upon us it is useful to look at ways of trying to maintain a healthy diet whilst fasting. Fasting for 12 to 24 hours or more can lead to dizziness and fatigue and a lowering of metabolic rate as a means of conserving calories or energy. Here are some simple guidelines to make sure that your diet remains balanced and healthy during this fasting period:
Don't skip breakfast (Suhoor)
Eat a wide variety of foods
· Breads, cereals and other grain products
· Fruit and vegetables
· Meat, fish and poultry
· Milk, cheese and yoghurt
· Fats and sugars (these are low in nutrients & high in calories, so limit intake!)
Eat low glycaemic (GI) foods at breakfast to help control blood sugar levels
Be aware of your cooking methods
· Always trim off excess fat from before cooking, or use venison, chicken and soya as lower fat options. Remove poultry skin & choose light meat (eg. breast).
· Cut down on fat intake during cooking:
- cook onions in a little water or vegetable stock rather than oil or butter
- use non-stick frying pans & non-stick sprays rather than oil or margarine
- bake, grill or roast foods rather than frying
- cook roasted meat or poultry on a wire rack so that the fat can drip off
- Steam or boil vegetables
- when preparing rice, noodles & other grains, season with herbs, spices & broths rather than added fat
- prepare soups, gravies & sauces in advance, so that they can be refrigerated, allowing you to remove the layer of fat that forms on top.
- Use herbs and spices to add flavour & zest to low-fat cooking. Basil, bay leaf, oregano, & rosemary add distinctive flavours & colours to meat & vegetables. Spices, like cinnamon, ginger & nutmeg enhance the sweet taste of foods, & seasoning blends, such as chilli powder, curry powder provide a complex array of flavours
· Avoid taking in too much salt
- Use garlic, dry mustard, pepper, onions, mushrooms & tomatoes to add flavour to meat and vegetables
- Add sliced lemon or lemon juice to white meats & fish
· Make healthy changes to recipes
Eat enough carbohydrate foods - especially those rich in fibre
Remember your fruits and vegetables
Drink sufficient fluid
We all know that maintaining a balanced diet by eating healthily has a vital influence on your well being. Try following the above principles so that this fast period does not sway too much from the principles of good nutrition.
This article provides useful advice on how to avoid some common problems encountered in Ramadhan. The advice should enable one to fast comfortably and enjoy fully the spiritual benefits of Ramadhan.
During Ramadhan, our diet should not differ greatly from normal and should be as simple as possible. We should be able to maintain our normal weight, neither losing nor gaining. However, if one is over-weight, Ramadhan is an ideal time to lose weight.
We should aim to consume slow digesting foods including fiber-containing foods. Slow-digesting foods last up to 8 hours, while fast-digesting foods last only 3 to 4 hours.
Slow-digesting foods are foods that contain grains and seeds like barley, wheat, oats, semolina, beans, lentils, whole meal flour, etc. (complex carbohydrates).
Fast-burning foods are foods that contain sugar, white flour, etc. (refined carbohydrates).
Fibre-containing foods are bran-containing foods, whole wheat, grains, seeds, vegetables like green beans, peas, sem (papry), marrow, mealies, spinach, methie, fruit with skin, dried fruit especially dried apricots, figs and prunes, almonds, etc.
Meals should be well-balanced, containing foods from each food group, i.e. fruits, vegetables, meat/chicken/fish, bread/cereals and dairy products. Fried foods should be limited. They cause indigestion, heart-burn, and weight problems.
Fried and fatty foods.
Foods containing too much sugar.
Over-eating especially at sehri.
Too much tea at sehri. Tea makes you pass more urine taking with it valuable mineral salts that your body would need during the day.
Smoking cigarettes. If you cannot give up, cut down gradually starting a few weeks before Ramadhan.
Complex carbohydrates at sehri so that the food lasts longer.
Haleem is an excellent source of protein and is a slow-burning food.
Dates are excellent source of sugar, fibre, carbohydrates, potassium & magnesium.
Almonds are rich in protein and fibre with less fat.
Bananas are a good source of potassium, magnesium and carbohydrates.
As much water or fruit juices as possible between iftar and bedtime so that your body may adjust fluid levels in time.
Problems to Avoid
Constipation can cause piles (haemorroids), fissures (cracks in anal canal) and indigestion, with a bloated feeling.
Causes: Too much refined foods, too little water and not enough fibre in the diet.
INDIGESTION AND WIND
Causes: Over-eating. Excessive fried and fatty foods, spicy foods, and foods that produce wind e.g. eggs, cabbage, lentils, fizzy drinks like Cola also produce gas.
Remedy: Do not over-eat, drink fruit juices or water. Avoid fried foods, add ajmor to wind-producing foods.
LETHARGY ('low blood pressure')
Causes: Too little fluid intake, decreased salt intake.
Remedy: Keep cool, increase fluid and salt intake.
Causes: Caffeine and tobacco-withdrawal, too much exercise, lack of sleep, hunger usually occur during the day and worsen towards the evening. When associated with "low blood pressure", the headache can be quite severe and can also cause nausea before Iftar.
Remedy: Cut down caffeine and tobacco slowly starting a week or two before Ramadhan. Herbal and caffeine-free teas may be substituted. Reorganise your schedule during the Ramadan so as to have adequate sleep.
LOW BLOOD SUGAR
Weakness, dizziness, tiredness, poor concentration, perspiring easily, feeling shaky (tremor), headache, and palpitations are symptoms of low blood sugar.
Causes in non-diabetics: Excessive sugar consumption i.e. refined carbohydrates especially at suhur (sehri). The body produces too much insulin causing the blood glucose to drop.
Remedy: Eat something at sehri, and limit sugar-containing foods and drinks.
Causes: Inadequate intake of calcium, magnesium and potassium foods.
Remedy: Eat foods rich in these minerals e.g. vegetables, fruit, dairy products, meat and dates.
Caution: Those on high blood pressure medication and with kidney stone problems should consult their doctor.
PEPTIC ULCERS, HEART BURN, AND GASTRITIS
Increased acid levels in an empty stomach aggravate the above conditions. It causes a burning feeling in the stomach area and can extend up to the throat. Spicy foods, coffee, and Cola drinks worsen these conditions.
Kidney stones may occur in people who have less liquids to drink. Therefore, it is essential to drink extra liquids so as to prevent stone formation.
Causes: Extra salah during Ramadhan increases pressure on the knee joints. In the elderly and those with arthritis this may cause pain, stiffness, swelling and discomfort.
Remedy: Lose weight so that the knees do not have to carry any extra load. Exercise the lower limbs before Ramadhan so that they can be prepared for the additional strain. Being physically fit allows greater fulfilment, thus enabling one to be able to perform salah with ease.
Source: Dr. Farouk Haffejee