Instead of making you feel sluggish or lethargic, fasting during the holy month of Ramadan can help you detoxify your body and reduce oxidative stress and inflammation. Ramadan is a great opportunity to pursue a healthy lifestyle and avoid diseases and health problems. It can empower one’s spiritual, physical, and mental sides.
“Ramadan is a great month for weight loss,” said Aya Berry, a food and travel blogger based in Alexandria. “Many kinds of food can be steamed, for example, including vegetables, fish, sea food, and many kinds of protein. If you do not like eating whole fruit, you can mix it with milk for a shaker or simply do a smoothie,” she said.
Berry also advises people to add colour to their plates and garnish them as if in a restaurant. “The more colours your plate has, the healthier it is,” she added.
A media graduate of the Arab Academy for Science and Technology, Berry makes short videos about travelling and food photography. She explores every opportunity to experience Egypt’s culture, as embedded in a good meal, a good photograph, and a good memory. As her goal is to brand Egypt’s tourist attractions, she uses food as an element that can attract people to its culture.
Her short film Alexandria: sad rad (Alexandria: Back and Forth) attracted more than four million viewers, for example, drawing attention to the different cuisines in Alexandria, such as Greek, Armenian, and Egyptian.
“The different tastes of the same food served by different cultures make one feel fulfilled not only physically but spiritually too. This is what Ramadan should make us feel,” Berry said.
Fasting is well known for its multiple health benefits, and “Ramadan fasting is actually a form or original source of the intermittent fasting that many people now practise. The difference is that during Islamic fasting one abstains from drinking fluids as well,” Berry added.
She has noticed that people come together around the food they eat together, though this can bring dangers as well as benefits. “If your family and friends always eat junk food or too many sweets, you could end up eating junk food or eating too many desserts as well,” Berry said, advising people to be wary of outside influences.
Ramadan can also bring challenges to an otherwise healthy diet. Who can resist qateyf (sweet stuffed pancakes with wholenut or cheese)? Or desserts like baklava and konafa and basbousa and khushaf that take centre stage on Ramadan dining tables? Who can resist Ramadan drinks like qamareddin, kharroub, karadei, sobia and tamr hendi?
“You can resist them with no regrets,” said Ismail Lotfi, an online coach, adding that people should try to avoid Ramadan juices and beverages. “You cannot imagine the number of calories present in these juices. You can replace them with hibiscus, fresh lemon juice, and fresh orange juice and use artificial sweeteners instead of sugar,” Lotfi said.
It is also important to eat the right food during Iftar. “Once you break your fast in the evening, eat small, healthy, and nutritious food – dates, soup, and salad, and then protein. If you crave desserts like konafa and qateyef, do not eat portions more than the size of your hand every other day,” Lotfi added.
He urged everyone to hit the gym during Ramadan, especially after Iftar. Even immediately before Iftar is possible, as you can break the fast to eat and drink fluids. “If you start working out at midday, you will exhaust yourself, so it is better to wait until the evening,” he said.
Lotfi said it is better to eat Sohour late at night so as not to feel too tired or hungry the next day. This meal should be full of dairy products like milk, yoghurt, and cottage cheese, he added.
There are also many healthy Ramadan recipes, with social media full of different recipes for those who want to stay heathy in Ramadan. There are also recipes for those with diabetes or who are lactose intolerant.
Salwa Attallah, founder of “Cook healthily with Sassa” on social media has many recipes showing people how to cook healthy food not only in Ramadan but also throughout the year. “In Ramadan, it is often better to steam protein and veggies. An air fryer is best with a few drops of oil. If you do not have an air fryer, you can use the grill inside the oven,” she said.
“Why do people avoid eating fish in Ramadan,” she asked. “There is a misconception about fish in Ramadan. Fish and sea food more generally are sometimes the best meal you can have, but do not spice them up or include lots of herbs. Keep them as simple as they are,” she concluded.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 7 April, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.