Ramadan is here again, the holy month when the city vibrates with coloured lanterns, friends and families gather over meals, and everyone awaits sunset in anticipation of breaking their fast.
Though Ramadan is a month of spiritual reflection, the blessings of the month are not limited to the realm of spirituality, but also extend to tangible physical benefits. Fasting combined with healthy food can help improve the metabolism and the overall quality of life. However, going for long periods without food or water can cause fatigue, stress, and dehydration.
One thing is certain, though, and that is fasting requires a special approach to maintain a balanced and productive month. Here are a few tips to make sure that you fast healthily during Ramadan.
Maintain a healthy diet:
Eating a well-balanced diet full of vitamins and nutrients can help keep the body and mind strong, give more energy, and allow for better sleep. Iftar and Sohour meals during Ramadan should include foods from all the major food groups of proteins, carbohydrates, fibre, vitamins and dairy products.
Eat moderately and slowly:
Eating too much and too fast can lead to weight gain over the Ramadan period. Large amounts of food taken too quickly can also cause heartburn and discomfort. Though it’s always tempting to dive into big plate of something when the clock gives you the go ahead, the shock of so much food to a hungry and empty stomach does not bode well for even the fastest of metabolisms. So, before diving into your meal, drink plenty of water in order to rehydrate your body. This can also help in avoiding overindulgence.
Don’t skip the dates:
Eating dates to break the fast is a traditional and healthy way to begin Iftar. Dates are an excellent source of fibre. A warm bowl of soup can also help to prepare your stomach for the incoming meal and get your metabolic system into gear. A moderate intake of fruit juice, as well as qamareddin (apricots) and karkadeh (hibiscus), not only rehydrates and revitalises with their natural sugars, but they are also full of essential vitamins.
Don’t skip Sohour:
During Ramadan, the early morning meal of Sohour is an important one. It can help you to balance your energy levels and keep you feeling full for longer. Skipping Sohour can also encourage overeating during Iftar, which can cause unhealthy weight gain.
Limit fatty, salty, and sugary foods:
While these foods may make you feel good in the short run, they can make fasting the next day more difficult. Aside from the unhealthy weight gain they can cause, consuming fatty and sugary foods also cause sluggishness and fatigue. You should also limit your intake of salt, especially during Sohour, as this increases thirst.
Exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle in any context, but working out during fasting hours is not recommended. Sweating means dehydration, and too much of that can be dangerous, whether in or out of the gym. So, be active in the evening instead by engaging in activities like brisk walking.
Stay off tobacco and vaping:
Ramadan is a time of reflection and self-discipline and a perfect opportunity to kick bad habits. Try to use the holy month to kick-start stopping smoking.
Avoid caffeinated drinks:
Drinks that contain caffeine like coffee, tea, and cola should be avoided as they can lead to dehydration. Fizzy drinks that contain sugar can also add calories to your diet.
Get plenty of rest:
A lack of sleep will affect your concentration, focus, and decision-making. If you can’t get the recommended eight hours of sleep at night during Ramadan, make sure that you schedule some time to rest during the day. Just 10 to 20 minutes napping in the afternoon will help re-energise you, lift your mood, and improve performance for the rest of the day.
Drink adequate amounts of water and eat hydrating or high-water content foods such as homemade soup, vegetables, and fruit. These can include cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes and watermelon during the Sohour and Iftar meals.
* A version of this article appears in print in the 23 March, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly