Fasting during the Islamic month of Ramadan can be good for one’s health and personal development.
Ramadan fasting is not just about disciplining the body to restrain from eating food and drinking
water from predawn until sunset.
The eyes, the ears, the tongue, and even the private parts are equally obligated to be restrained if a Muslim wants to gain the total rewards of fasting. Ramadan is also about restraining anger, doing good deeds, exercising personal discipline, and preparing oneself to serve as a good Muslim and a good person during and after Ramadan.
First of all, there is no need to consume excess food at iftar (the food eaten immediately after
sunset to break fast), dinner or sahur ( the light meal generally eaten about half an hour to one
hour before dawn).
The body has regulatory mechanisms that activate during fasting. A diet that is less than a normal amount of food intake but balanced is sufficient enough to keep a person healthy and active. Health problems can emerge as a result of excess food intake, foods that make the diet unbalanced, and insufficient sleep.
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. The way to ensure variety, and with it a well-balanced dietary plan, is to select foods each day from each of the five food groups:
1. Bread/Cereal/Rice, Pasta, Biscuits and Cracker Group: 6-11 servings/day;
2. Meat/Beans/ Nut Group: 2-3 servings/day.
3. Milk and Milk Product Group: 2-3 servings/day.
4. Vegetable Group: 3-5 servings/day;
5. Fruit Group: 2-4 servings/day.
6. Added sugar (table sugar, sucrose): sparingly.
7. Added fat, polyunsaturated oil 4-7 table spoons.
Here are some simple guidelines to make sure that your diet remains balanced and healthy during this
* Eat a wide variety of foods:
Especially now, when your daily intake is limited to two meals per day, you need to put extra effort
into including foods from all the food groups. Our bodies need at least 40 different nutrients every
day to ensure that we grow adequately and maintain good health. Although most foods contain more
than one nutrient, no single food provides all the necessary nutrients.
* Use low glycaemic (GI) foods at breakfast to help control blood sugar levels carbohydrates are now classified according to their glucose response or glyceamic index. The GI measures how fast the carbohydrate of a particular food is converted to glucose and enters the bloodstream. It therefore tells you which carbohydrate foods satisfy hunger for longer. The lower the number of the GI, the slower the food is converted to sugar and the better it is. Selecting low GI foods therefore helps maintain normal blood sugar control, minimises hunger pangs and satisfies appetite without providing excess calories.
* Eat enough carbohydrate foods – especially those rich in fibre
These foods provide the body with energy. They are often incorrectly labelled as fattening and
unnecessarily limited. They are rich in vitamins belonging to the B group, and are an excellent
source of fibre. Bear in mind that hi-fibre foods have a greater effect on satiety than their low-fibre counterparts. Examples of foods high in fibre include brown rice, wholegrains, fresh fruit
and raw veggies.
* Remember your fruits and vegetables
Fruit and vegetables add colour and variety to the menu. They are often termed our “protective” foods as they help the body fight off sickness and disease. This is because they are rich sources of
a variety of vitamins and minerals. An added benefit is that they are relatively low in calories and also contribute to our daily fibre intake.
* Drink sufficient fluid
Always include water in your diet and limit your intake of caffeine-containing beverages. Caffeine
is a diuretic and will not provide adequate hydration
*Avoid intake of high sugar (table sugar, sucrose) foods through sweets or other forms.
*Avoid spicy foods.
*Avoid caffeine drinks such as coke, coffee or tea. Caffeine is a diuretic. Three days to five days before Ramadan gradually reduce the intake of these drinks. A sudden decrease in caffeine prompts headaches, mood swings and irritability.
*Smoking is a health risk factor. Avoid smoking cigarettes. If you cannot give up smoking, cut down gradually starting a few weeks before Ramadan. Smoking negatively affects utilization of various vitamins, metabolites and enzyme systems in the body.
* It is recommended that everyone engage in some kind of light exercise, such as stretching or walking. It’s important to follow good time management practices for prayer and other religious
activities, sleep, studies, job, and physical activities or exercise.
Your meal(iftar,dinner,sahur) could be such as:
Juice, 1 serving (4 oz.)
Vegetable soup with some pasta or graham crackers, 1 cup
The body’s immediate need at the time of iftar is to get an easily available energy source in the
form of glucose for every living cell, particularly the brain and nerve cells. Dates and juices are good sources of sugars. Dates and juice in the above quantity are sufficient to bring low blood glucose levels to normal levels. Juice and soup help maintain water and mineral balance in the body.
Consume foods from all the following food groups:
# Meat/Bean Group: Chicken, beef, lamb, goat, fish, 1-2 servings (serving size = a slice =1 oz);
green pea, chickpea (garbanzo, chana, humus), green gram, black gram, lentil, lima bean and other beans, 1 serving (half cup). Meat and beans are a good source of protein, minerals, and certain vitamins. Beans are a good source of dietary fiber, as well.
# Bread/Cereal Group: Whole wheat bread, 2 servings (serving size = 1 oz) or cooked rice, one cup or combination. This group is a good source of complex carbohydrates, which are a good source of energy and provide some protein, minerals, and dietary fiber.
# Milk Group: milk or butter-milk (lassi without sugar), yogurt or cottage cheese (one cup). Those
who can not tolerate whole milk must try fermented products such as butter-milk and yogurt. Milk and
dairy products are good sources of protein and calcium, which are essential for body tissue
maintenance and several physiological functions.
# Vegetable Group: Mixed vegetable salad, 1 serving (one cup), (lettuce, carrot, parsley, cucumber, broccoli, coriander leaves, cauliflower or other vegetables as desired.) Add 2 teaspoons of olive oil or any polyunsaturated oil and 2 spoons of vinegar. Polyunsaturated fat provides the body with essential fatty acids and keto acids. Cooked vegetables such as guar beans, French beans, okra (bhindi), eggplant (baigan), bottle gourd (loki), cabbage, spinach, 1 serving (4 oz). Vegetables are a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin A, carotene, lycopenes, and other phytochemicals, which are antioxidants. These are helpful in the prevention of cancer,cardiovascular diseases, and many other health problems.
# Fruits Group: 1-2 servings of citrus and/or other fruits. Eat fruits as the last item of the dinner or soon after dinner, to facilitate digestion and prevent many gastrointestinal problems. Citrus fruits provide vitamin C. Fruits are a good source of dietary fiber. Fruits and mixed nuts may be eaten as a snack after dinner or tarawi or before sleep.
Pre-dawn Meal (Sahur):
Consume a light sahur. Eat whole wheat or oat cereal or whole wheat bread, 1-2 serving with a cup of milk. Add 2-3 teaspoons of olive oil or any other monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats in a salad or the cereal. Eat 1-2 servings of fruits, as a last item.
Normal or overweight people should not gain weight. For overweight people Ramadan is an excellent opportunity to lose weight. Underweight or marginally normal weight people are discouraged from losing weight. Analyzing a diet’s energy and nutritional component, using food composition tables or computer software, will be useful in planning an appropriate diet.
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.