Know What to Eat
Over-eating and indulging are common during the month of Ramadan. And as the Holy Month comes close, we should be more careful in the food choices as well as portions of food we take in
Over-eating and indulging are common during the month of Ramadan. And as the Holy Month comes close, we should be more careful in the food choices as well as portions of food we take in order to maintain optimal wellness. Here are some practical tips we came up with to guide you through staying balanced in mind, body and soul.
From flaky filled pastries and delectable sweets to fried fritters and dumplings, so many of us actually fall off the healthy eating bandwagon during Ramadan. It’s a combination of different factors; the Holy month of Ramadan focuses a lot on being together with family, sharing family meals, inviting friends over, being invited by friends, loads of Iftar parties, and is essentially a month when women have the opportunity to display their cooking abilities. It’s actually a proven fact that people tend to eat more than their requirement if they are offered food in large amounts and even more when sharing meals with friends and family. This happy scenario encourages the tendency to fill up with their favourite food items which will undoubtedly be in abundance. Furthermore, with the weather being extremely hot and humid during Ramadan, people are not encouraged to go out for evening walks, visit the park or beach and prefer to stay indoors, which can exacerbate their health issues.
What to Avoid!
It is paramount to remember that as we fast during the day, our stomach remains empty and will react somewhat differently to the foods we normally eat out of Ramadan. For example, it’s advised to avoid excessive spices as the stomach lining is sensitive post fasting. Subjecting it to spicy food, especially at the time of breaking the fast, can potentially trigger digestive disturbances such as gas and heartburn. Basically fried food items such as kibbeh, samosas, spring rolls, fritters and the like are really nothing but ‘empty’ calories for the body, meaning these foods have no nutritional value.
Added to this is the fact that these kinds of foods are loaded with fat that our liver cannot process, so our bodies store it away as fatty tissue, especially around our waist. Another reason to avoid these foods is that these take a toll on our digestive tract and is one of the common causes of acidity. Also remember that waking up for Suhour becomes difficult as the digestion of fried foods interferes with our sleep cycle as body needs to put in more effort to break down the fats which is a long process, and in fact, a lack of proper sleep is also one of the reason people gain weight as this interferes with the hormonal balance in the body. Also if the above fried items are ready made and packaged then the sodium content in these would be even higher, and most people may not drink up on their water which causes water retention to our already dehydrated bodies making one feel bloated and uncomfortable after Iftar.
What to Eat
Fresh fruits are a definite yes as this offers a great way to replenish all the electrolytes lost through the day during long hours of fasting. By the end of the fast, most people would have low blood sugar levels and fresh fruits can provide the complex carbohydrates and fibre which will help with body a gradual rise in glucose levels as well as improved digestion and prevent constipation.
With regards to fruits, the importance of consuming dates is an absolute must-have. Dates are high in vitamins A, B6, potassium, natural sodium, iron and magnesium, and as a fasting person’s body has low reserves of these nutrients which dates will help replenish. Essentially the natural sugars in dates will give the instant energy boost required for evening prayers. The best part about consuming dates is that it also works as a mild laxative and eases constipation, which is quite common due to a sudden change in lifestyle required during Ramadan. Also recommended are few raw nuts as the good fats in these will help release the sugar in dates even more slowly keeping one feeling full up and in control, without the need to binge.
Furthermore, it should be noted that meat, chicken, and/or fish definitely need to be part of a healthy Iftar meal. The protein content will help one feel fuller faster and for longer, and in fact, one major issue most people face is losing muscle tone during Ramadan due to reduced muscle mass. Therefore consuming more than adequate portions of beef, lamb, chicken or fish mostly in the form of grills or kebabs are great to ensure muscle loss does not happen.
And while breads are an integral part of our diet, it is advised to completely remove starchy white processed breads. White breads will only support a quick rise and fall in sugar levels making one hungry for more bread and of course encourages fat accumulation.
Lentils and Beans
Also lentils and beans are most definitely under used in most Iftar menus, think mixed bean salad and lentil soup. Fresh vegetable salads, for example the ever popular fattoush or tabbouleh are excellent for Ramadan as these are low in calories, high in fibre, satisfying and will provide that extra dose of nutrients and fibre along with improving digestion and supporting the sleep cycle.
A great tip is to drink one litre of lemon water apart from the one to two litres of regular water. This is a great way to boost the digestive system as lemon flavoured water has a positive impact on your liver, provides you with sufficient vitamin C as well as hydrates your muscles making you feel less tired and lethargic, but also drink lots of water. It seems obvious but do drink plenty of water between Iftar and sleep to avoid dehydration. Drinking too much tea will increase urine output and inevitably cause the loss of valuable mineral salts. Also avoid caffeinated drinks such as coke, coffee or tea four to five days before Ramadan, gradually reduce the intake of these drinks since a sudden decrease will result in headaches, mood swings and irritability.
Go for the Sweets
Eating healthy in Ramadan does not have to mean forgoing your sweet treats entirely. Try a nutrient rich dessert made from one ripe avocado, one to two tablespoons of raw nut butter or tahini paste, four to five ripe dates and one to two teaspoons of raw unsweetened cocoa powder; blended to make a dessert that will resemble a mousse. Another healthy suggestion is the latest Air Fryers; these are a great alternative where one wins the battle between taste and health.