Ramadan, also known as the Sultan of 11 months, is fast approaching. Muslims across the globe relish the spirit of this special month by fasting.
The act of fasting requires you to abstain from eating and drinking from dusk to dawn for 30 days.
The pre-fast meal is called a Suhoor, whereas, the post-fast meal is known as Iftar. However, the month of Ramadan is more than just fasting. It is a reminder to all the Muslims in the world to be more grateful and feel for the less fortunate.
Many people take this opportunity to not only cleanse themselves spiritually but physically as well.
Salaamah Solomon, a dietitian at Tygerberg Academic Hospital in South Africa says “To fully benefit from fasting, a person should put a great deal of thought into the type and quantity of food they indulge in throughout this month”.
Following a balanced dietary regime is important for your overall well-being. You can consume a variety of healthy and nutrient-dense foods to keep yourself energized, fit and alert the entire month of Ramadan.
Let’s take a closer look into the many health benefits of fasting and the type of foods you can incorporate for a balanced diet.
Foods to Avoid & Eat During Ramadan
The foods you choose to eat or not eat determine how well your Ramadan goes. This decision is directly correlated to your energy levels and overall health.
After going hungry the entire day, you may be tempted to stuff your face with anything you could get your hands on.
Similarly, just before Suhoor, you may want to have a full belly in fear of feeling hungry throughout the day. In both cases, overeating and consuming foods with zero to no nutrients is a disservice to your health.
Not only do you have a negative fasting experience, but you also put on weight and compromise your overall well-being.
That being said, we have devised a list of foods you should and shouldn’t eat during Ramadan.
Let’s take a closer look.
Foods to Eat During Suhoor
Protein Rich: Consume foods that are rich in protein like eggs so you don’t feel lethargic throughout your day. They help you feel full for longer and can be cooked in different ways.
- Fish or other seafood
Fiber-Rich: Your body requires soluble fiber during Suhoor so it could gelatinize in your stomach and slow down digestion. Again, it helps you feel full for longer and lowers blood glucose and cholesterol leaving you energized.
- Lentil beans
- Dried fruits
Vitamin and Calcium Rich: One of the best foods to consume during Suhoor is one with plenty of calcium and other vitamins. Yogurt smoothies are a great option to keep you hydrated the entire day.
Foods to Avoid During Suhoor
Carbohydrates: Foods with high levels of refined sugar such as white flour, donuts, pastries, and croissants keep you full for only a few hours.
They are low in important nutrients and leave you craving more fatty food.
Salty: The sodium levels in your body are thrown off balance when you fast. In order to keep them stable, you have to avoid foods with higher salt content to prevent yourself from feeling thirsty and weak.
Avoid foods like pickles, chips, soy sauce, or salted nuts.
Caffeine: Caffeinated drinks are a big no-no during Suhoor. A lot of people enjoy a hot cup of tea right before going to bed, but they don’t realize that it not only triggers insomnia but it also results in dehydration and restlessness until it’s time to break the fast.
Foods to Eat at Iftar
Foods Rich in Potassium: Potassium is an important nutrient for the sound functioning of your internal systems. They help in balancing the electrolytes and maintain levels of fluid in your body. Potassium-rich foods include:
- Dark leafy greens
Fluids: Try to consume a lot of water or fruit juices before going to bed to level out the lack of fluids in your system. It will help curb possible dehydration the next day.
Nuts: Dry fruits or raw nuts like almonds are an excellent source of monounsaturated fat. Nuts keep you full for longer and you can go long hours without craving sugary or fatty foods.
High Water Content Vegetables: Vegetables like lettuce and cucumber have a higher water and fiber content, which help cool down your body, especially in the summer months, and prevent constipation.
Foods to Avoid at Iftar
Sodas: Avoid any and all carbonated drinks to break your fast because they are typically high in sugar resulting in dehydration and weight gain.
They also cause a lot of gastrointestinal problems such as indigestion, gas, and bloating.
Sugar-dominant foods: Foods high in sugar content like sweets, chocolates, and pastries have low nutrient value and high calories.
When consumed on a daily basis, they can lead to a myriad of health problems like diabetes, weight gain, acne, and high blood pressure.
Fried Food: A lot of people love chomping down on several fried goods like samosas (a South-Asian specialty), rolls and fritters without realizing the adverse effects it has on their body.
Fried and fatty foods cause a lot of acidity and result in different ailments from obesity to high blood pressure.
Tips to Stay Healthy in Ramadan
Since Ramadan usually falls during the summer season, it is important to follow a proper diet so it doesn’t take a toll on your health.
Apart from following a good dietary regime, it is essential to follow the tips provided below for a balanced and healthy month of Ramadan.
If you are an avid gym-goer, don’t stop this month. If anything, Ramadan is the perfect time to get some light exercise in and lose a few pounds if that’s your goal.
If weight loss isn’t your main goal you can engage in a bit of stretching, weightlifting, and walking right before breaking your fast.
It will keep you physically active while maintaining your heart health.
Remember, you don’t have to go heavy while fasting. Overexerting yourself won’t give you fast results.
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
The first thing you must do while breaking your fast is to drink a small sip of water to get your engines going. However, be wary of sugary or carbonated drinks.
We know how difficult it is to contain yourself after going hungry for the entire day, but don’t rush your meal.
Eating too much too fast causes several gastric problems. Make sure to eat smaller portions and chew your food properly to avoid weight gain and indigestion.
Benefits of Fasting
Here are some of the health benefits of fasting on your well-being:
Regulation of Cholesterol
Fasting throughout the day helps in lowering “bad” cholesterol. It is low-density lipoprotein or LDL cholesterol that increases the risk of strokes, heart attacks, and other diseases.
Study suggests that the intake of fatty food is reduced during the month of Ramadan resulting in lower levels of bad cholesterol and weight loss.
Study suggests fasting helps improve your immune system by increasing your metabolism.
The immune system consists of white blood cells. When you go for long periods without food, your body recycles old white blood cells resulting in a more robust, healthier immune system.
These stem cells which include white and red blood cells, as well as platelets are regenerated by your body when you consume food again.
Fasting is known to slow down the process of aging. The tissues and cells in your body are restored and regenerated which results in the production of collagen.
Collagen is responsible for improving the elasticity of your skin and it makes you look more radiant and younger.
Improves Mood and Mental Health
Fasting in the month of Ramadan increases the growth of brand-new brain cells. It helps in sharpening your responses and reflexes to the surrounding environment.
Improved cognition prevents mood swings and in the long run, the risk of cognitive disorders such as Dementia and Alzheimer’s is significantly reduced.
Now that you are well aware of what foods to eat and avoid during Ramadan the only thing left to do is… Celebrate.
Take this opportunity to eat healthily, exercise lightly, and capture the true essence of Ramadan by spending time with your loved ones!
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