Monday, August 16, 2010

Ramadan- What you need to know!

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic “hijri” calendar and also the month of fasting. During this month, Muslims are expected to abstain from eating or drinking during the hours from dawn until sunset.
It is time to live a healthy and balanced lifestyle by managing your eating habits. If done correctly, fasting during Ramadan can also help cleanse your body from all accumulated toxins.

Is fasting healthy?

To answer this question, we have to understand what goes on inside the body while fasting. Body glucose (stored in the liver and muscles) is the body’s first source of energy. During a day of fasting, the body starts using its stored glucose; later in the day, when all body glucose is depleted, the body will turn to its stored body fat as a source of energy.

If fasting lasts longer than a day or two, the body goes into starvation mode and starts using body protein as the source of energy; this protein comes from the muscles and, as a result, the body becomes emaciated—obviously not a very healthy thing to happen.

Since Ramadan fasting lasts only from dawn until sunset, the body has a chance to replenish the depleted body stores of energy, while at the same time losing extra fat, leading to slow and healthy weight loss. Also, any toxins stored in the body’s fat are dissolved and removed from the body.
Fasting can also help control cholesterol and high blood pressure.

What are the best foods to eat?

Balanced food and fluid intake is a very important factor between fasts. To avoid muscle breakdown and dehydration, meals must contain adequate levels of high-energy foods, nutrients, salts and, of course, water. In general, the diet should be simple and fairly similar to your normal diet, containing foods from all of the major food groups.

Both quality and quantity are important factors during Ramadan. The best foods for “suhour”, the last meal eaten before sunrise, should be ones that are rich in complex carbohydrates, such as rice, wheat, oats and lentils; fibre from whole wheat, vegetables, fruits, grains and seeds; and protein from eggs, tuna, turkey and chickpeas.
These foods take longer to leave your system, supplying your body with the energy and nutrients it will need while fasting.

Things to keep in mind

1. Avoid fatty foods, high-sugar foods and fried foods.
2. Minimize your intake of foods high in refined sugars and refined flour—cakes and pastries, for example. These are high calorie, very low in vitamin and mineral content and will leave you feeling less full.
3. Do not overeat at “iftar” (the meal that breaks the fast) and “suhour”—moderate eating will prevent heartburn and indigestion.
4. Try to fit in at least a 30-minute walk three times a week.
5. Drink as much water as possible during the non-fast hours.
6. Do not underestimate the power of fruits and vegetables. They are an excellent source of fibre, vitamins and minerals (especially antioxidants) and are mostly composed of water—keeping you hydrated and healthy during the month of Ramadan.

Who should not fast?

You should avoid fasting during Ramadan—unless your doctor advises otherwise— if you have any of the following conditions:
1. Kidney problems
2. Diabetes, especially insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM)
3. Pregnant or lactating
4. Stomach or duodenal ulcer
5. Severe asthma
6. Cancer
7. Heart disease
8. Liver problems

Common problems during Ramadan

The following are common problems that those who fast face during the month of Ramadan:
* Heartburn: This is usually caused by too much stomach acid. When no food is found in the stomach, the stomach does not release acids. So technically, during fasting hours, there should be very little acid in your stomach; however, the thought or smell of food will send the brains signals to produce more acid in the stomach. If you do experience heartburn during Ramadan, the following might help:
* Try to eat small, frequent meals during the non-fast hours.
* Avoid fatty, fried foods.
* Minimize your intake of caffeine, especially on an empty stomach.
* If you smoke, try to reduce your smoking as much as possible.
* If you are on regular antacid medication, continue taking it.
* Sleep with your head slightly raised.

* Headache: You may suffer from headaches during Ramadan because of:
* Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), which is caused by not eating for a long period of time.
* Dehydration as a result of not drinking enough water.
* Lack of sleep.
* Abstinence from addictive substances like caffeine and nicotine.

By following a balanced eating plan throughout the day, you can minimize the effects of your headache.
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Wishing you all a happy Ramadan: “Ramadan Kareem”!

By Maram Haddadin

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