8 Tips for A Healthier Fasting During Ramadan
Ramadan, also known as the fasting month, is known to be a Holy Month for Muslims all around the world. During this month, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. Fasting during Ramadan is partly because of the abstention from food, fluid, and tobacco. There could be temptations to have a big buffet for breaking of fast and to stop exercising during the month. While appealing, eating healthy while maintaining your fitness level is a good option. If done right, Ramadan can actually be the opportunity for you to build a better immune system, improve your physical level and develop better mental & spiritual health. If you will be taking part in Ramadan, here are some helpful tips to ensure you stay in good health throughout the month. (Metin et al. 2018)
Tip #1: Stay Hydrated
It is imperative to stay hydrated during fasting. It is recommended to consume about 5-8 glasses of water in between sunset to sunrise. In addition, you can include foods that are rich in water contents such as watermelon, cucumber, tomatoes, oranges, spinach and apples. It is best to minimise the consumption of caffeinated drinks or drinks with high sugar content to avoid dehydration during the day. Staying hydrated during fasting will make sure that your body functions properly and avoid the effects of dehydration which include, constipation, nausea, dizziness, bad breath, dry skin and other medical complications.
Tip #2: Eat During Suhoor (Pre-Dawn Meal)
Eating Suhoor is very important during fasting. It is one of the most recommended sunnah (the traditions and practices of the Islamic prophet, Muhammad, that constitute a model for Muslims to follow). It is important to eat a meal that will provide energy throughout the day. (Ismail Mohamed, Mohamoud Abdi & Mussa Abdilahi 2020) Some of the high dense nutrients that are recommended include rice, noodles, oats, proteins such as chicken, fish, tofu, green leafy vegetables, fruits, nuts, milk or dairy and dates. Dates are one of the best fruits to eat during Suhoor as it contains a variety of essential vitamins and minerals that provide health benefits. (Al-Farsi* & Lee 2008)
Tip #3: Eat a Healthy Sahur (Pre-Dawn Meal)
A nutritious breakfast can help keep your blood sugar constant, which provides you with energy. What you can include in your Sahur:
- Whole grains: Whole grain cereal, whole grain bread, brown rice, and oatmeal.
- Fresh fruits and vegetables: watermelon, oranges, raisins, broccoli and cucumber.
- Protein: Eggs, milk, and yoghurt.
- Healthy fat: Nuts and olives.
Here are some healthy examples that you can try:
- Oatmeal with low-fat milk and mixed with orange slices & watermelon cubes
- Whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk and topped with raisins, bananas and nuts
- Egg sandwich on whole wheat bread and consume yoghurt
Tip #4: Break Your Fast with Dates
It is sunnah for a reason. Dates are low in fats and protein however high in sugar and energy. They contain high mineral contents such as selenium, copper, magnesium and potassium. In addition, they are packed with vitamin B, vitamin C and dietary fibers. They are also a good source of antioxidants, mainly carotenoids and phenolics which can protect you against free radicals. It is recommended to consume two dates with a glass of water when you break your fast. However, if you do not have dates, you can also consume any types of fruits as they have very similar properties. (Al-Farsi* & Lee 2008)
Tip #5: Consume A Well-balanced Diet
The varieties of snacks and desserts during Ramadan can be eye-blinding. However, it is important for you to consume a well-balanced meal that could provide energy, nutrients and hydration for you to last the day. Make sure that you consume varieties of whole food and foods that are optimal for your digestion so that the nutrients are absorbed by your body. To help you with a smooth sailing digestion, we recommend YourGutt to help you for a better digestion and a stronger gut health.
One of the techniques you could use to practice is by having colourful food. For example, red coloured food; Capsicum, Watermelon, pomegranate, berries, prunes. For yellow or orange; banana, soy, turmeric, pineapple and papaya. For greens, spinach, kale, kangkong, pok choy and broccoli. For white; radish, cauliflower, yogurt and tofu.
Tip #6: Mindful Eating By Being Conscious Of Portions
Breaking a fast could be considered a celebration. After a long day without food and water, the sight of them could sometimes lead to overeating. This could lead to indigestion, drowsiness, and obesity. (Ruddock & Hardman 2018, Prentice 2001). One of the technique to make sure that you don’t overeat is by following the Healthy Meal Plate rule which is Suku-Suku Separuh (Quarter Quarter Half), suggested by the Ministry Of Health Malaysia (MOH).They include; half filled with vegetables and fruits, quarter filled with proteins such as fish poultry, meat and legumes. The next quarter is filled with carbohydrates such as rice, noodles, bread, cereals, cereal products and tubers. (Bahagian Pemakanan | Kementerian Kesihatan Malaysia 2021)
Tip #7: Stay Active
It is important to keep your body moving even though you are fasting. Doing some light stretches improves your joint and mobility. You can do low impact exercises; however, we suggest three times of the day you could slot in some exercises. Firstly, do it at the end of the day when the time of breaking fast is near so that after your exercise, you can replenish your body with water and food. Doing some light exercises while fasting can help to improve your stamina and improve your body metabolism. (Zouhal et al. 2020) Secondly, you could wake up slightly earlier before Suhoor, then after your exercise, you could proceed to replenish with your pre-dawn meal. Thirdly, after breaking your fast. However, if you choose after breaking your fast, we suggest that you only take a light meal during your breaking of fast.
Tip #8: Understand Your Body & Health
It is important to listen to your body. Even though fasting during Ramadan is a way for you to have better discipline, it is not recommended when you are not feeling well or have health conditions that would risk your being. Hence, fasting is exempted for those who are not well, pregnant or mentally not capable. If you are unwell, you may break your fast and make sure your body is well hydrated and nourished. You can replace your fasting anytime of the year or the following year.
What Others Tips You Can Take Note
Foods you should minimise:
- Processed foods and foods high in refined carbohydrates (sugar, white flour, etc.)
- Fatty food (e.g. cakes, biscuits, chocolates and sweets).
- Caffeine content drinks such as tea, coffee and cola. (Caffeine is a diuretic and stimulates faster water loss through urination.)
- Deep-fried foods. Since fasting can help in body detoxification, our body needs nutritious food after detoxification rather than consuming junk food to ruin the lengthy process of detoxification. Example: fried chicken, pakoras, samosas, fried dumplings, etc.
What Unhealthy Cooking Methods Need to be Avoided and What Alternatives Can be Applied?
|Unhealthy Cooking Method||Healthier Cooking Method|
|Deep Frying||Stir-frying. It takes a small amount of oil and has a lower fat level.|
|Frying||Grilling or baking is more healthy and helps preserve the taste and unique flavour of food, particularly chicken and fish.|
|Cooking with a high amount of oil||Reduce the amount of oil used when cooking. Example: Using four tablespoons of oil instead of five tablespoons.|
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Al-Farsi*, M., & Lee, C. (2008). Nutritional and Functional Properties of Dates: A Review. Critical Reviews In Food Science And Nutrition, 48(10), 877-887. doi: 10.1080/10408390701724264
Bahagian Pemakanan | Kementerian Kesihatan Malaysia. (2021). Retrieved 14 April 2021, from http://nutrition.moh.gov.my/en/
Ismail Mohamed, A., Mohamoud Abdi, A., & Mussa Abdilahi, M. (2020). Ramadan Intermittent Fasting and Its Beneficial Effects of Health: A Review Article. Central African Journal Of Public Health, 6(5), 288. doi: 10.11648/j.cajph.20200605.17
Metin, Z., Akkoca, M., Topaloğlu, O., Tokgöz, S., Cihan, G., & Şan, I. (2018). An evaluation of the effects of Ramadan fasting and sahur meal on anthropometric, metabolic and endocrine parameters. Clinical Nutrition, 37, S270. doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2018.06.1950
Popkin, B., D’Anci, K., & Rosenberg, I. (2010). Water, hydration, and health. Nutrition Reviews, 68(8), 439-458. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2010.00304.x
Prentice, A. (2001). Overeating: The Health Risks. Obesity Research, 9(S11), 234S-238S. doi: 10.1038/oby.2001.124
Ruddock, H., & Hardman, C. (2018). Guilty pleasures: The effect of perceived overeating on food addiction attributions and snack choice. Appetite, 121, 9-17. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2017.10.032
Zouhal, H., Saeidi, A., Salhi, A., Li, H., Essop, M., & Laher, I. et al. (2020). <p>Exercise Training and Fasting: Current Insights</p>. Open Access Journal Of Sports Medicine, Volume 11, 1-28. doi: 10.2147/oajsm.s224919