Healthy Ramadan : Fasting and your health

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The holy month of Ramadan is here and are you looking for a great way to end your fast this Ramadan? The delicious meals at iftar is what all of us have our eyes on!

Traditionally, there is an emphasis on providing bountiful meals to celebrate this special month. The women of the house toil for hours preparing scrumptious meals for family and friends.

Ramadan isn’t always thought of as being an opportunity to lose weight because the spiritual aspect is emphasized more generally than the health aspect. However, it’s a great chance to get the physical benefits as well.

When the body is starved of food, it starts to burn fat so that it can make energy. This can lead to weight loss. However, if you fast for too long your body will eventually start breaking down muscle protein for energy, which is unhealthy.

So, all you have to do is prepare and eat food made from fresh ingredients, cooked in a healthy manner for a nutritious Iftar meal. This will keep you nourished while setting a good example for your family and friends.

So, let’s consider these options to start planning your Iftar evenings.

During Ramadan, you need to put extra effort into including foods from all five food groups to ensure variety and a well-balanced diet.

These foods include:

  • Breads, cereals and other grain products
  • Fruit and vegetables
  • Meat, fish and poultry
  • Milk, cheese and yoghurt
  • Fats, oils and sugars (these contain very little nutrients and are high in calories and therefore their intake should be limited)

Suhoor

Suhoor, the pre-dawn meal, should be a wholesome, moderate meal that is filling and provides enough energy for many hours. It is therefore particularly important to include slowly-digesting foods, so as to delay pangs.

Foods like oats, millets, beans, lentils, bran, figs, prunes can be consumed. Drink fluids to keep you hydrated during the day and assist with digestion.

Ideal Suhoor Meals:

  1. Oat meal with fruits, nuts and 1 mug tea/ green tea / coffee
  2. 1 multigrain egg white and veggie sandwich + 1 glass chilled milk with 1 tsp soaked chia seeds and 4 almonds
  3. 2 chapatis + 1 katori subji + 1 katori curds
  4. 1 bowl muesli + milk , cut fruits and 4 walnuts

Iftar

Iftar, is the meal which breaks the day’s fast. This meal could include dates which will provide a refreshing burst of much-needed energy. Incorporate protein rich sources such as egg whites, legumes and low-fat dairy products.

Wholemeal bread, brown rice or wholegrain noodles are complex carbohydrates that provide the body with energy, fibre and minerals. Make sure you have 1 serving of fruit and 1 serving of vegetable at each of your two meals.

The meal should remain a meal and not become a feast! Try to minimize the rich, special dishes that traditionally celebrate the fast and keep to the advice included in the table below.

Alternative healthy food options for Iftar:

  • Baked samosas and boiled dumplings
  • Chapattis / parathas made without oil
  • Low- fat milk-based sweets and puddings
  • Fattoush (salad made of vegetables and pita bread)
  • Tabbouleh (salad made with fresh tomatoes, parsley, garlic and bulgur wheat.)
  • Lavash (soft, thin cracker bread) with hummus
  • Chana chaat , fruit chaat
  • Mujadarra (dish made with rice and lentils)
  • Ful Medammes(fava beans cooked with garlic and spread on bread)

Foods to avoid:

  • Deep fried foods- Pakoda, samosas, fried dumplings, kebabs, etc
  • High sugar and added sugar foods- Sweets/ desserts like Gulab jamoon, rasagulla, balushai, baklawa,pastries, jams, jellies, candies, syrup drenched desserts, etc
  • High fat dairy products- Ice-creams, cheese, oily parathas,creamy cheese sauces, etc
  • Fast foods- Pizza, burgers, etc
  • Greasy cooked foods- Oil rich curries, French fries, etc
  • Highly salted foods- Pickles, salted chips, etc
  • Fried meats and meat products- Haleem, hotdogs, Hamburgers, tandoori chicken, chicken tikka, etc
  • Fast burning foods- Pasta, white bread, chocolates, cookies, etc
  • Heavily processed foods- Sausages, juices with added sugar, fruit preserves, etc
  • Carbonated beverages- Cola, energy drinks, etc
  • Caffeine based beverages- Coffee, tea

Common mistakes at Iftar that have a negative impact on health & weight loss:

  • Drinking large amounts of water at Iftar time.

Impact: Filling the stomach with water is more strenuous to it than with the food.

Solution: Can have few sips during Iftar. Later, a glass full of water every two hours.

  • Drinking Roohafza on daily basis.

Impact: It cointains high amounts of added sugars, preservatives and food colors.

Solution: Can be consumed twice a week if required.

  • Chewing and swallowing food quickly.

Impact: Increases unhealthy weight gain and slows down digestion process.

Solution: Chewing food slowly will speed up digestion and helps in maintaining healthy weight.

  • Consuming foods high in sodium.

Impact: Sodium triggers thirst throughout the fasting hours of the day.

Solution: Consume foods dense in potassium as they retain water and suppress thirst. Banana can be consumed during Suhoor, so as to control thirst levels throughout the day. Other foods such as milk, dates, avocados, pistachios, dried peaches, pumpkin, peas and dark chocolates (in minimum amounts) can be consumed.

  • Intake of sweets/desserts soon after Iftar.

Impact: Leaves you feeling drowsy and sleepy.

Solution: Wait for two hours of having Iftar meal to stay fresh and awake for Ishaa prayers.

  • Exercising directly after Iftar.

Impact: Adverse effects on blood flow as it is concentrated around the stomach during Iftar.

Solution: To ease digestion, work out after two hours of intake.

Below is a suggested frame work of eating right during Ramadan.

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Meal TimingsMenu
On rising3 dates + 2 glasses of water
Suhoor1 cup of oatmeal cooked in 2 cups of fat-free milk OR 2 omelette(made of egg whites) + 1 cup cracked wheat grilled zucchini salad + 1 cup of green tea/ fat-free Greek yogurt
Iftar2 cups of mixed fruits + 1 cup apple cinnamon tea/ mint tea / fresh fruit juice OR 1 cup black bean soup
Maghrib2-3 rotis + sabji/ dal OR rice OR vegetable pulao/ vegetable biryani + raita,1 cup mixed vegetable salad/ fat-free cole slaw, 1cup vermicelli kheer cooked in low-fat milk
Bed time1 cup low-fat/ skim milk

Cooking methods to avoid:

  • Deep frying
  • Frying/ excessive use of oil

Healthy cooking methods:

  • Shallow frying
  • Steaming, grilling or baking is healthier and helps retain the taste and original flavor of the food.

With such an assorted list of food available for you to choose from and with a better view of your choices this Ramadan; you now hold the key to a nutritious diet.

Just remember, it’s not a good idea to fast and then feast. Whatever you decide to eat, a balanced food plan containing healthy ingredients, cooked right will help you enjoy Suhoor and Iftar while giving you good health and more energy.

Khyati Rupani

Khyati Rupani

Ex - Chief Dietitian at Lilavati Hospital (RKHS) and founder of Balance Nutrition - an online weight loss & lifestyle management clinic with more than 1000 satisfied customers. Khyati has developed over 500 health recipes that are tasty and yet extremely healthy for overweight individuals. She is the author of 'Getting rid of Obesity', an MBD Publication. Khyati is on the panel of ECA 'Early Childhood Association' and has lectured on Nutrition and Diet at institutes offering training courses for Dietitians. You can connect with Khyati Rupani on www.balancenutrition.in, where she provides personalised nutrition therapy to people all over the world, helping them lead better, healthier lives.
Khyati Rupani

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