The holy month of Ramadan is a crucial month for the Muslim community, both physically and spiritually with the belief of learning restraint through practice.During this period the community observes Roza i.e. fast, which involves its members abstaining from eating and drinking, right from sunrise until sunset.
Fasting during Ramadan is known to help in improving one’s health but doing it the right way is imperative. Moreover, it can pose as a challenge for people with dietary issues to practice it for the entire month. Therefore, eating healthy and ensuring the consumption of all nutrients during this period is essential.
Following are a few suggestions to keep in mind in order to observe a healthy and fit Ramadan fast:
Don’t miss Sehri– Also popularly known as ‘Suhoor’, this is considered to be the most important meal of the day, similar to breakfast. Sehri is the pre-dawn meal that contributes to a large extent in storing up nutrients to replenish the body’s requirement until Iftar. Unfortunately, several people tend to avoid this meal by eating heavy dinner instead, as waking up early becomes a challenge. However, skipping Sehri can cause digestive discomfort and make your body sluggish throughout the day. Therefore, indulge in a nutritious meal that includes fibre-rich food (figs, bananas, dates, cereals), complex carbohydrates (grains, wheat, oats), and high-protein food (cheese, eggs, meat).
Keep your body hydrated– This is one of the most essential tips to keep in mind during the month of Ramadan. One needs to balance the consumption of liquids to compensate not drinking 8 glasses/ 2 litres of water. Dehydration can lead to constipation, splitting headaches, and lethargy, and therefore, hydrating yourself before the fast begins with two-three glasses of water is critical, as is sipping on water on breaking the fast, between Iftar and your bedtime. Unhealthy drinks that contain caffeine including coffee, tea, aerated beverages must be avoided. People who cannot function without coffee can have a cup post 1-2 hours of a healthy balanced Iftar. Consuming water-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, and soups are highly recommended to meet the daily water intake.
Moderate and keep a check on your meal intake– People tend to get carried away during the Iftar meal and indulge in a large portion of meals but it is advisable to eat in moderation whenever the fast is broken, and keeping a constant check on the meal-size. Overeating can be responsible for an increase in heart-related issues along with triggering Type-2 Diabetes. Therefore, consuming more fresh fruits and vegetables is advisable.
Abstain from heavy workouts and exercising– As the entire month demands long hours of fasting, our body tends to get dehydrated, and therefore, it is recommended to not go overboard with your exercise regime. Light workouts are okay following fasting hours as they aid in regulating body functions and keep it hydrated.
Do not consume processed food, opt for healthy choices – While breaking the fast during Ramadan, it is essential to abstain from consuming fried/excessively oily or processed food, as they comprise lesser nutrients, and more fat, leading to instant acidity and nausea, as well as potentially causing heartburn and indigestion. One should consume food cooked with lesser oil like soups, fresh fruits and vegetables, grilled meat, and braised dishes. If you are travelling when it’s time to break your fast, instead of having junk or packaged food, opt for healthier alternatives like dry fruits that include dates and nuts.
As important as it is to observe fast, one should not overlook the importance of staying healthy. These simple tips can help you keep a check on your health during the holy month of Ramadan so you can observe fast without compromising on your health.
(Dr Iqbal Bagasrawala is Associate Director- Medical Affairs, Saifee Hospital, Mumbai)