Keeping Healthy During Ramadan
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Keeping Healthy During Ramadan

Tips to help you stay healthy during the holy month and ensure you don't put yourself at serious risk.

Keeping Healthy During Ramadan

The holy month of Ramadan starts July 10th. Are you ready?

One month of 16-hour fasts is no small feat, especially toward the end when enthusiasm starts to waver and spiritual commitment starts to wane. Cake and candy start to look really - I mean, really - delicious. As tasty as spiritual fulfillment, even.

Even after observing Ramadan for years and years, there’s still plenty to learn in order to make this year’s fast as painless as possible. Fasting can be an emotional roller coaster, especially in the first week when the body is just beginning to adjust to such extreme changes in the eating regime. It’s worth the time it takes to implement a tweak here and an adjustment there.

1. Suhoor is your friend. Use is to your best advantage.

Sleep through suhoor and you’re sentencing yourself to a day of crankiness and physical weakness. Remember, Ramadan is not just for the body; thoughts must also be kept pure. A good suhoor can help with that.

Keep the metabolism up by drinking plenty of water and eating lots of protein at breakfast. Halal meats, breads and cheeses are all permitted. Even if you don’t feel hungry, avoid the temptation to eat only a few fruits and tea. You’ll need the protein later.

Choose breads made with whole grain, since they’ll keep you feeling full much longer than their white flour counterparts, which metabolize much faster. Some recommend breaking the fast each morning with dates.

2. Don’t eat too much at iftar. Chew your food slowly and deliberately.

It’s extremely tempting to indulge at the evening meal. After a long day of fasting, any food at all starts to look seriously tempting. Eat slowly and chew your food. The chewing is critical. Unchewed bits of food are unwelcome in your stomach, causing flatulence, bloating, constipation, cramps and even diarrhea.  

Remember, it takes the body between 20 and 40 minutes to send the signal to the brain that the stomach is full. Wolfing down a large meal will lead to feeling uncomfortably full at bedtime, which can inhibit sleep. Sleeping is critical during Ramadan, since the body is experiencing a small kind of trauma and badly needs the recovery time.

Savour every bite. Try and pinpoint each flavour as it moves around your mouth. Notice the textures. Put down your fork between bites. Breathe.

3. Eat plenty of whole grains and other slow-digesting foods.

Foods that are high in fibre are much slower to digest - taking up to eight hours - as opposed to low fibre foods that digest in three or four hours. Try high fibre whole grains like quinoa and brown rice. Nutritious, fibrous dark green vegetables like spinach, kale, okra, bok choy and green beans are great slow-digesters. Dried apricots and almonds are another great choice.

Avoid sweet, sugary foods, which are likely to cause indigestion and heartburn. The body will struggle for a little while adjusting to the new regime. Do everything possible to make it more comfortable.

Consume at least one slow-digesting carbohydrate at iftar.

4. Stay well-hydrated.

Avoid salty foods, since they cause the body to retain water, leaving you bloated and tired. Spicy food will make you feel thirsty and should also be avoided. Caffeine is also a mild diuretic and shouldn’t be consumed, but we’ll get to that later.  

Aim to drink eight glasses of water a day, getting the majority of those glasses at suhoor. Sleep is so critical at Ramadan - you don’t want to be getting up in the middle of the night for a bathroom break.

5. Start cutting the coffee before Ramadan.

Caffeine is not your friend during the holy month, since it dehydrates the body and leaves you feeling thirsty more quickly.  Drinking even a little at suhoor is as good as shooting yourself in the foot.

Caffeine withdrawal is common during Ramadan and can cause some rather fierce headaches. Get a jump on the withdrawal symptoms by slowly reducing caffeine intake now rather than later. Try replacing it with a comforting warm beverage. Herbal tea is a great choice, but if something a little more indulgent is needed, try black tea or rooibos with plenty of milk and honey

6. Consume a little natural laxative.

Drastic changes in your diet can cause an array of uncomfortable digestive problems. Indigestion or upset stomach are common. Constipation is normal. Try some dried prunes at iftar. Here’s where those high-fibre whole grains come in handy. Chia seeds and buckwheat groats are a great addition to cereal and guaranteed to keep things moving. Use an herbal laxative tea, if necessary. Traditional Medicine’s Smooth Move is a good choice.  

7. Resist the temptation to indulge in unhealthy foods.

Fried foods cause acidity in the body, which can lead to heartburn. Early on, while to body is still adjusting, it’s normal to experience headaches or light indigestion. Giving your body the best possible foods is the best way to combat this.

Ramadan is a great time to get the family talking about healthy eating. Traditionally the family sits down together after sunset and enjoys some food together. It’s a good opportunity to teach healthy habits to the young ones. Let them talk about it if they’re struggling with the new regime.

Sweets are common during Ramadan. Fight the urge to overdose on sweets. Try fresh fruit and nuts after dinner. If you’re alone, take the time to commit to a healthy diet, even if it’s just for the holy month. Your body will thank you for it.

8. Remember the “why.”

Return to your commitment in moments of weakness. Write it down. Indulge in spiritual nourishment. Perform good deeds. Recognize that fasting will take a toll. This isn’t a great time to launch a new business, start a new relationship or take a holiday. Go easy on yourself.


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