Ramadan is the month of mercy and forgiveness. With the advent of the holy month, while we find joy in discussing the spiritual, mental and physical benefits of fasting, we should also make health a priority and pay better attention to dietary recommendations during Ramadan. To start reaping the health benefits of fasting while reinforcing our ability for obedience and work, here are a few general tips on health to be followed during Ramadan.
First tip: Break your fast with dates and eat after prayer
Eating dates has been recommended since the days of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH). After long hours of fasting, the stomach is not yet ready to digest fatty meals that can overburden the digestive system. Dates are quickly and easily absorbed through the stomach lining. They contain the simple sugars glucose and fructose that do not require a complicated process to be digested as is the case with carbohydrates and fats. Let your stomach rest during prayers, in preparation for food consumption.
Second tip: Make healthy choices and avoid overeating during Ramadan
Ramadan spreads offering a variety of delicacies from soups and appetizers to several entrees are the norm for many people. However, we should remember that a simple yet complete meal that contains all the nutrients a body needs will be sufficient to break a fast; otherwise the body will store excess calories as fat. Be aware that serving several dishes at Iftar increases people’s appetite to indulge in more food. They might start with the main dishes and forget our Prophet’s wisdom to break the fast with just a few dates, in preparation for a gentle reintroduction of food after many hours of fasting.
Third tip: Don’t skip Suhoor
Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) said: “Eat Suhoor, for in Suhoor there is blessing”.
Suhoor is the “energy-producing meal”. It fulfills the fasting person’s nutritional needs and helps him complete his fast. Many people overlook the merit and importance of this meal as recommended by our Prophet (PBUH) and indulge at night in fatty meals that have negative effects on health such as digestive disorders and weight gain due to excess calories stored by the body as fat.
Fourth tip: Follow the three-meal rule
The dietary rule is to eat three meals a day and it should not be different during Ramadan. Suhoor refers to the breakfast meal consumed in the morning, Iftar is the equivalent of dinner and a light meal between the two will serve as supper. This helps regulate body functions and to fulfill its dietary needs with three meals that balance carbohydrates, proteins, dairy products, fruit and vegetables. Do not forget to drink plenty of water.
Fifth tip: Consume plenty of vegetables and fruit
Changes in dietary habits during Ramadan cause many people to engage in the unhealthy behavior of consuming less fruit and vegetables. Fruit and vegetables are important and rank high on priority lists. Rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber, they provide the body with the required nutrients, contribute to a feeling of fullness, and aid bowel regulation. Whether raw or cooked, it is advisable to spread the recommended servings (at least five servings of fruit and vegetables per day) over the three meals.
Sixth tip: Reduce your intake of sweets
Sweets in general, and Ramadan desserts in particular, are high in fat, sugar and calories. Dry cakes (cream free), rice pudding, and Mahallabiya can be consumed in moderation, but great restraint should be shown when eating Arabic sweets, such as Ktaev, Baklava, Kunafa and Luqaimat dumplings, as they contain large amounts of syrup and ghee.
Seventh tip: Drink sufficient amounts of water
Water is the beverage of choice. Drinking water between Iftar and Suhoor reduces the risk of dehydration, especially when fasting during hot summer days. Therefore, each day drink between 2 - 3 liters (8 – 12 cups) of liquid, preferably water, from Iftar to Suhoor. Liquids include natural juices, milk, laban, soups and others. Reduce the consumption of caffeinated drinks such as coffee, tea and carbonated drinks.
Prepared by Health Education Programs
Ministry of Public Health