Stay healthy and active this Ramadan
Ramadan is an intensely spiritual month where believers learn to exercise self-control by abstaining from all food and drink from dawn until dusk. During the summer months these fasts can last over 18 hours and the stresses on the body can be extreme. Follow these tips to ensure health benefits during Ramadan and beyond:
- Try and maintain your normal calorie intake, eating normal quantities of food from the major food groups: bread and cereals, milk and dairy, meat and fish, fruit and vegetables.
- You will really benefit from planning meals ahead of time, write out your weekly shopping list and meals to ensure you gain all the nutrients you require at each meal.
- Always eat the pre-dawn meal focussing on complex carbohydrates like grains and seeds like barley, wheat, oats, millet, semolina, beans, lentils, wholemeal flour, and unpolished rice. These take longer to digest and make us feel less hungry during the day. Make sure you have a source of protein, like eggs, fish,lean chicken , which again keeps you feeling full for longer.
My favourite pre-fast meal: porridge with milk, a boiled egg and a piece of fruit…ticks all the boxes!
- Eat high fibre foods: dates, figs, prunes , oats, beans, lentils vegetables(peas, spinach, green beans)
- Drink plenty of water. This will prevent headache, constipation ,lethargy
- Remain active and maintain light exercise. A gentle 20-30 minute walk daily with gentle resistance work or even tai chi, Chi Kung and yoga twice a week should maintain weight and reduce muscle loss that may occur as a result of fasting. This is best done in the evening and often serves to energise you as well.
- Consider taking a multi-vitamin. Speak to your doctor or pharmacist for advice.
- Catch up on sleep , perhaps after coming home from work in the evening. Lack of sleep plays havoc with the metabolism , affecting hormonal levels and causing bad food choices and weight gain.
- Avoid refined carbohydrates and processed foods: white flour, bread, refined sugar,cakes ,crisps and pastries .
- Avoid fatty foods and deep fried foods. These cause bloating and indigestion, heartburn and weight gain. No samosa and pakoras!!
- Avoid over-eating, especially at Iftar(dusk). Bring blood sugar and hydration levels up slowly by breaking fast with a piece of fruit (dates,figs,prunes,grapes are good) and a large glass of water. After the evening prayer have a healthy balanced meal of normal proportions.
- Do not drink tea or coffee or fizzy soda after fasting. These can make dehydration worse due to the diuretic effect and contribute to salt deprivation. You may also feel irritable and suffer headaches during the fast.
- Do not stop taking any regular medication. If you have diabetes, high blood pressure ,kidney disease or stomach problems, see your doctor,pharmacist or health team before fasting. They have a lot of useful advice to help you through the month or can advise alternative formulations of medication. At the end of the day, if your health is at risk, you should avoid fasting anyway.
A healthy Ramadan is one where you acheive a calmness of mind and strength of character but also are able to maintain good physical health. Hopefully these benefits can extend throughout the year too.
Have a happy and healthy Ramadan !