With the prevalent heat and ever increasing temperature it is important to stay vigilant in order to remain healthy throughout the holy month of Ramzaan. 8 hours after your last meal, your body goes into fasting mode, when your stomach has absorbed all the nutrients from your meal. Normally, the main source of energy for your body is the glucose stored in your liver and muscles but during fasting, once your body runs out of glucose, fat becomes its main source of energy. This leads to weight loss and keeps your muscles intact and cholesterol levels low. However, if you overeat during the non-fasting periods, it could have unhealthy repercussions and weight gain. Since food and liquid intake is limited during this month, it is vital that whatever you consume is right for your body and its well being.
Water plays a very important role during Ramzaan, it keeps you hydrated, and it also gives you the feeling of fullness. You must drink as much water or fresh fruit (or vegetable) juice as possible during Iftar, and before going to bed. This will give your body time to adjust its fluid levels and prevent fatigue and headache. Make sure to make water your primary fluid to replenish your thirst during Ramzaan. Having tea, coffee or sodas will increase the caffeine in your system and percolate calcium. This will make you feel less full all the time.
Tea should be avoided at Suhoor as it increases salt excretion in urine, which is needed for your body during fasting. If possible, drink small quantities of water between meals instead of having large quantities all at once or during your meal. It is essential to drink at least 2 litres of water during non-fasting hours in order to maintain hydration levels throughout the day.
It is best to start Iftar with something sweet, made of simple sugar, in order to compensate for the energy lost during the day. A few dates or a banana is ideal. A glass of milk along with the dates will help your body get much-needed proteins and minerals. Follow it up with some warm (non-creamy) soup. This will not only help digest your food better, it will also prevent discomfort later on. It is important to take a 10-15 minute break between the initial breaking for your fast and having your main meal. This meal should preferably consist of lean protein and some low-glycemic carbohydrates. These could be in the form of grilled chicken or fish, cottage cheese (paneer) and some brown rice with cooked or raw vegetables (using minimal oil).
Make sure to not overeat and have multiple small meals in order to avoid weight gain and stomach problems like indigestion and bloating. Snacking on almonds or having a banana during the non-fasting period also provide you with protein, fibre, and potassium, while providing you with energy. Although it might be tempting, make sure to avoid too much sugar or food that is fried. It is important to consume more fibre and protein and avoid the empty calories. If the temptation is too much to resist, try having healthier versions of the fried foods by baking them instead. This will guarantee lesser intake of calories and less discomfort after your meal. Replace sugary foods with fruits to stay healthy, hydrated and keep the calories off.
While it may be enticing to sleep, waking up for suhoor is important for your health. You may tend to skip this meal, but it is extremely vital as it provides you with the energy to maintain production levels throughout the day. A glass of low-fat milk and a bowl of freshly cut vegetables along with some complex carbohydrates (like whole wheat bread) and protein (like lean chicken/turkey, boiled eggs, and white cheese) makes for an ideal suhoor meal.
It is important to partake in some light exercises during Ramzaan in order to ensure that your body lithe and fit. Some exercise, in the form of a 10-minute walk, before breaking your fast (before bedtime and before suhoor) is ideal. Outdoor exercise may not be possible due to the heat but climbing a few flights of stairs slowly and gradually will do the trick. Make sure not to over-exert yourself during the first few days.
The holy month of Ramzaan is for practicing self-restraint, cleansing the body of impurities and refocusing on one’s self. This Ramzaan, make sure to make changes that will last a lifetime. Eat smart and keep yourself hydrated to stay healthy and safe. Ramzaan Kareem!