One of the hallmarks of Ramadan is the holy ritual of fasting, not to mention the delightful treats that come once the fast is broken. Refraining from eating from dawn to dusk can pose some health risks, apart from needing a whole lot of willpower! It’s not easy, but here are some smart ways to enjoy the festivities and fast the healthy way.
Include foods that are rich in complex carbohydrates and fibre such as whole wheat, brown rice, fruits, and vegetables in your morning meal. The fibre establishes a feeling of fullness and helps regulate the body’s glucose levels throughout the day. Though waking up so early might prompt you to grab a cup or two of coffee without a second thought, it would be best to refrain. Both tea and coffee are diuretics, which means that your body can lose important minerals and fluids during the day. Have milk and almonds instead. They will give you the strength you need.
Remember that it is a meal you are having and not a feast; do not overeat to make up for what you’re missing through the day. Overeating will only result in a metabolic imbalance. So don’t go on to have thirds! The fast lasts for 14 to 15 hours, which means that your digestive system is inactive for a relatively long period. So break your fast with something easy to digest. The best way to start your meal after the long gap is with fresh fruits. Adding dates to your diet is a good idea as these are a rich source of nutrients. Don’t plunge right into the sumptuous spread of iftar as soon as you break your fast. Instead, let your system get used to some light fare and then go on and have a good meal. Spacing your meals will give your body time to adjust to food after the long hours of fasting. There’s no want of variety when it comes to the iftar spread! Savoury and sweet, heavy and light – it’s a foodie’s paradise. It might be tempting to stuff yourself after all those hours of fasting, but do remember to eat moderately.
Don’t indulge too much in the heavy foods which can overload your system. High-fibre foods during your evening meal can help fight acidity that’s the inevitable by-product of so many hours without a morsel. Baking or grilling your food makes it lighter on the stomach (and lowers the calorie count!) while keeping you full for longer. Choose leaner cuts of meat or opt for chicken and seafood, which have higher protein content. Your stomach might start sending out SOS signals because you have not eaten all day, but remember that you can ignore those and tell yourself that it is not a real famine! Serve yourself small portions and eat slowly – if you’re still hungry after you’ve finished what’s on your plate and you have waited a few minutes, you can have seconds. Skip salty foods such as pickles, sauces and salted nuts. Though you have a whole night before sunrise to begin your fast again, the salts retained by your body might cause dehydration. Drink as much water as possible during your evening and morning meals, preferably before you go to sleep. Your body can do with that extra bit of time to adjust the fluid levels before you begin your fast the next day.
Another thing that’s different during this time is your sleep pattern. You will have to get up early, and how early can you possibly go to bed? It might not be that easy, but try your best to get enough sleep, though not right after your meal. If you can, indulge in afternoon naps. Even with a healthy diet and sleep (for a few hours), your body will still not be at its healthiest or strongest. So avoid activities that are too strenuous during this period and stay indoors as much as possible. Opting for healthier alternatives can help you get through the festive season, and your digestive system will thank you for it. By making the right choices and some simple lifestyle adjustments, you can enjoy Ramadan to your heart’s content… without making your stomach suffer too much. – Pallavi