Read our top tips on staying healthy during Ramadan.
Ramadan is a time of spirituality and purity.
Fasting in the month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, is a very important ritual for Muslims as it is one of the five pillars of Islam.
During Ramadan, healthy and able Muslims refrain from consuming food and drink from dawn till sunset. This translates to a fast that lasts for 12 to 14 hours a day for 30 days which tests one’s physical, mental and spiritual resolve.
The first few days of the fasting month could cause a little discomfort as the body gets used to the process. Here are some tips to help tackle the challenges.
Do NOT miss sahur (pre-dawn meal)
“No time”! “No appetite”! These are common grouses for those who have a problem with sahur, which involves getting up way earlier than usual to have the meal before undertaking the fasting routine for the day.
There are plenty of us who just love to carry on sleeping, only to miss the sahur time — the time before the crack of dawn — and decide to carry on with the fast anyway.
If you only had last night’s supper at, say, 9.30 pm and you miss sahur, you will have to go for another 14 hours without eating and drinking. This is detrimental to one’s health and fasting routine, as breakfast kick-starts your metabolism and helps to efficiently burn calories. It also provides us with the energy to get through the day.
Do make an effort to get up early. A quick, easy-to-prepare meal such as toast and a hot drink is better than no breakfast at all. Have something handy in the fridge prepared the night before that can be reheated. Sliced fruits, leftovers and porridge will save you plenty of time.
Dates are jam-packed with nutrients, perfect for breaking fast.
Eat slowly and take small portions
One would feel like one could eat a horse once it is time for iftar or breaking fast! But really, that’s the worst thing you can do.
Why? After the body undergoes a substantial period of refraining from food and fluid, it uses up the fuel for daily activities from fat and muscle.
Your tired body needs energy too — for digesting the food you are going to consume. Oily, fatty, processed food and animal proteins take up the highest amount of digestive energy. So if you’re feeling sluggish after a meal, you know the reason why.
The best way to manage one’s food intake is by breaking fast with a little bit of something natural that’s bursting with nutrients (see below), followed by a complete meal after the prayer. This way, your body will have time to adjust to the intakes and efficiently absorb the much-needed nourishment.
Eat natural and nutrient-dense foods
It is a tradition to break fast with dates, and there’s a good reason why. Apart from the fact that it is a sunnah (practices of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam), dates have been proven to be a superfood with lots of essential nutrients that can be absorbed into the bloodstream at the time of breaking of fast.
A small dose of easily digestible protein such as yoghurt is a good accompaniment. Yoghurt contains live cultures that are beneficial for the digestive tract. Do pick unsweetened yoghurt, because it’s healthier!
Choose highly nutritious, unprocessed whole foods whenever possible. Examples are whole grains, fruits, pulses, vegetables and oily fishes.
Whole foods are best for Ramadan.
Consume enough fluids
This is a big concern for Ramadan, and rightly so. About 70% of the human body is made up of water, making it an essential ingredient for human survival.
Opt for plain water and fresh-squeezed fruit juices. Minimize caffeinated drinks such as tea and coffee, as caffeine has a diuretic effect on the body. Carbonated drinks should also be avoided as they have extremely high sugar content.
Increasing the intake of high-water-content foods is greatly beneficial as well. Examples are melons, cucumber, and salad leaves such as iceberg lettuce and tomatoes.
Shift daytime exercise/physical activities to evenings after breaking of fast
It looks like your daily jogging, cycling or even swimming will have to take a hiatus, for doing it during the fasting hours will tire and dehydrate you.
But like medications, one’s physical activities or exercises can be timed as well. Those who are used to some form of exercise can do so early in the morning before the start of fasting and after the breaking of fast.
Get doctor's advice if you want to fast despite taking long-term medications.
And last but not least, get doctor’s advice on timing of medications
If you are on some long-term medications and want to fast, you may still be able to do so provided that you have been given the okay by your doctor.
Check out the list of restaurants and cafés on Yellow Pages Malaysia if you want to plan a quick buka puasa at great eateries across the country.