The holy month of Ramadan is of special significance for Muslims across the world. During this period, people undertake fasting and abstain from food and drink from dawn to dusk. It is critical to get proper nourishment between iftar (evening meal) and suhoor (pre-dawn morning meal) so that you can maintain your health during Ramadan. For some people, the body’s adjustment to fasting and a new routine takes some time. This can lead to symptoms like weakness, dizziness, mood swings and low energy.
Fasting during the month of Ramadan is as much a mental exercise as it is a physical one. Different people adjust their minds and bodies differently, however here are some tips that can help adjust and accommodate to the routine:
Do not skip suhoor! A healthy meal ensures that you have adequate energy till iftar. This tip applies especially to groups such as older people, adolescents, pregnant and nursing mothers who choose to fast, and any children who choose to fast.
Drink plenty of water during iftar, suhoor and the time in between. An adult needs an average of 2-3 liters of water each day. Drink rehydrating fluids several times throughout the night, even if you are not very thirsty. It is important to avoid dehydrating fluids such as those containing caffeine, therefore coffee, tea and sodas are not recommended. Instead, opt for fresh fruit juice or milk. Breaking your fast at iftar with water is highly recommended and is also traditional, as it ensures that you rehydrate your body before eating.
Apart from drinking water, it is also recommended to start meals with broths, stews and soups that replenish your fluids. Fruits and vegetables that are high in water content, including watermelon, cucumber, and spinach, can be eaten to ensure proper hydration.
If you experience frequent headaches, dark colored urine, muscle weakness or dry mouth, it could be indicative of dehydration. You should increase your fluid intake as soon as possible if any of these symptoms manifest.
This tip is important for people living in warmer climates who may experience water loss through sweat and perspiration. When temperatures are high, it is important to remain in a cool and shaded place and avoid the sun. Dehydration can also result in unhealthy weight loss.
Variety is key to a healthy diet during Ramadan. Eat meals that include bread, cereals, grains, fruits, vegetables, fish, poultry, dairy and healthy fats. Healthy fats are those derived from nuts or plants, like olive oil. Ensure that your body is getting all the nutrients it needs.
It is also recommended to eat foods that are digested slowly so that they release energy over time to sustain you throughout the day. Foods that are high in fiber, like whole grains, nuts, dry fruits, fruits, and vegetables. Foods containing complex carbohydrates like lentils, chickpeas, beans, rice etc. are also recommended. It is traditional to break the fast by eating dates, which are an excellent source of fiber.
Food high in salt content is not good for maintaining hydration. This includes processed meat, salami, sausages, salty cheeses, and sauces. You should also limit intake of fried and fatty foods, but they can be enjoyed in moderation. Instead of fried food, try to eat foods that have been grilled, baked, or steamed. Opt for white meat over red meat and lean cuts over fatty meat. For sweets and desserts, opt for fruits that have natural sugars, and reduce consumption of food that has high refined sugar or artificial sweeteners.
Eating too much too quickly can cause discomfort and heartburn. Slowly eating small portions of food is the best way to prevent weight gain and is good for overall health. It takes the body some time to register when the hunger is satisfied. Hence, don’t go overboard with eating during iftar. Eating only as much as is required to fulfill your hunger puts less stress on your body and gives you more energy than eating huge amounts at one time. Overeating does not help people feel more energized during the day.
Even though fasting is physically exhausting, remaining completely sedentary is not recommended. Short easy walks or simple stretches can help keep your energy up during the day. Since Ramadan takes place in warmer months across many countries, avoid outdoor physical activity and opt for simple indoor exercises.
Getting enough sleep is crucial for overall health and well-being. Make sure to get adequate sleep during Ramadan to maintain optimal health.
If you have any health conditions like diabetes or other underlying illness, or if you are pregnant/breastfeeding, it is best to consult your doctor to confirm if you can fast without any harm. Similarly, if you are taking any medications, be sure to ask your doctor if you can safely skip them or whether they can be taken without food/fluids. If you feel unwell during a fast, consult a medical professional to understand your symptoms better and take adequate healthy measures.