For many Muslims around the world, today is the first day of fasting for the holy month of Ramadan. And this year is going to be quite an unusual Ramadan, as the whole world is under lockdown and tight restrictions, and not only have mosques taken proper measures and closed their doors, but the strict curfews and physical distancing will have many of the rituals and traditions curtailed this year, as group iftars and charitable tables are banned for safety reasons. However, here are a few tips for a healthy Ramadan 2020
THE BENEFIT OF FASTING
Ramadan fasting involves abstaining from eating, drinking and sexual relations from dawn to sunset, and though it is done to reach greater consciousness of God, fasting has been followed by many civilizations, over the centuries, to heal the body. And today, some scientists advocate a modified fast for mental and physical benefits. It is the case of a very hip fasting lately, the intermittent fasting, that requires not eating for 12, 16 or 24 hours at a time.
Another form of fasting, called the 5:2 fast, encourages calorie restriction (only 500 calories) over a period of 36 hours, twice a week). In 2012, a documentary, Eat, Fast and Live Longer, was released and advocating the intermittent fasting as well.
Among the benefits of such fastings, similar to the form of fasting practiced by Muslims during Ramadan, include improved sleep, less cholesterol and heart diseases and evidence of reduced risk of some cancers, including breast cancer. Restricting food intake also helps improve mental health and wellbeing.
NUTRITIONAL TIPS FOR A BETTER RAMADAN
Don’t skip Suhoor
Suhoor needs to be wholesome so as to provide enough energy to last during the long hours of fasting. Remember to include plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, meat and dairy products, as they will help you survive the day.
Do not overeat during Iftar
Though Iftar is the time when you reboost your energy levels, do not give into the temptation of stuffing yourself with various treats that will just be empty calories. Traditionally, during Ramadan, dates are eaten at the start of Iftar to mark the breaking of the fast. Dates are an excellent source of energy, and they are rich in potassium, which will help your muscle and nerve function. Try to consume foods from all major groups: fruit, vegetables, rice or alternatives, meat or alternatives. Include a bit of dairy.
Avoid fried, salty or high-sugar foods
Iftar is traditionally the time when families and friends get together for a feast to break the fast, and the delicious Ramadan sweets are hard to resist. Even more so during this long lockdown… However, eating sweets right after Iftar will cause bloating and a delay in digestion. Spicy and salty food will make you very thirsty the following day. Practice portion control and moderation.
Keep a balanced diet
We all know it is the key to a good health, but it may be difficult to keep it healthy during this month. As much as you can, ensure that your food intake is simple and does not deviate much from your regular diet. Again, have plenty of fruit and vegetables and avoid processed food as much as possible, as well as deep-fried food. Consume food items like barley, wheat, millet, semolina, beans, lentils and rice, as they are complex carbohydrates and help release energy slowly during the long hours of fasting. Also include fiber-rich foods such as bran, cereals, grains and seeds or even potatoes, with the skin on, or veggies such as green beans, fruits such as apricots, prunes and figs, as they are digested slowly and help you feel full longer.
Drink as much water as possible
In order to reduce the risk of dehydration, one should make the effort to drink a least 8 glasses of water between Iftar and Suhoor. Say no to caffeine as it promotes fluid loss, and opt for plain water. Fruits and veggies help hydrate the body as well. Soups are a great option, as they both hydrate and provide nutrients and energy, but avoid adding too much salt or spices to them.