The holy month of Ramadan is the time of period of fasting for 29 or 30 days. According to Islamic teachings. Muslims do not eat or drink anything during daylight hours, eating one meal (the ‘Suhoor’ or ‘Sehri’) just before dawn and another (the ‘Iftar’) after sunset. Followers of Islam believe that fasting teaches patience, modesty, and spirituality.
How does Fasting Affect the Body?
During this time the human body uses stored carbohydrates and fats to provide energy all day. In this period low energy is something everyone experience at some time. Depending on the weather and the length of the fast, most people who fast during Ramadan will experience mild dehydration, which may cause headaches, tiredness, and difficulty concentrating. However, studies have suggested that this is not harmful to health, provided that enough fluids are consumed after breaking the fast to replace those lost during the day.
Drinking plenty of fluids, as well as consuming fluid-rich foods, such as fruit, vegetables, yogurt, soups, and stews, is very important to replace fluids lost during the day and to start the next day of fasting well hydrated. To keep the body active and ready for prayers foods consumed during Sehri and Iftar are most important.
Sehri is a pre-dawn meal. With the perception that nothing could be eaten the whole day, one tries to eat maximum he/she can without knowing the consequences
In Sehri refined carbohydrates like sucrose, high fructose corn syrup white flour should be avoided. Their fiber content is stripped off and dehydration both will cause digestion problems. The best recommendation by a nutritionist is wholegrains, whole fruits, and vegetables. Add to this healthy fat (olive oil, grass-fed butter/ghee, coconut, avocado, nuts, seeds, etc.) and healthy protein (organic grass-fed meat, chicken and eggs
- Oats – these are whole grains and you could choose porridge, which will also provide fluids as it’s made with milk or water, muesli
- High fiber breakfast cereals – these provide plenty of fiber and are often fortified with vitamins and minerals, providing extra nutrients. Because they are consumed with milk, you also get fluid and nutrients like calcium, iodine, and b vitamins from the milk.
- Bread – go for wholegrain options as these provide more fiber, for example, wholemeal toast or chapattis.Avoid combining bread with salty foods like hard cheese, or preserved meats. You could try nut butter (without added salt), soft cheese, or banana. As bread is fairly dry, make sure you drink plenty of water or other fluids alongside or you could have fluid-rich foods such as a lentil soup, which is a traditional food at Suhoor in some countries.
- Yogurt – this can be a good food to include at Sehri as it provides nutrients like protein, calcium, iodine, vitamin D, and also contains fluid. You could combine it with cereal and fruit.
A heavy meal after the whole day fasting is not a good idea. Iftar best goes with fluid rich foods or food containing natural sugars for energy.
- Traditionally Dates are eaten to breakfast as Prophet Muhammad did. Dates are a natural source of sugar with minerals like potassium and manganese with fiber content. Dried fruits like apricot, figs, or almonds.
- Water, fruit juices, milk, and smoothies must be part of Iftar. These are also good to break the fast but avoid drinking a lot of drinks with added sugars after breaking the fast as these can provide too many sugars and calories.
- Fruits as fruit salad, pie or delights complete Iftar times. Intake of carbohydrates in some form is very important for Iftar. This can be achieved by adding beans pasta chickpeas and corn.
After breaking the fast – meals vary between different cultures and traditions but try to make sure the foods you eat provide a balance of starchy foods, fruit and vegetables, dairy foods, and protein-rich foods. Depending upon the length of fast and season portions must be adjusted.
Food in Non-fasting hours
Water is the main component of our bodies. To ensure the body is hydrated well during non-fasting hours drink water or eat fruits and vegetables rich in water like cucumber, celery, watermelon, etc. Herbal tea after Iftar provides necessary antioxidants and for proper digestion of food.
A light exercise and good sleep will prepare your body for the next day.