Ramazan is the holy month when Muslims across the world observe fast (Roza) during daylight hours and take meals only at two specific times one meal just before the dawn (Sahar or Sehri) and another meal after sunset (Iftar). While fasting is obligatory for all healthy Muslims (not children), there are exemptions for those who are chronically ill or whose health could be affected by fasting e.g. pregnant women, breast feeding mothers, menstruating women and people with severe diabetes.
The fast usually last over 15 hours making it all the more important to look after your health if you are fasting.
During fasting hours when no food or drink is consumed, the body uses its stores of carbohydrate and fat to provide energy once all the calories from the foods consumed during the night have been used up. The body cannot store water and so the kidneys conserve as much water as possible by reducing the amount lost as urine. However, the body cannot avoid losing some water when you go to the toilet, through your skin and when you breathe and when you sweat if the climate is hot.
Once the fast is broken, the body can rehydrate and gain energy from the foods and drinks consumed. Having not eaten for a long period, you may find it helpful to eat slowly when breaking the fast and to start with plenty of fluids and low-fat, fluid-rich foods.
What to eat and drink for remaining healthy and fit during Ramazan :
1. Dates : traditionally eaten to break the fast since the time of the Prophet Muhammad (saw) dates are a great way to break the fast as they provide natural sugars for energy, provide minerals like potassium, copper and manganese and are a source of fibre.
2. Fluids : water, milk, fruit juices or smoothies are taken at Iftar as water provides hydration without any extra calories or added sugars. Drinks based on milk and fruit provide some natural sugars and nutrients and 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 much sugars and calories.
3. Fruits : fruits provides natural sugars for energy, fluid and some vitamins and minerals.
4. Soup : which are usually based on a meat broth and often contain pulses, like lentils and beans, and starchy foods like pasta or grains, provide fluids, energy and nutrients
5. Calories Check and Light Exercise : after breaking the fast, try to make sure the foods you ate provide a balance of starchy foods, including whole grains, fruit and vegetables, dairy foods and protein rich foods like meat, fish, eggs and beans. If you can, once you have had a chance to digest your food, you could try doing some light exercise such as going for a walk. If you attend Taraweeh prayers, you could walk all or part of the way there.
SEHRI : For remaining well hydrated for the day ahead, go for starchy foods for energy, drink plenty of fluids, choose fluid rich foods to make sure you are choosing high fibre or wholegrain varieties as these can help keep you feeling fuller and can aid digestion, helping to prevent constipation. Below are some examples:
1. Starchy Foods : the starchy food like rice may be tried by making rice pudding etc. If you go for savory dishes at suhoor then it’s a good idea make sure these are not too salty or they may make you very thirsty during the fast.
2. Breads : go for whole grains as these provide more fibre, for example whole meal toast or chapattis. Avoid combining bread with salty foods like hard cheese or preserved meats. You could try nut butters (without added salt), soft cheese, or banana. As bread is fairly dry, make sure you drink plenty of water or other fluids alongside.
3. High Fibre Breakfast Cereals : these provide plenty of fibre 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.
4. Curd / Yogurt : this can be a good food to include at Suhoor as it provides nutrients like protein, calcium, iodine and b vitamins and also contains fluid.
5. Oats : these are whole grains and you could choose porridge, which will also provide fluids as its made of milk , muesli.