Ramadan: A Guide to Staying Healthy While Fasting

RamadanRamadan began last night at sundown, and will end on the evening of August 7th. For those who do not celebrate the holiday, Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar. It was established over 1,400 years ago as a holy month for all Muslims. During this month, most Muslims will fast from dawn until sunset with no food or water, every day. Often, those who celebrate will have a “Suhur”, or pre-dawn meal, and then “Iftar”, or the meal that breaks the fast after sunset. The ritual fast that is observed is called “Sawm”, and is one of the five pillars of Islam. It requires individuals to abstain from eating, drinking, smoking, and sex. Another large part of Ramadan is charity. As the fast emphasizes self-sacrifice, people are encouraged to work together to raise money for the poor, donate clothes and food, and hold “Iftar” dinners for those who are not as fortunate.

A question on many minds is how to stay healthy when you can’t eat or drink for up to 12 hours at a time? The trick is to make the meals you are able to consume as healthy as possible. Pretty obvious, huh? Your food intake should stay simple (I know you’re hungry, but try to keep it simple!), and shouldn’t differ too much from your normal diet. You should eat foods from all of the major food groups (fruits and vegetables; bread, cereals and potatoes; meat, fish or alternatives; milk and dairy; fats and sugars).

Both complex carbohydrates (barley, wheat, oats, millet, beans, etc.) and fiber-rich foods (whole wheat, grains and seeds, potatoes with skin, fruits, etc.) are digested slowly, and should help to keep your body going during those long days without food. Fruits are important, as they will help keep up your daily vitamin requirement.

Some types of food to avoid include heavily processed, fast-burning foods like cakes, chocolates, sweets, etc. You also want to try to stay away from caffeine-based drinks like tea, coffee and soda. Try not to eat fried foods, foods that are high in fat and sugar, or foods that were cooked in an excessive amount of oil. Don’t overeat- you’ll expand your stomach and require more food to fill yourself up, making you even hungrier during the day.

If you stick to these tips and stay away from foods that burn quickly and make you hungry again in 30 minutes, you should have a healthy, easy fast!

Happy Ramadan!

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