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Prepare for healthy eating during Ramadan.

Byline: Alva Carpenter

THROUGHOUT the holy month of Ramadan Muslims from all around the world abstain from eating and drinking from the hours of sunrise to sunset. Ramadan is a very special time for Muslims, when community and family play a central role. Once the sun sets the fasting ends with traditional meals which stretch through the night. The daily breakings of the fasts are memorable family meals. The fast is traditionally broken with family favorites such as dates, water, hydrating sweet juices such as Jallab, or a soup. It is a time when everyone is eating at the same time and getting together. When a person fasts the digestive system gets the chance to rest and the body has to use its reserves of fat already present in the body for energy. It is also a time when you realize that you can do without eating for long periods and it increase the appreciation of food and teaches self-discipline and patience. Many people say their sense of taste is heightened after a day of fasting and reminds us that food is a gift from God and should be eaten in moderation. Ramadan is also a time to take care of yourself so that you feel well. It is not a time to think of losing weight but being calm and healthy. Fasting in Ramadan teaches that food should be enjoyed and taken in moderation. For non-Muslims working alongside Muslims, try to fast for one day from sunrise to sunset; this really will give you a new respect your colleagues' devotion and will also give a new appreciation of the gift of food. It is not easy.

Get into a healthy Ramadan routine

It is also important to follow a good routine for Ibada (prayer and other religious activities), sleep, studies, work, and physical activities or exercise. A good balance of the amount of time attributed for each activity will lead to a healthier body and mind in Ramadan

Take good care of yourself

1. Keep up good eating habits by eating balanced meals with fruit and vegetables.

2. Try not to eat too quickly when breaking your fast.

3. Start gently with traditional dates or figs and a glass of water or a simple soup.

4. Be sure to aim for 2 liters or more of water and lots of fresh fruit juices. Try to drink enough to avoid dehydration and headaches during the day. If you are not drinking enough water your urine will be dark; this means you need to drink more water.

5. Avoid drinking more than two cans of colas, or two cups of coffee or tea as they can keep you awake at night, and they also have a diuretic effect on the body. If you give them up completely in Ramadan you will experience withdrawal symptom such as headaches

6. Take Exercise. It is important for the circulation to maintain some kind of exercise. Get into the habit of taking an evening walk along the beach or in the park after Iftar, or just to get some fresh air.

7. Sleep Well. A good sleep is necessary to ensure balance the next day especially for those who go to work or study. Lack of sleep can express itself in the form of nervousness, bad headaches and digestive problems.

8. Take an afternoon sleep as this will give you energy and refresh you so that you can enjoy your evenings.

9. Suhoor: I highly recommend eating this pre-dawn meal before you start your day of fasting. While you may want to pass to catch some more sleep, remember that you can always take a sleep in the afternoon while you are fasting, but you won't be able to eat or drink. To make it easier, prepare a light breakfast before going to bed so you can quickly eat and go back to sleep. Try to eat a meal that will give you energy to enjoy your day and experience Ramadan to the full. As the weather is so warm drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.

Key foods for Ramadan

Because our body is mostly water, the best source of fluid replacement is pure water. The tradition of dates and water make a wonderful combination to gently break the fast.

Dates are a real super food and a powerhouse of nutrients. Dates contain sodium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, copper, sulphur, manganese, silicon, chlorine and potassium, vital to the prevention of dehydration.

Fiber is slow to digest and keeps you feeling full longer and slowly releases energy. Fiber rich foods include most cereals, whole grain bread, fruits and vegetables.

To avoid constipation eat whole grain cereal, whole grain brown bread, and if possible brown rice. Eat fruit and vegetables and make water your main drink.

Ask Alva

Q: I appreciated your tips on healthy eating during Ramadan last year and I wonder if you can help me? After the first week of Ramadan I suffer from indigestion, and increased acidity in my stomach causing a burning feeling, and a sour taste in my mouth. I also put on weight. - Khalil

A: Try to limit very spicy foods and foods that are very heavy in sugar, such as some traditional sweets. It is very easy to eat a lot of very rich food during Ramadan. This can be overcome by including foods rich in fiber such as whole wheat bread, vegetables, humus, beans and fruit. These foods trigger muscular action, churning and mixing of food, breaking it into small particles, and thus help reduce the build up of acid in the stomach. Vegetable soup is also very calming for the stomach and makes sure you aim for 2 liters of water. Weight gain in Ramadan is caused by overeating and insufficient sleep.

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Publication:Arab News (Jeddah, Saudi Arabia)
Date:Sep 8, 2008
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