What better time than the month of Ramadhan to reevaluate your life choices and focus on living healthier and happier?
Fasting can help strengthen your spiritual journey with Allah, and if done right, it could also reap great benefits for your health too! However, if you go crazy during the non-fasting hours, you could possibly be harming your body and ruining your efforts to look and feel good during Raya.
According to dietitians, the most common complaints during Ramadhan is constipation caused by low fibre and water intake, and indigestion due to over-eating deep fried, oily food. Muscle cramps happen too thanks to the lack of veggies, fruit, meat and dairy in your diet. You might also experience headaches if you are used to drinking caffeine or smoking but suddenly have to cut back.
Overcome all these problems by following these sensible guidelines to a healthy Ramadhan:
1. Break your fast (Iftar) with some dates and water
You’ve been holding back the whole day, and you have your plate piled high with your Ramadhan bazaar loot. The moment you hear the Azan Maghrib, you scarf down all the sugar-laden kuih-muih, a roti john, a murtabak ayam and 10 satay sticks. This is not a good thing to do to your body. Usually when you binge eat after starving the entire day, you end up consuming way more calories than you would have normally, and that could also interfere with your spiritual growth during this month. Take it slow and start off with a few dates first, following the Prophetic traditions. Dates give you a nutritious burst of natural sugar (energy!) while water hydrates you without all the sugar.
2. Don’t skip Sahur
While it might be very tempting to sleep in just a few more hours instead of waking up for Sahur, your pre-dawn meal is perhaps the most important meal of the day as it’s what’s going to keep you fuelled up and running. Eat some slow-digesting foods (like wholegrains, beans, veggies and fruits) and drink water or fruit juices to keep you hydrated throughout the day.
3. Drink more liquids
Your body is made up of 60% water and it’ll need the same amount of H2o intake regardless of whether you’re fasting. Make sure you catch up to your daily requirement of liquids by drinking up in the evenings and during Sahur. This will help keep you alert and hydrated, and will probably help you poo easier too.
4. Go for complex carbs instead of simple carbs
Complex carbs release its energy slowly throughout the day, which helps when you can’t eat anything. Simple carbs on the other hand (candy, sugar, cakes, soft drinks etc) are broken down very quickly by the body to be used as energy. Simple carbs are found naturally in foods like fruits, milk, and milk products, and they’re also found in processed and refined sugars such as candy, granulated sugar, syrups and soft drinks. While simple carbs give you a sudden burst of energy, you will feel depleted later on and hungry again. You don’t want that when you shouldn’t even be thinking about food. Complex carbs on the other hand are made up of sugar molecules that are strung together in long, complex chains. You can find them in peas, beans, whole grains and veggies. Try basing your carb intake on complex carbs that are high in fibre like whole grains.
5. Eat balanced meals
Like mentioned above, the problems commonly faced when fasting include constipation, indigestion and headaches. A balanced meal during both Sahur and Iftar is vital to not experience any of these. Make sure your plate looks like the one shown above, fulfilling all the food groups needed, but try not to overeat. If you’re shopping at a Ramadhan bazaar, do keep an eye out for healthier alternatives like kebab (ask for less mayo and sauce on the side), popiah basah, mihun soup and nasi campur (which can be healthy if the right entree is chosen, like ikan bakar and ulam, or vegetable soup).
6. Avoid caffeine
If you are a hardcore coffee, Coke or tea drinker, you might benefit from cutting back on it during puasa month. This is because caffeine is a diuretic (which means it makes you pee faster and causes loss of liquids from your body). When you can’t drink from sunrise till sunset, that’s the last thing you want. Also, try decreasing your intake gradually leading up to Ramadhan so you don’t get any withdrawal effects.
7. Say no to sweet drinks
Come on, I was a good boy / girl the entire day! Can’t I have just another pack of sirap bandung / cendol/ ice kacang? Whether you’re fasting or not, the same rules to weight loss applies. Energy expended must exceed energy intake, otherwise you’ll gain weight. To many of us, our downfall comes in the form of these sugary sweet drinks. It’s pretty easy to sip up 1,000 calories without you realising. It’s better to stick to water or stop yourself at one drink. Alternatively, you could try one of these pretty homemade fruit-infused waters instead!
8. Look to the Holy Qur’an for food choices
If you’re unsure of what you should eat, and what’s good for you, the Qur’an has some answers. Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) commonly consumed milk, dates, lamb / mutton and oats. The Qur’an also mentions fruits and veggies like olives, onions, cucumber, figs, dates, grapes, and lentils. Fish is also encouraged, as the Islamic law spares ﬁsh from any speciﬁc slaughter requirements, making it easy to incorporate ﬁsh in a meal.
9. Follow this chart if you’re not sure of what to eat
10. Sleep earlier
Since you’ll be waking up for Sahur, it makes sense to tuck yourself in bed earlier than usual. Lack of sleep takes a toll on your cognitive abilities, and could lead to a host of diseases in the long run, including what you want least – weight gain [Source].
Happy puasa-ing from the HealthWorks team!
How do you keep yourself healthy during Ramadhan? Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook page!