By Sherifa El-Nahass
Certified Nutritionist and Functional Medicine Practitioner
During fasting, we rest our system from the constant onslaught of food. We usually think of food as a source of energy, but during this month, we can look at food differently and think about how the food we eat actually requires the exertion of energy.
Digesting, assimilating and metabolizing are all activities that require a great deal of energy. It is estimated that 65% of the body’s energy must be directed to the digestive organs after a heavy meal, however, this amount of energy could be better put to use if it were diverted to healing and recuperation.
It can detox and repair cells, tissues and organs, eliminating foreign toxins as well as natural metabolic wastes (which are also toxins) produced even by our healthy cells. And this is what the body will do during a fast, it will take advantage of that time and energy to do some housecleaning.
The overloaded, overworked system, unable to properly handle all the toxins, has been storing any excesses in the tissues where they can be dealt with later. This is one of the great health benefits of fasting in that it offers this opportunity to play “catch up”.
On the flip side, fasting causes a type of stress that provides an added benefit. This is a kind of mild stress that is comparable to the stress caused by exercise, which ultimately makes you stronger and your immune system more resilient.
If you are a diabetic and decided to fast you will require less insulin before the start of the fast. Make sure to eat a well-balanced sohour, for example, sohour and the right kind of fats (olive oil, avocado), and fruits (peaches, watermelon).
Check your blood glucose levels more often than you normally would, start first with drinking 2 cups of room temperature water slowly. Then eat your salad, interrupt your meal by praying, then go back by eating small quantities.
Avoid drinking coffee and tea during sohour, they will dehydrate you during fasting hours. Eat medium-chain triglycerides at sohour (coconut oil, butter from grass-fed cows and full-fat yogurt), they will help you suppress your appetite and will aid in weight loss.
What to eat on your iftar table?
Let’s agree that breaking our fast first should be with two glasses of room temperature water. Keeping yourself hydrated is key for a healthy and vibrant YOU during Ramadan. If you are a physically active person you can then have 2 to 3 pitted dates. After your maghrib prayer, start with your salad aligned with your protein.
- Wait for 2 hours then have your fruit
- Don’t stuff your gut with large amounts of food at once
- Your meals should be divided into smaller meals so as not to experience distention and indigestion
- If you are a sedentary person, start with the salad aligned with your protein
What to avoid on your Ramadan table?
- Avoid drinking lots of juices filled with large amounts of sugar, which will cause over eating and will make you sluggish.
- Avoid eating fried foods during the holy month of Ramadan as it will irritate your gut and drain your energy.
- Avoid eating large amounts of desserts which will lead to hyperglycemia, put you in a roller coaster in terms of very high energy levels and then a sudden drop in your energy levels and feeling hungry most of the time, as a substitute to high-sugar desserts, try roasted sweet potatoes, fruits and dried fruits like prunes and apricots.
Stay active and hydrated during Ramadan.