Ramadan has already started all around the world but with a big difference this year: Coronavirus and lockdown!
If you are a Muslim believer, then during Ramadan, all your attention is focused on spirituality, increased charity and generosity, deep contemplation of your relationship with God and forging deeper family ties. However, tell me honestly, what else comes to your mind while thinking about Ramadan?
Of course, you would say the colourful Iftar table full of delicious food and drinks. A large choice of greasy, fried and sugary dishes, all at once, on the same table!
Unfortunately, most people fall into this trap and forget that Ramadan is for fasting not for feasting. It is a month dedicated to purifying your mind and soul but also and most importantly your body!
Fasting, from dawn to dusk. All-day-long without eating, drinking or engaging in any sexual activity until the sunset, is one of the main pillars of Islam because if you do it right, it will do wonders for your health.
What are the health benefits of fasting? And how to manage your diet during Ramadan, especially under the lockdown? Are two important questions to which we will provide clear answers and helpful advice through this article.
Health benefits of fasting during Ramadan:
American research has shown that starvation of 6 hours helps in regulating blood pressure, fighting obesity, treating nervous tension and much more. Fasting, on the other hand, has been proven to be more effective than starvation. Here are some of the amazing health benefits of fasting:
Fasting Improves your immunity:
No food means that your body declares a state of emergency. This implies that your immunity is systematically increased to build-up a strong resistance against diseases.
Fasting decreases the insulin resistance of your body:
Insulin resistance, which is the cause behind many health issues such as fatty liver disease, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) also called hyperandrogenic anovulation (HA), blood pressure, diabetes and arteriosclerosis, decreases during Ramadan. That is to say that your body cells start to respond appropriately to the hormone insulin.
Fasting Increases your growth hormone (GH):
Fasting increases your growth hormone (GH) or somatotropin by 2000%. GH is responsible for cell reproduction, muscle building and maintaining normal body structure and metabolism, including helping blood glucose levels to remain within the norms.
Fasting reduces your cortisol level:
Fasting gives your digestion system a well-deserved break. Therefore, your blood flows to your brain, your kidney, your immunity system and other organs instead of being mainly consumed during the digestion process. This creates less stress on your body which helps to reduce the cortisol level.
Fasting prevents from Cancer:
During the fasting, your body undergoes a natural-regulated mechanism called autophagy which literally means “self-eating”. It’s the body’s way of cleaning out damaged and dangerous cells by allowing an orderly degradation and recycling of these cellular components. This autophagy is very interesting in preventing cancer. The good news is that this mechanism rises by 300% during Ramadan.
Studies found that fasting helps in removing gallstones and kidney stones and preventing their formation. However, this cannot happen unless the condition of following a vegetarian diet during Ramadan and not eating at night is met.
Fasting plays an important role in preventing intestinal gas, indigestion and colitis which is an inflammatory reaction in the colon, often auto-immune or infectious.
It also helps with regulating hormonal imbalances of both genders, especially women, and increases the fertility rate.
One of the miraculous impacts of fasting during Ramadan that has flouted the expectations of scientists is fighting anaemia.
How to manage your diet during Ramadan?
What to have for Iftar (Break Fast)?
If you think that by having a table full of greasy, fried and sugary dishes for Iftar, you are rewarding yourself after a long day of fasting, it’s time for you to reconsider this! Of course, you may feel good in the short run because you are indulging your taste buds and making them sing. However, did you know that your stomach and bowels are sending-out cries of distress while you are too busy filling them up to the brim?
Thus, if you really want to reap the priceless benefits of fasting during Ramadan, you should give up on these bad eating habits and here is what you need to do:
Start with dates or figs and lukewarm water:
First of all, to break the fast, start with dates or figs and lukewarm water. Water, will not only immediately hydrate your body, but is also highly variable in mineral contents, mainly calcium and magnesium. Dates and figs will help you to replenish glucose and fibre and provide your body with instant energy. They also have a satiating effect which helps you stave off the feeling of hunger quickly and prevent you from overeating, so not to harm your body.
Wait for 10 minutes before having your main meal:
It is advised to wait for 10 minutes before you have the rest of your Iftar. This will allow your body to get prepared for receiving more food and for proper digestion. Meanwhile, you can do your prayer.
Soups and salads are very recommended for Iftar:
Soups are generally already blended which makes them easier for digestion. It is good to have vegetable barley soup which provides mineral salts and fibres or fish soup cooked with herbs and spices.
Moroccans usually have Harira, which is a very healthy tomato soup that includes a lot of nutritious components.
you can also have lentil soup or any other legumes.
eating a fresh salad, for example, one that is made with tomato, radish, onion, lettuce and parsley, is also a good option because it is nourishing and easy for digestion.
Avoid these food combinations:
Avoid bad food combinations such as starchy carbohydrates and proteins because they result in skyrocketing the insulin level in your body.
For example, If you are planning to have meat, fish or legumes for Iftar, don’t eat them with potato, rice or macaroni.
When you start by fruits, they take no more than 15 minutes to ferment. Thus, if you eat other food which requires more time to be digested, such as proteins, a sour and indigestible “wine” is created in your stomach which results in gastric reflux causing you acid regurgitations.
What to have for Suhour (pre-dawn meal) :
During Suhoor, you can have good fats and foods rich in fibres, as they are slow to digest and will stay in your stomach for a long time to keep you full throughout the day. They also prevent your blood from spiking so that you’re not left with those feelings of fatigue and intense hunger only a few hours after eating. These foods include:
- Scrambled eggs,
- Baked fatty fish with organic olive oil, or fresh butter and seasoning herbs,
- A pot of yoghurt mixed with chia seeds, flax seeds and nuts,
- Good quality whole milk,
- Sweet potato.
What if I am hungry at night?
between the 2 meals, if you feel hungry you can have fruits or dried fruits or yoghurt, although it’s better not to eat at night. But, it is important to drink as much water as possible.
The best thing you can do to avoid eating at night is to sleep early. This way you will also allow your body to get enough sleeping hours.
Most Muslims actually look forward to Ramadan and feel a particular sadness when it’s over. Although fasting for a whole month may sound difficult for people who have never tried it before, it is indeed not as tough as they imagine.
You may feel a little headache, fatigue or a sensation of dizziness during the few first days. Don’t worry if you have these symptoms because they are a normal response and reaction of your body. It is, in fact, a good sign as it means that your body has started engaging in the detoxication process, which means that your overall health will be enhanced.
In order to reap the maximum of benefits, try to follow a healthy diet, to limit your consumption of meat as much as possible and to eat only during Iftar and Suhour.