Stay Healthy in Ramadan

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With the holy month of Ramadan upon us, we thought it might be helpful to try a healthy diet while fasting.

Eating nothing for half of a day or more can lead to dizziness and fatigue and a lowering of metabolic rate as a means of conserving calories or energy. Here are some simple guidelines to make sure that your diet remains balanced and healthy during fasting period.

Don’t skip breakfast

Even though thinking about sleeping may be far more appealing than waking up to force down some food, don’t skip breakfast. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

For years, researchers have shown that breakfast (the breaking of the overnight fast) provides the essential nutrients and energy needed for concentration while keeping hunger symptoms like headaches, fatigue, sleepiness and restlessness at bay. In addition, it also gets our metabolic rates up and going – it is therefore vital to ensure an adequate intake at breakfast time.

Eat a wide variety of foods

Especially now, when your daily intake is limited to two meals per day, you need to put extra effort into including foods from all the food groups.

Our bodies need at least 40 different nutrients every day to ensure that we grow adequately and maintain good health. Although most foods contain more than one nutrient, no single food provides all the necessary nutrients.

Moreover, foods have benefits that can’t be replicated by a pill. It is thus important to eat a wide variety of foods every day, so as to ensure that we get all of these nutrients. The way to ensure a well-balanced diet is to select from each of the five food groups:

  • Breads, cereals and other grain products
  • Fruit and vegetables
  • Meat, fish and poultry
  • Milk, cheese and yoghurt
  • Fats and sugars (these contain very little nutrients and are high in calories and therefore their intake should be limited).

Use low glycemic foods for breakfast to help control blood sugar level

Carbohydrates are now classified according to their glucose response or glycemic index (GI). The GI measures how fast the carbohydrate of a particular food is converted to glucose and enters the bloodstream. It therefore tells you which carbohydrate foods satisfy hunger for longer.

The lower the number of the GI, the slower the food is converted to sugar and the better it is. A low GI food therefore helps maintaining normal blood sugar control and minimizes hunger pangs and satisfies appetite without providing excess calories.

Also, by controlling blood sugar level, you prevent excessive eating binges as a result of low blood sugar level. Remember to include low GI foods for each meal, and to avoid eating high GI foods on their own, but rather to mix them with low GI foods, which will give an intermediate GI overall.

Be aware of your cooking methods

By making some small changes in your cooking habits, you can create great tasting foods that are also healthy for you. Although special recipes are important parts of family traditions, many of those treasured favorites have too much fat content for today’s generation of health-conscious cooks. You won’t have to give up those old favorites but try to convert them!

Here’s how:

Always trim off all excess fat from before cooking or use veal, venison, chicken and soya as lower fat options. Remove poultry skin before or after cooking.

Cut down on fat:

• Cook onions in a small amount of water or even vegetable stock rather than oil or butter.

• Use non-stick frying pans and cook without oil.

• Bake, grill or roast foods rather than frying.

• Cook roasted meat or poultry on a wire rack so that the fat can drop off.

• Vegetables should be steamed or boiled with as little cream or margarine as possible.

• When preparing rice, noodles and other grains, season with herbs, spices and broths rather than adding fat.

• Prepare soups, gravies and sauces in advance, so that they can be refrigerated and the layer of fat that forms on top could be removed.

• Experiment with herbs and spices to add flavor and zest to low-fat cooking. Herbs, such as basil, bay leaf, oregano. Rosemary adds distinctive flavors and colors to meat and vegetables. Spices like cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg enhance the sweet taste of foods, and seasoning blends, such as chili powder, curry powder provides a complex array of flavors.

Avoid taking in too much salt

• Use garlic, dry mustard, pepper, onions, mushrooms and tomatoes to add flavor to meat and vegetables.

• Add sliced lemon or lemon juice to white meats and fish.

• Use herbs and spices instead

Make healthy changes to recipes

Use your regular recipes, but start cutting the fat in half. If a recipe calls for cream or whole milk, use evaporated or fresh skim milk. If a recipe calls for a whole egg, use two egg whites, etc.

Eat enough fiber-rich carbs

These foods provide the body with energy. They are often incorrectly labeled as fattening and unnecessarily limited. They are rich in vitamins belonging to the B group, and are an excellent source of fiber. Bear in mind that hi-fiber foods have a greater effect on satiety than their low-fiber counterparts. Examples of foods high in fiber include brown rice, whole-grains, fresh fruit and raw veggies.

Remember your fruits and vegetables

Fruit and vegetables add color and variety to the menu. They are often termed our ‘protective’ foods as they help the body fight off sickness and disease. This is because they are rich sources of a variety of vitamins and minerals. An added benefit is that they are relatively low in calories and also contribute to our daily fiber intake.

Drink sufficient fluid

Always include water in your diet and limit your intake of caffeine-containing beverages. Caffeine is a diuretic and will not provide adequate hydration.

We all know that maintaining a balanced diet by eating healthily has a vital influence on our well-being. Try following the above principles so that these fasting periods bring you physical and spiritual benefits.

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