Tips to ease out summer fasting this Ramadan

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Fellowship and food is shared during the Ramadan meal at the Islamic Center of Fargo. David Samson / The Forum

“Try to eat right and remain healthy throughout the holy month with our expert advice.”

To make things easy for all those fasting, we’ve turned to experts all over the country for tips on how to healthily get through these long days of fasting and make the best of this month.

  1. Get in the zone

Ramadan is a month of devotion and self-discipline, which demands a nutrient-rich diet that maintains your health and endurance levels. This is a strenuous fast in the summer months, lasting over 13 hours on the longest days. For an average person, fasting like this would require mental, spiritual and physical preparation. And although the changes brought about by fasting can cause increased stress and moodiness, the body and the biological clock usually adjust to the worst of the discomforts within a period of 24-48 hours.

  1. A word on dates

Ramadan can be a great time to break habits. Rather than fuelling your body with high-glucose foods, you can choose healthier foods such as whole grains and high-fibre foods — rich in nutrients and low in calories. At Iftar, it is important to bring your fluids and blood sugar levels up slowly. It is customary to break the fast with dates, which give a spike in blood sugar and a burst of energy. Therefore ensure you drink plenty of water before the dates to rehydrate and fill up so that you don’t overindulge.

  1. Start with a salad

After ending the fast with dates and milk, comfort your stomach by eating a fresh salad, and grilled or roasted dishes seasoned with spices such as fennel, cumin, ginger and cardamom to enhance your digestive ability.

  1. Eat slowly

Eating your soup and salad slowly at iftar will help ease your digestive system into processing food and prevent you from overeating. Make sure your soup includes lots of vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, peas, green beans, squash and carrots. These fibre-rich vegetables add vitamins and minerals to your soup and are essential for a healthy digestive system.

  1. Grill, steam, poach

It is best to avoid hot and spicy dishes as well as high-fat foods, as they increase thirst. So opt for dishes cooked in healthier ways such as grilling, baking, broiling, steaming and poaching.

  1. Carbs need a partner

Pair carbohydrates with protein. Carbs are converted into sugars and can eventually take their toll on your body once you are done with iftar. Combine them with protein-rich foods like beans, meat or eggs to balance out an iftar or suhour meal and help with your workout efforts.

  1. Choose complex carbs

During suhour, focus meal on slow-releasing carbohydrates to stabilise my blood sugar levels, such as sweet potatoes and steel-cut oats, and also eat lots of nutritious fruits like berries and plenty of vegetables and tend not to avoid starchy vegetables when fasting if you don’t want to deprive yourself too much, but  opt for healthier options most of the time — the key is moderation.

  1. Shop for fresh produce

One way to ensure you are well hydrated during the month is to include a balanced amount of fruits and vegetables in your diet. This needn’t be a chore, since healthy, tasty fruits can easily be combined into recipes, or eaten as a light pre-suhour or post-iftar snack. 

  1. Don’t skip suhour

An essential meal, suhour helps in preventing tissue breakdown, while offering the strength needed to last the long Ramadan days. Your suhour should consist of foods that are rich in fibre and complex carbohydrates that slowly release nutrients throughout the day, while avoiding foods that may dehydrate your body. It is advisable to eat slowly for better digestion and drink enough water as well.

  1. Exit survival mode

If you are thinking of surviving in Ramadan, then you’ve got it all wrong. Get your basics right by understanding the true spirit and intention of fasting. Once you get that in place you will look forward to it, be happy with it and cherish every day.  

  1. When to exercise

Our bodies are all programmed to work differently so find out what time of day works best for your body by listening to it. We advice that the first 3-4 sessions will be difficult so take it easy. However, the body quickly adapts and energy levels do increase so don’t give up.

  1. Try working out before Iftar

The key is to maintain a well-balanced life, specifically in terms of diet, sleep, work and even exercise. This will have a positive impact on productivity at work and overall well-being.

  1. Relax, reflect, reboot

Use this time of the year to reflect on the things in your life that you are appreciative of and the things you want to change. Keep yourself busy, cleanse the mind and body, and exercise just before ending the fast at iftar.

  1. Load up on supplements

During Ramadan, your face doesn’t need to suffer. Skin supplements are usually a group of several vitamins and antioxidants that can enhance its well-being. Examples of the most important antioxidants are vitamin C, E, A, selenium and zinc. Antioxidants reduce the harmful effect of the sun and reduce the process of releasing free radicals that usually harm skin cells. It is always recommended to choose a skin supplement from a well-known scientific pharmaceutical laboratory. We recommend taking these during suhour, as you are able to get the benefits of these supplements during fasting hours, which are usually when our skin is exposed to all environmental factors.

  1. Shine on

Haircare is a key part of your beauty routine. I am obsessed with hair products, but of course with such an abundance of great products to choose from, you need to consider different products for different uses. For Ramadan, since the weather is dry and humid, use argan oil. Not only does it offer complete hydration to the hair, resulting in softer, silkier and shinier locks, but with its healing properties it can also treat split ends. Especially, with all the outings in Ramadan, applying argan oil can protect the hair from the heat coming from the use of straighteners and curlers.

  1. Brush and floss regularly

It is imperative to maintain healthy oral hygiene even during Ramadan. There are some simple ways to ensure our teeth, gums and mouths remain unaffected while fasting. This includes drinking plenty of water from iftar until suhour. Brush teeth and clean gums twice for two minutes, use dental floss to avoid the accumulation of bacteria, and use a tongue scraper as [it helps reduce] bad breath

  1. Spa rules

Ramadan is a time for reflection, spiritual engagement and to focus on improving the body and mind. Relaxation is extremely important, so if you are heading to the spa during the holy month, we recommend treatments that can help to clear the mind and keep it focused, while ensuring only the most natural products are used. Any heat-based treatments should be avoided [so that you do not get dehydrated. 

  1. Stay hydrated

Hydration is the most important aspect of fasting, particularly so when Ramadan takes place in the summer months. The body can handle long periods without food — in fact, studies have shown that fasting can be a very healthy activity to regulate body weight — but it can’t last long without water.

With this in mind, you should be drinking plenty of water between iftar and suhour to stay adequately hydrated during the holy month. Don’t drink large volumes over a short period, as this can lead to water intoxication; regular small sips are what’s needed.

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