Ramadan – Healthy Eating
Ramadan and Healthy Eating
The holy month of Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and a time when many Muslims across the world fast during daylight hours for 29-30 days. The Islamic calendar is lunar and so Ramadan falls at a slightly earlier time in the year each year.
This year Ramadan is predicted to start on Saturday 2nd April and end on Sunday 1st May, with a celebration called Eid-ul-Fitr to mark the end.
Muslims taking part in Ramadan do not eat or drink anything during daylight hours, eating one meal (the ‘suhoor’ or ‘sehri’) just before dawn and another (the ‘iftar’) after sunset. During fasting hours when no food or drink is consumed, the body uses its stores of carbohydrate and fat to provide energy once all the calories from the foods consumed during the night have been used up.
The body cannot store water and so the kidneys conserve as much water as possible by reducing the amount lost in urine. However, the body cannot avoid losing some water when you go to the toilet, through your skin, when you breathe and when you sweat if it is warm.
The pre-dawn meal provides fluids and energy for the day of fasting ahead, so making healthy choices can help you to cope better with the fast.
Once the fast is broken, the body can rehydrate and gain energy from the foods and drinks consumed. Having not eaten for a long period, it can be helpful to eat slowly when breaking the fast and to start with plenty of fluids and low-fat, fluid-rich foods. As salt stimulates thirst, it’s a good idea to avoid consuming a lot of salty foods.
Here are some food and drink ideas to help you achieve a healthy balanced Iftar and Suhoor:
|Drinks||Water, milk, fruit juices or smoothies – water provides hydration without any extra calories or added sugars. Drinks based on milk and fruit provide some natural sugars and nutrients – these are also good to break the fast but avoid drinking a lot of drinks with added sugars after breaking the fast as these can provide too many sugars and calories.|
|Dates||These are a great option to break the fast as they provide natural sugars for energy, provide minerals like potassium, copper and manganese. They’re also a source of fibre. You could also try other dried fruits such as apricots, figs, raisins or prunes, which also provide fibre and nutrients.|
|Fruit||A traditional way to break the fast in South Asian cultures, fruit provides natural sugars for energy, fluid and some vitamins and minerals.|
|Soup||a light way to break the fast and provide fluid. These could be based on a meat broth and contain pulses, like lentils and beans, and starchy foods like pasta or grains, providing nutrients and energy.|
|Oats||These are wholegrains, and you could choose porridge, which will also provide fluids as it’s made with milk or water. You could experiment with fresh or dried fruit, nuts, or seeds as toppings.|
|High fibre breakfast cereals||These provide plenty of fibre and are often fortified with vitamins and minerals, providing extra nutrients. Because they are eaten with milk, you also get fluid and nutrients like calcium, iodine and B vitamins from the milk.|
|Starchy foods (like rice and couscous)||you could try rice pudding with fruit or experiment with couscous or other grains with dairy or fruit. If you go for savoury dishes at suhoor then it’s a good idea to make sure these are not too salty.|
|Yoghurt||This can be a good food to include at suhoor as it provides nutrients like protein, calcium, iodine and B vitamins and contains fluid. You could combine it with cereal and fruit.|
|Breads||Choose wholegrain options as these provide more fibre, e.g., wholemeal toast or chapattis. Avoid combining bread with salty foods like hard cheese, or preserved meats.|