As the summer heat slowly creeps into the island, with it comes the holiest, and the most celebrated month in the Muslim world: Ramadan! It is a month when all Muslims around the world fast from sunrise to sunset. Yes, no food no water until we hear the Adhan of Al Maghrib prayer (The call for the evening prayer, which is right at sunset).
Ramadan is also more about self control and abstaining from what the body desires, and turning into feeding the soul with what brings us closer to God. Mainly Ramadan if done properly, will help to purify Muslims souls and serve as a reminder on how one should be all year round.
For 29 or 30 days, Muslims around the world, skip breakfast, lunch, while they enjoy a huge meal at sunset called Iftar (Breakfast), then they only have about 8 to 9 hours, when they can eat as they please just to get back into the fasting mode with the next sunrise. The question most people have is: How to make the most of the few hours of eating you are allowed to have each night? Some people make sure to fill in every inch of their stomachs, and believe it or not, some may even end up in the hospital, because they have eaten way more than what they need, or what they can handle! As most Muslims practice self-control during the day, at night time (which is when the body usually goes into a slower mode), they go crazy! Understandable yes, healthy? Absolutely not!
To have a healthy, and happy Ramadan, most nutritionists recommend the following:
- Take it easy at Iftar.
Braking fast is one of the most important meals in Ramadan, not only because that’s when you can finally eat, but also because the body has been in a slow mode, and has been resting for hours, so it is important to take it very easy and not shock the body with a huge meal. The Prophet Mohammed (SAW), actually advised to fill a third of our stomachs with food, a third with water, and leave the third empty.
- Dates First.
Most Muslims already do this and it is great because dates are a potassium dense food, which aids in hydration and restores electrolyte balance. Water is a great addition too, because it is balanced in macronutrients, and the combination of dates and water is perfect for restoring energy. It is highly recommended to take a little break after the dates, before indulging in other foods.
It is recommended to eat at least two small snacks between breaking fast and the last meal before going to sleep. Since the window of eating is very tiny, it is better to focus on faster digesting food, such as:
– Proteins with high absorption factors, like egg whites, fish, skinless chicken, and whey protein.
-Nutritious carbohydrates such as fruits and whole grains.
-Good fats such as avocadoes, nuts, and seeds.
- The last meal.
Also called “Suhour”, should be properly balanced, and should help maximize energy for the next day.
It should include items high in complex carbohydrates, fiber, slower digesting protein (such as the casein in Greek Yogurt), and good fats. This is ideal to slow gastric emptying too.
- Refrain from trans-fats and refined sugars.
It is very common for Muslims to have lots of fried or sweet food for Iftar, which is not a great idea, as these types of food will be driving your hunger. In addition to spiking your insulin (Which is a horrible way to wake up the body from its sleep), they activate the pleasure and reward centers of the brain, and make us feel good, so obviously we end up eating more and more, just to wake up the next day STARVING!
Ramadan is a great way to cleanse your lifestyle, from feeding the body the right nutritious food, to feeding the soul with what matters the most to you!