Millions of people across the world are observing Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar which is devoted to a period of fasting and reflection. During this one month period of fasting during daylight hours, it is important to maintain a healthy diet and choose foods that are nourishing and hydrating. Below are some tips for maintaining a healthy fasting routine:
1. Choose whole grains over refined or “white” grains. Foods that contain refined grains have been processed or bleached, and have been stripped of the nutrients that provide energy, such as vitamin B. When possible, choose food that is labeled as “whole wheat”, “whole grain”, or “unprocessed”. When preparing dishes that contain rice, use brown rice or Basmati rice, as they have a lower glycemic index and will not cause as much of a drastic spike in blood sugar.
2. Avoid pre-packaged foods that contain MSG or artificial sweeteners. MSG and added sweeteners, such as aspartame, trick the brain into thinking the body is hungry. As a result, the more MSG or sweeteners you consume, the hungrier you’ll feel. A common example of this concept is feeling hungry after eating fast food that has contains high levels of MSG. Choose snacks and packaged goods that are organic and fresh. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, and cold-pressed juices will satisfy your hunger for longer periods as you snack between meals after Sahar and before Sahur.
3. Eat hydrating foods. When you’re depriving your body of fluids during the day, your energy level and mental clarity will become significantly decreased. Avoid foods that contain high levels of sodium, and try to use condiments and sauces sparingly. Sodium depletes the body of fluids, and causes excess thirst. To prevent dehydration and electrolyte imbalance, supplement your meals and snacks with foods and beverages that are naturally hydrating, such as watermelon, smoothies, juices, and coconut water.
4. Avoid overindulging on foods that are high in carbohydrates, such as pasta, potatoes, and rice. Carbohydrates are converted into sugars, and can cause blood sugar levels to spike too quickly and too high. When blood sugars rise and fall during these spikes, energy crashes, irritability, and migraines often follow. To avoid these unwanted side effects, add foods that contain protein ad healthy fats to balance your meal.