Dr Sakir Thurempurath
Every year, the holy month of Ramadan furnishes us with the opportunity to eliminate detrimental eating forms and gives our overburdened digestive systems a much needed break.
During this blessed month, the rituals of fasting, night prayer and reading the Holy Qur’an, purification of wealth by Zakah on a daily basis can have a transformational effect on our whole sense of well-being and contentment.
Many people do not benefit from it and do not take this opportunity to purify their body, mind and soul. Most people fill their dining tables with unhealthy foods that contain a large amount of sugar and fat.
Ramadan has come to a close for another year, but that doesn’t mean we have to leave everything behind. Depending on how your month has gone, you may have picked up some healthy habits, or you may have adopted some unhealthy ones. It’s time for us to become proactive on how we are going to maintain the ‘Ramadan lifestyle’.
Here’s what to consider keeping beyond the fasting month.
* Having breakfast regularly
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It is the brain meal. Waking up early to eat ‘Suhoor’ has (hopefully) prompted you to choose more nutrient-dense and filling foods to fuel you throughout your fast. Having oatmeal, whole grains and complex carbohydrates and low glycemic index foods are the best way to stave off hunger.
Keep it: Make time in the morning to have a meal, and make it a healthy one. People who eat breakfast are also less likely to overeat and choose unhealthy foods later in the day.
* Intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting will be continued if we abstain from overeating or avoid dinner at night and when we depend on light food at night. It will give some 12-14 hours of time to utilise the stored fat and glucose. It has huge health benefits including increasing insulin sensitivity.
* Taking a break from the gym and daily exercise
It’s hard to work out while fasting, and even tougher to get in a sweat before 3am or after 8pm. But our anatomy needs exercise; it helps to fight depression, obesity and chronic diseases and is an all-in-one remedy for most of the metabolic health issues.
Kick it: If you fell out of your fitness routine during Ramadan, get back into it as soon as possible. Start working out two to three times a week in gym or do some exercise for 30 minutes at least 5 days a week and then increase the frequency for optimal health and life.
* Eating dates before a meal
We all know how luxurious a date tastes after a long fast. But did you know that eating fruits like these can also help to start the digestion process and moderate how much we eat during a meal? Recent studies show that dates have action on satiety centre in brain to decrease the appetite. But in increased quantities it is glucose rich food. Use it moderately, better at the start of the day to decrease the appetite.
Keep it: Dates and fruits are delicious any time of the year! Substitute them with other varieties of fresh fruit for more vitamins and minerals.
* Late-night eating
In some parts of the world, Muslims have had to fast until 9pm and Suhoor are late-night dinners which has become a part of our lifestyles. And let’s not even get into the tarawih snacking? Eating late at night can be hard on the digestive system and may lead to overeating, which is never a good thing. Better to reduce the late night foods, avoid heavy food at night to a minimum. It will give proper rest to gastrointestinal system and allow body to utilise the stored fat and glucose. Light foods like fresh juices and salads are preferred.
Kick it: To know that you can have many meals in reduced quantities a day, ease back into eating dinner earlier in the evening. Give yourself a couple of hours to let your stomach relax before going to bed. Your body will thank you.
* Having communal meals
Whether you hosted or attended Iftar this month, many of us can agree that the most memorable part of these meals was the company and conversation. Eating with family and friends is a great way to share food and reconnect with one another.
Keep it: Try to eat at the table more often with your family. Take the initiative to regularly invite guests to your home for dinner. Bonding over food is an ancient art that never gets old.
* Trying healthy foods
One of the best parts of Ramadan is diversifying your own menu by learning about other cultures through food. This year, I discovered frozen roti skins in my supermarket and easy-to-make Indian masalas. The result was – and still is – truly delicious.
Keep it: Changing things up repels boredom and helps to challenge us in the kitchen, so keep exploring the wide world of food and move towards the health side. Food should be for body than for taste buds.
Kick it: Many people are always interested in eating oil fried foods at Iftar. These snacks increase the level of cholesterol and sugar in your body. This will increase the risk of life threatening diseases, including cardiovascular complaints, diabetes, hypertension, etc.
* Keeping spirituality
We have gone through a training session for control of body and soul. It’s beneficial to keep up the soul foods such as empathy, kindness, taqwa (piety), strength of mind, helpfulness which favours the easy and pleasant life.
*Drinking plenty of water
For weeks, we tried to stay hydrated through long, hot days of fasting. Having several cups of water during Suhoor and Iftar never felt like enough to me, and I found myself shunning other kinds of liquids in favour of a cold glass of water.
Keep it: Not only does water prevent dehydration; it also helps keep skin clear, aids in digestion, and is generally the healthiest liquid we can consume. As per the recent statistics of Hamad Medical Corporation, a large number of Qatari and expatriate population are at risk of developing kidney diseases. So try to drink 2 to 4 litres of water regularly to avoid dehydration. During this difficult summer where temperatures can soar anywhere between 45-53degree centigrade, consuming 6-8 litres of water may be in order.
* Frequent foods
Frequent intake of foods that we followed during the nights of Ramadan can be continued in its expanded way of taking 6-8 times of frequent and light and unprepared food.
* Eat dried fruits
Keep eating those dried fruits that you made a habit of eating during Ramadan. It prevents over eating and helps early satiety.
Keep it: Dried dates and figs are both excellent source of iron, fibre and antioxidants that protect against harmful free radicals, which are associated with ageing. If you have a sweet tooth and must have dessert after meals, have three dates instead of a dense, nutrition-deficit piece of chocolate cake. Dry fruit can be a daily food of single time with enough water.
* Avoid bad habits
Abstain from smoking and other bad habits. Fasting requires abstinence from smoking as well as eating and drinking during the day, and the month of Ramadan provided an ideal opportunity for smokers to quit. Keep away the strength attained and never give up.
Keep it: Once Ramadan is over, if you are a smoker, do not give in to the temptation of having a cigarette after meals. Continue to replace this addictive and toxic habit with healthier ones such as exercise.
Establish and maintain the virtuous things accomplished;
It is important that the rewards of the month should not slip away. It is possible only with
2. Make it a habit. Keep in mind that any habit can be changed/altered/given up by following a disciplined regimen for three weeks.
3. Think about the day every night
4. Evaluate yourself weekly
5. Start and maintain good habits with the knowledge and help of friends.
6. If you’ve committed a mistake, don’t lose the plot.
7. Work your way up slowly
8. Don’t expect same result always
It’s always difficult to say goodbye to Ramadan, but reflecting on some of the good and bad habits that we adopted can help us to lead better and healthier lives. Remember that our body has rights over us. Always keep the good routine which is procured through the holy month in your life.
Here’s to a healthy and happy life!
* The author is an Associate Specialist - Family Medicine at Aster Medical Centre, Al Rayyan
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