Ramadan is a real opportunity for the renewal of cells in the human body, said Zohair al-Arabi, Hamad Medical Corporation’s (HMC) nutritionist.
“During fasting, our bodies depend on glucose (the natural sugar in foods) from the Iftar or Suhoor meals for energy. These meals however can only provide energy for a few hours after which the body relies on energy and glucose from sugars and fat stored in body tissue. The sugar and fat stored are then burned and as part of this process the body is relieved of some accumulated toxins.” explained al-Arabi.
Speaking about benefits of fasting, the nutritionist said the body first consumes old or damaged cells, then after fasting and eating breakfast, these cells are replenished and replaced with new cells which give the body strength, vigour and vitality.
Al-Arabi pointed out that fasting can help cure several digestive problems such as hyperacidity, irritable bowel syndrome, dyspepsia and abdominal swelling, because the fasting person stops consuming food and drink for extended periods of time, allowing muscles and gastrointestinal membranes to revitalise.
“People should divide their food intake into three or four meals ranging from Iftar (meal for breaking fast) to Suhoor (the last meal before commencing fasting again), taking into account that the amount of food eaten at Iftar is equivalent to the amount of food taken at lunch on an ordinary day. Meals for breaking fast should be consumed immediately after the Maghrib (sunset) Adhan (call to prayer),” advised al-Arabi.
The nutritionist advised people to drink water and liquids during meals at regular intervals to provide the body with its fluid requirements. Very cold liquids should be avoided as they can affect stomach secretions and cause muscle spasms. Fluids should also be drunk in small amounts during meals as large amounts can sometimes lead to nausea and vomiting.
Al-Arabi has given a number of tips to ensure optimum health during Ramadan. Food should be chewed thoroughly for easy digestion and to feel more comfortable after a meal.
Fatty and fried foods that take a long time to digest and are heavy on the stomach should be avoided. It is better also to keep away from high sugar desserts.
Enough dietary fibre should be consumed from vegetables, beans and brown bread, oats, lentils, as well as fresh fruit to increase bowel movements and prevent constipation.
Those fasting should eat fruits such as oranges, apples and other fruits daily in two to three intervals. Do not use a lot of spices and hot supplements in food as this can cause problems and lead to gastrointestinal discomfort.
“Avoid soft drinks as they contain no useful vitamins or minerals and only increase stomach acidity, abdominal gases, tooth decay and osteoporosis,” the nutritionist added.