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Simple ‘tips’ for Ramadan health

After a long, hot day of fasting, it can be extremely tempting to overindulge when it comes to food and drink. Many people find themselves making some rather unhealthy choices, throwing their diet into complete disarray. However, it is crucial that you maintain a healthy, well-balanced diet during the Holy Month, in order to keep the body nourished and full of energy.

Here are five important things to keep in mind:

  1. Start eating the first meal slowly and avoid overeating

Overeating will most likely cause an insulin spike in the blood. Why is this important? Insulin is the hormone responsible for lowering blood sugar, and the more insulin your body produces, the more likely it is to store fat. Eating slowly can help avoid this spike, and will also help prevent indigestion.

Set aside at least 20 minutes for each meal, as this is how much time the brain usually needs to let your body know that you are full.

  1. Don’t skip suhoor!

Skipping suhoor will only make you feel exhausted during the next day, so make sure to eat a fulfilling and nutritious meal that will keep you energized and fueled until iftar.

Here are a few guidelines to help you choose a well-balanced meal for suhoor:

* Avoid simple carbs and sugars (i.e. rice, pasta, refined or white bread, sweets), as they are less filling and are digested more quickly, meaning you get hungrier quicker

* Add complex carbs or fiber-rich foods (i.e. oats, whole grains, vegetables, fruits), because fiber slows down the digestion process, which keeps you feeling full for a longer period of time

* Add proteins (i.e. eggs, meat, legumes), because the body takes longer to digest proteins and this delays the onset of hunger

* Add healthy fats (i.e. nuts, seeds, avocado, olive oil), which can help control your appetite and increase satiety

* Avoid high-sodium foods (i.e. salty nuts, pickles, certain kinds of cheese), as they make you feel thirsty due to their ability to “steal” water from the body

Also, don’t forget to hydrate well during suhoor (more on the importance of hydration below).

  1. Limit sugary foods (and drinks)

High amounts of sugary foods will only make you want to eat more of them. Foods that are high in sugar tend to disrupt appetite and increase cravings. Although Ramadan is notorious for its vast array of delicious but sugar-heavy (and fat-laden) desserts and sweets, there are some healthier options that you can opt for. Fruits and vegetables are one example, as they are bursting with nutrients and even water.

Also, don’t forget that many drink choices are often full of sugar. Water is always the best and healthiest option.

  1. Drink enough water

If you haven’t already guessed it: water is extremely important for a healthy, well-rounded diet. Water is an essential component in every chemical reaction in the body; this means that drinking enough water will help your body metabolize the food you eat better and more efficiently. Another great benefit is that a well-hydrated body is less prone to headaches — something most people often suffer from during Ramadan.

The easiest way to know if your body is hydrated enough is by checking the color of your urine: if it is a very light yellow or transparent, then you are safe.

  1. Avoid or limit caffeine

Although caffeine can be beneficial, its diuretic properties can be problematic. During Ramadan, there is a reduced window of time during which people can get all their fluid needs, and caffeine just makes this even more difficult.

Fay Shahata is the resident Clinical Dietician at Fawzia Sultan Rehabilitation Institute (FSRI), specializing in developing individualized weight management programs to help patients deal with their different health, diet and weight concerns. You can contact Fay by calling FSRI at 25720338.

By Fay Ahmad Shahata

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