Ramadan fasting is a religious obligation for every healthy adult Muslim as ordained in Al-Quran, “O you who believe, fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you so that you can learn “Taqwa” (meaning piety, or abstaining from wrong doings and God fearing)” (Al-Quran 2:183). In addition fasting for one month clear the souls from desires that are deviating Muslims from complying and competing in achieving all possible good deeds.
Ramadan fasting differs from the total fasting as eating is imperative at least twice in 24 hours (pre-dawn and after sunset and in between these timings) and there is no restriction on the nature of foods and drinks to be consumed provided it is otherwise permissible (Halal) by Islam. Fasting Ramadan is a self-oriented training for the whole Muslims communities to voluntary feel the pain of hunger that misfortune poor people are facing on daily basis.
There is a strong relation between fasting and health, and in this context fasting during the month of Ramadan can be good for our health because the body is starved of food and starts to burn fat so that it can make energy. This can lead to weight loss results in reducing blood pressure and control diabetes by improving blood sugar level to avoid hyperglycemia. There is a gentle transition in energy sources from glucose to fat during fasting. As the Ramadan fast only lasts from dawn till dusk, the body’s energy can be replaced in the pre-dawn and dusk meals. A balanced food and fluid intake is important between fasts. The kidneys are very efficient at maintaining the body’s water and salts, such as sodium and potassium. However, these can be lost through perspiration.To prevent muscle breakdown, meals must be balanced by containing adequate proportion of carbohydrates, fat and protein.
Suhoor, the pre-dawn meal, should be a moderate meal that is filling and provides enough energy for many hours. It is therefore particularly important to include slowly digesting foods like complex carbohydrates. Drink fluids to keep you hydrated during the day and assist with digestion. Iftar, the meal that breaks the day’s fasting, it is preferred to include dates, following the Prophetic traditions. Dates will provide a refreshing burst of much-needed energy. Fruit juices will also have a similar effect.
The general nutritional advises during Ramadhan are to be moderate in your food consumption and to consume healthy foods that are rich in fiber and digested slowly, these include bran, cereals, whole wheat, grains and seeds, potatoes with skin, vegetables such as green beans and almost all fruit, including apricots, prunes and figs.
The main source for carbohydrates for any meal at Suhoor or Iftar should be complex carbohydrates (low glycemic index foods) which will help release energy slowly during the long hours of fasting. Examples of complex carbohydrates are grains and seeds like barley, wheat, oats, millets, semolina, beans, lentils, whole meal flour and basmati rice. Foods to avoid are the heavily processed and fast-burning foods that contain refined carbohydrates such as sugar and white flour or fatty food like cakes, biscuits, chocolates and sweets. It may also be worth limiting the caffeine content in drinks such as tea, coffee and cola (caffeine is a diuretic and stimulates faster water loss through urination). Soup – traditional in many Arab countries, is a light way to break the fast and provides fluid. Traditional soups are based on a meat broth and often contain pulses, like lentils and beans, and starchy foods like pasta or grains, providing nutrients and energy.
Edited by: Dr. Mostafa Waly, Associate Professor, Food science and Nutrition Department, CAMS, Sultan Qaboos University