As the Ramadan approaches, we are looking forward to breaking our fast with family and friends. It’s a time for celebration for 30 days and most Bangladeshis indulge in rich food with high calories, with less physical activity. Some of us may overlook the fact that, fasting( abstaining from food & drinks from dawn to dusk) can be beneficial for us if we maintain a healthy and balanced eating pattern. Evidence suggests, that by following simple guidelines it is possible for us to lose weight, and improve our blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
How does fasting affect the body?
Glucose is the body’s main source of energy which we mainly get from carbohydrates. It provides energy to our brain, muscle, and tissues to function and the excess is stored in the liver and muscles and converted to fat. The body actually enters fasting mode eight hours after the last meal. When it has replenished the stored glucose, it starts burning fat for energy, hence some of us lose weight. It is important to note the body cannot store water, therefore, during fasting the kidneys tries to conserve the amount lost. It is critical to replenish the body with balanced nutrition and hydration between Seheri and Iftar to prevent fatigue and dehydration.
What to eat and drink for Seheri & Iftar
You have to balance your Iftar and seheri with key nutrients and include all food groups:
-Complex carbohydrates (whole grains-oats, barley, brown bread & rice, fruits & vegetables, legumes) for long-lasting source of energy,
-Fluid rich fruits and vegetables (example- watermelon, cucumber, tomato, lettuce) for vitamins & minerals, fibre & hydration
–Low-fat dairy (low-fat yogurt, milk) for calcium, riboflavin, iodine
–Protein-rich foods ( meat, fish, eggs, legumes, dairy) maintain muscle mass
-Small amount of healthy fats (olive oil, nuts, avocado, seeds) to absorb nutrients
Seheri- A lighter meal is preferable focusing on key nutrients. Choosing whole-grain varieties and fluid-rich foods keeps you fuller for longer and hydrated.
Iftar- You can open your fast with 1-2 dates as is the tradition, remember dates are a source of fibre and potassium but also rich in calories. It is important to eat your Iftar slowly as eating too quickly may cause heartburn or bloating.
Hydration- Drink 1.5- 2 litres of fluids from Iftar to seheri to prevent dehydration and constipation. Break down your fluid intake, and sip gradually in intervals, drinking too quickly may cause bloating. Water hydrates you without adding extra calories. Milk and fruit-based drinks are best taken without added sugars.
Foods to avoid
Salt, spices & seasonings– Better to avoid salty & spicy foods(pickles, olives, fries) as they absorb water from the body, increase acidity and stimulate thirst.
Sugar, processed & deep-fried foods- Low in nutrients, promote weight gain, indigestion, and thirst.
Caffeine- Tea and coffee have diuretic properties. Stimulates the body to lose water quickly.
Carbonated drinks– Carbon causes flatulence, causes a feeling of fullness, and prevents the body to use fluids.
Cold fluids- Drinking iced cold fluids beginning of Iftar reduces the efficiency of digestion leading to digestive disorders. Have it mildly cool and drink it slowly.
A person with any health condition and taking medications including pregnancy, breastfeeding, and diabetics should consult with a doctor before fasting.
Ms Tazreen Mallick (RD)
BSc Dietetics and Nutrition (UK)
Grid (National Kidney Foundation, USA)
Clinical Dietitian, National Kidney Foundation and Research Institute
Visiting Consultant, Praava Health