Ramadan is special time for reflection, self-improvement, kindness and spirituality - and fasting is one of the key pillars of the Holy Month, with those observing Ramadan fasting from dawn to dusk.
Here are some of the positive impacts fasting can have on your health and well-being:
- Regulates ‘bad’ cholesterol
Many people aim to lose some weight by fasting. However, a recent study found that fasting also affects the lipid profile. This results in reduced blood cholesterol, which can keep heart attacks, strokes and other diseases at bay.
- Curbed appetite
Observing Ramadan and fasting gives your lifestyle and digestive system a positive U-turn. As your body gets used to eating less, your digestive system gets a chance to rest and your stomach gradually shrinks in size. This reduces your appetite, and the results can last longer than many trend diets.
- A month-long detox
Fasting not only uses your fat reserves, but also cleanses your body of harmful toxins that might be present in fat deposits. With the digestive system on a month-long overhaul, your body naturally detoxifies, giving you the opportunity to continue a healthier lifestyle beyond Ramadan.
- Boosted mood and mental clarity
Fasting can be a method of ‘supercharging’ the brain, increasing growth and development of new brain cells, in turn sharpening responses to information in the world around us. Studies also show that fasting can also make the brain more resilient to stress, more adaptable to change, and can improve mood, memory and even learning capacity.
Ways to help improve your health during Ramadan:
- Have a healthy Iftar
Along with the natural benefits of Ramadan, it is important that you embrace healthy practices yourself. Breaking your fast with three dates and water gives your body an instant energy and hydration boost ahead of your main meal. Light soup is a great choice to start your main Iftar meal as it helps you hydrate.
Take it easy with the amount of heavy, creamy and fried foods, as well as salty and sugary dishes. Consider opting for fish and leaner cuts of meat, wholegrain or brown rice and pasta - as well as remembering to include your greens! Taking your time while eating, and keeping an eye on portion control will also help aid digestion and prevent weight gain.
- Make Suhoor wholesome
Like breakfast, Suhoor should be the most important meal of your day. Balance your Suhoor with nutrient-rich food like oatmeal, cheese, labneh, fruits and vegetables. Certain foods with lower glycemic index (low GI) including oats, quinoa, multigrain and wholegrain breads, hummus and yoghurt are good options as they release energy slowly throughout the day. Remember to drink plenty - water, milk, laban and fresh juices rather than tea and coffee will keep you hydrated during fasting hours.
- Stay hydrated
A little dehydration is natural, and this can lead to slight headaches and lack of concentration. However, you can help keep yourself hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids in the Iftar - Suhoor hours.
Opt to drink water frequently, or take light tea without milk or sugar.- you can also add lemon slices or fresh mint to help detox and aid digestion. If you regularly have coffee or fizzy drinks, try to curb your intake, as these are diuretics that dehydrate the body.
- Exercise moderately
Fasting and dehydration can naturally cause you to feel lethargic and make your Ramadan days sedentary. However, with proper fluid intake, you should also try to exercise in moderate amounts. Remaining active helps reduce fatigue, gives your body the strength to keep going and is a good opportunity to lose weight if needed. However, exercise during fasting hours can be dehydrating and dangerous. It’s best to exercise just before Suhoor or a few hours after Iftar to make the most of your workouts.
- Pick up healthy habits (and drop the unhealthy ones)
Ramadan is also a chance for you to ditch addictions like smoking or sugar. With a little self-control you can continue to restrain from your addictions during and after fasting hours as well. Ramadan is also a great time to start and maintain healthy habits like eating more greens, drinking more water and taking regular exercise.