Right food choices add 
to Ramadan blessings

DUBAI — With nearly a week on since the beginning of Ramadan, dieticians are urging people to make eating healthy a lifelong habit. Besides being healing and therapeutic, fasting also reverses the ageing process if practised correctly, say the experts.


Asma Ali Zain

Published: Mon 16 Aug 2010, 11:50 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 11:11 AM

“Fasting regularly helps the body heal itself, stay fit and gives a feeling of relaxation.

Additionally, it helps to give all the body organs the much needed rest. It helps reverse the ageing process, if practised correctly,” says Anjum Ara, a dietitian at the Zulekha Hospital, Sharjah.

“One can try fasting for a day and later increase it to two-three days once familiar. A lighter, happier and healthier quality of life can be achieved through fasting wisely.”

Regular fasting gives the body a chance to heal and rebuild its immune system. Aside from this, it ‘de-salts’ the body, which helps fight edema, hypertension and kidney diseases in some people, she adds.

Following the 1,500-calorie food-plan, a person should not exceed more than 7-8 portions of carbohydrates, 4-5 portions of vegetables, three portions of fruits, two portions of dairy products, and about five teaspoons of oil in a day, advises Uma Subramaniyam, dietician and diabetic educator at Al Zahra Hospital.

“The usual pattern observed in the region is that people have a heavy meal at Iftar (7pm) followed by their usual dinner meal (9pm), which is also usually very heavy,” she says.

“This is a wrong practice as there are two-three consecutive meals, high on fat and oil. They should substitute their meals with fruits, salads and light snacks instead,” she adds.

According to Uma, an ideal way to start Iftar is with a bowl of salad or fruits. “Fried and oily dishes should be avoided. The first meal at Sohour should also be the same; roasted or baked meals should be preferred,” she says.

“If a healthy food plan is followed, a month of fasting can help people lose weight, but instead we find people having increased their weight because of unhealthy eating,” says Uma.

However, fasting or starvation for long periods can be detrimental to one’s health, warns Anjum. “People often starve to lose weight, but remember, in the hypothalamus part of the brain there is a center called ‘lipostat’, which controls the body mass. When severe and rapid weight loss is achieved by starvation, the centre does not recognise this as normal and therefore re-programmes itself to cause weight gain rapidly once the person goes off the starvation diet. Hence one should follow healthy diet guidelines while fasting,” she says.

“The only effective way of losing weight is through a slow, self-controlled and gradual modification of life style and eating pattern,” she adds.

Loss of sleep is another effect of unruly schedules and an unhealthy and heavy dinner. Consuming the wrong food can cause gastric reflexes, indigestion, sleep disturbances and increase in weight.

“Adequate amount of water intake is absolutely important, as it is necessary to keep your body hydrated,” reminds Uma. To control bad breath caused due to fasting, people must avoid spicy food when they eat, says Uma.

“Fruits have a cleansing property in them for the entire human body; hence they should be consumed in higher quantities. Parsley, mint and coriander have a refreshing element in them and should be consumed more,” she says.

Healthy Tips

· Eat and drink wisely and sensibly

· Avoid feasting every day. Eat balanced meal both at Suhour and Iftar

· Avoid overeating at Iftar

· Drink lots of water between meals to replenish the dehydrated body

· Consume low fat and high fibre foods

· Choose low glycemic foods (fruits and vegetables with consumable skin) that are slow digesting and satiable, as this prevents overeating

· Avoid excessive sugars, sweets and fizzy drinks

· Reach for fresh salads, sprouts and cut fruits

Check your weight before the start of Ramadan and maintain it if within normal range. Make sure that weight doesn’t increase after the month-end

If on Insulin, check blood sugars and take proper diet

If you have any medical problem, seek the advice of the doctor and dietitian and adjust the diet accordingly


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