How to rejuvenate your body while fasting

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Ramadan fasting gives the digestive system rest and helps in self-healing and self-repairing, says nutritionist.

By Staff Reporter

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Published: Tue 23 Jun 2015, 1:07 AM

Last updated: Tue 27 Sep 2022, 11:34 AM

Dubai - Ramadan is an opportunity for those who fast to rejuvenate their body, according to officials from the Dubai Health Authority (DHA).

“Ramadan fasting gives the digestive system rest and helps in self-healing and self-repairing. Fasting detoxifies the body of its toxins which fuels the body’s healing mechanism and prevents diseases and disorders. However, those who fast need to follow healthy eating patterns and get sufficient rest to reap health benefits of fasting,” said Wafa Ayesh, director of clinical nutrition at the DHA.

Ayesh added that fasting during the hot summer months is particularly challenging and that all precautions should be taken to avoid dehydration and other health complications.

Let progress be gradual for those fasting for first time

Parents need to take special care of their children who are fasting for the first time. The DHA’s Wafa Ayesh said: “Those who are fasting for the first-time should not be encouraged to fast for the whole day. Let the progress be gradual. On the first day they can fast until noon, then they can increase it by every two hours during the first week.

“The Suhur meal is an essential part of fasting for children. Suhur should be as close as possible to the Fajr prayers. Children should have fibre-rich foods such as whole wheat cereals, whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables and good sources of protein such as lean meats, eggs and dairy products to stay full for longer. Parents should avoid giving children high-sugar foods, since it will increase their cravings and provide no nutrients. Salty foods should be limited to avoid thirst. Carbonated drinks, spicy and fried foods should also be avoided.”

Ayesh added that children should not be forced to overeat at Iftar and Suhur. Instead, the focus should be on ensuring the food consumed is high in nutrition.

“Parents should also ensure children eat a healthy Iftar and it is better they eat smaller meals throughout instead of eating one heavy meal at Iftar.”

It is essential for children to meet their calorie requirements during the non-fasting hours to stay nourished.

They should eat high-fibre and slow energy-releasing carbohydrates such as whole grains, brown pasta, brown rice and wholegrain breads. They should also eat fruits and vegetables, meats and legumes as well as healthy fats.Children should be encouraged to avoid high-intensity exercise and drink lots of fluid during non-fasting hours to remain hydrated.

Avoid tea at Suhur

Ayesh said: “Skipping Suhur and lack of sleep are major contributors that can cause heat stress. Some people eat heavy dinners and skip Suhur. This puts them at a higher risk for heat stress. Suhur should be consumed as late as possible to minimise the difficulty of fasting and those who fast should consume sufficient water or unsweetened fruit juice between Iftar and Suhur to balance the fluid levels in the body.”

She said consuming drinks with caffeine such as coffee, tea and soft drinks should be avoided as caffeine’s diuretic properties can dehydrate an already parched body.

She said it is important to avoid drinking tea at Suhur as tea increases salt excretion in the urine, which is needed for the body during fasting. Instead, she advised those who fast to have drinks such as Erk-sous (liquorice drink), jallab (dates, rose and pomegranate molasses drink), tamarind drink, and kharoub (locust bean) which are particularly helpful to rehydrate the body during Ramadan.

Smart food choices

“People should have a balanced diet with vegetables, fruits, protein, milk, yogurt and some saltine snacks. Avoid fatty foods especially fast-foods like fried chicken, fried potatoes and greasy meals. Avoid drinks which contain caffeine and drink plenty of water between Iftar to Suhur to replenish the body,” Ayesh said.

“During Iftar, end your fast with dates and fresh laban which is low in salt and then eat your food after your prayers. This will help you make smart food choices especially if you are eating out and have a buffet in front of you. It takes 20 minutes for the brain to realise that food has been consumed and it then sends signals the rest of the body.

So ending your fast with laban and dates helps channelise this signal to the brain and prevents overeating. Also, dates provide instant energy which is much needed.” Offering the Taraweeh prayers is a form of exercise as well, she stated.

Chronic diseases and fasting

Afra bin Katta, head of clinical nutrition department at the DHA, said people who are fasting, especially people with gastric disorders, should avoid fried, spicy and high sugar content foods. She also advocated eating small meals at regular hours as opposed to a big Iftar which can cause discomfort and slow the metabolism down.

Suha Noufal, senior clinical dietician at the DHA, said diabetics should fast only if they have consulted their endocrinologist and that they should avoid sugary drinks, excessive carbohydrates and fried food. Instead, they should eat slow sugar releasing carbohydrates such as brown rice instead of white rice, whole-wheat bread and high fibre foods.

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