Ramadan in UAE: Following a vegan diet? Here are dieticians’ tips

Choosing to go vegan can be a step towards having a sustainable, budget-friendly, detoxifying holy month


SM Ayaz Zakir

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Published: Sat 25 Mar 2023, 2:46 PM

Last updated: Sat 25 Mar 2023, 3:09 PM

Meat-laden protein-heavy dishes are needed to maintain optimum nutrition and energy levels, right?

No, say dieticians. You can stay perfectly healthy and get your fix of every essential nutrient even if you are vegetarian, or vegan say nutritionists.

In fact, they reckon that the health benefits of fasting are multiplied when one combines it with a vegetarian diet say dieticians and nutritionists.

“It is mostly - and wrongly - thought by people that following a vegan eating style leads to an imbalance of nutrient intake and improper dietary composition, said Fahmida Jafri, Dietitian-Clinical Nutrition, Thumbay University Hospital. "With careful planning, a vegan diet can provide almost all the macro and micronutrients required for a healthy meal.

“During Ramadan fasting, a vegan suhoor may pose a challenge to keep up the energy levels for the rest of the day, as quality proteins are a miss. To compensate for that, food items like tofu, beans, chickpeas, quinoa, nuts, and soybeans can be consumed at suhoor. They provide good proteins, fibre, iron, magnesium, and calcium in the diet, which helps to sustain energy while fasting without feeling tired and fatigued,” added Fahmida.

Choosing to be a vegan this holy month can be a step towards having a sustainable, budget-friendly, detoxifying Ramadan, said Juliot Vinolia Rajarathinam, clinical dietitian at Medeor Hospital, Dubai.

Vinolia says that a vegan diet can lead to the following benefits — improvement in autoimmune conditions like gout, lupus, asthma, sinusitis, muscle damage; reduced overall inflammation in the body; reversing of fatty liver and prediabetes issues; clearing of blood vessels, while improving blood pressure and autophagy triggering cell repair and prevention of cell mutation.

Vinolia.said that eating a vegan/vegetarian meal tends to include more fruits and vegetables that provide lots of fibre, and an antioxidant-rich diet that nurtures gut health, colonic bacteria, and the immune system Improved digestion and absorption of nutrients, are an added bonus, she adds.

Nutritionists mentioned that since people tend to make less effort to eat balanced vegan meals, it could lead to nutritional deficiencies of protein, vitamin B12, K2, vitamin D, Calcium, Iron, Zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids. In such cases, nutritional supplements or multivitamins can be taken as suggested by medical professionals to fill in the gaps of a balanced diet. “We might overindulge in grain-based foods and greatly miss out on protein intake while choosing to be vegan during fasting," said said Vinolia. "We could end up having more processed vegan products than real food. Processed vegan meats may contain the same amount of trans fats and sodium as processed red meat. Mindful shopping for vegan products by reading the nutritional label and ingredients can help us choose wisely.”

Nutritionists recommend some of these foods, items that vegans can consider for suhoor and Iftar to maintain a balanced nutrition profile.

- Plant-based milk from soy, almond, coconut, oatmeal, rice, hemp, tempeh, tofu, and edamame can be equally good choices. Recommended 1-2 cups daily to meet calcium, magnesium, and Vitamin D requirements daily.

- A handful of nuts, 1-2 tsp of chia or flaxseeds, or tahini or sesame seeds can be great alternatives to seafood, providing essential amino acids and fatty acids.

- Including 1-2 cups of lentils/beans/dals/chickpeas/soya meal/ mushrooms/quinoa/ buckwheat can be great alternatives.

- Daily 1-2 servings of kimchi/low salt vegetable pickles/tempeh/kefir/overnight-soaked fermented cooked rice or sauerkraut (fermented cabbage) can be a good source of probiotics for gut health.

- 1-2 spoons of nut butter, avocado, hummus, and coconut milk yogurt can be used for protein-rich spreads and fillings.

- Vegetables can be roasted, pureed, and made into patties, kebabs.

- Chickpeas, green moong beans, and green peas are great protein alternatives to eggs and chicken. Most are recommended daily through a diverse range of recipes during Ramadan.

- Vegan tofu omelet made with tofu, capsicum, and mushrooms in olive oil, quinoa bread, and banana berry smoothie made with almond milk topped with chia seeds, make for a delicious meal.

- Dates, lentils soup, mixed fruit salad (pineapple/grapes/pomegranate) topped with raisins and flax seeds, tender coconut water.

Since vegan diets are based on clean eating and good fibre intake, the inclusion of liberal amounts of fluids helps in achieving a detox effect on the body. “Therefore, Iftars can be more beneficial by adding soups, stews, casseroles, smoothies, and fresh fruit juices,” said Fahmida.


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