Muslims in Basildon and Brentwood can ensure they have a healthy Ramadan by following some useful fasting advice from the NHS.
This year, Ramadan in the UK is taking place from Friday 26 May until Saturday 24 June. Throughout this period, Muslims observe a daily fast by abstaining from food and drink between dawn and sunset.
Fasting during the month of Ramadan can be beneficial to health and also offers an opportunity for those who are overweight to shed a few pounds – provided it is done correctly.
The body enters into a fasting state around eight hours after the last meal, when the gut finishes absorbing nutrients from the food. During a fast, the body will first start to burn the glucose that’s stored in the liver and muscles, and then fat becomes the next source of energy when the body’s glucose supply has run out.
During Ramadan, the body’s energy can be replaced with the pre-dawn and dusk meals. This provides a gentle transition from using glucose as the main source of energy to using fat, and prevents the breakdown of muscle for protein.
The use of fat for energy helps weight loss, preserves the muscles and eventually reduces cholesterol levels. After a few days of the fast, higher levels of endorphins appear in the blood, making you more alert and giving an overall feeling of general mental wellbeing.
To achieve this, it’s really important to have a balanced food and fluid intake between fasts. Otherwise, if you’re not careful, food eaten during the pre-dawn and dusk meals can actually cause some weight gain. That’s why approaching the fast with self-discipline is absolutely vital to avoid wasting the opportunity for better health.
Tips to enjoy a healthy diet during Ramadan
- Have at least two meals a day outside of the fasting period, and keep your food intake simple and not too different from your normal diet.
- Ensure your meals contain foods from all the major food groups, including:
o Fruit and vegetables
o Bread, cereals and potatoes
o Meat, fish or alternatives
o Milk and dairy
o Foods containing fat and sugar
- Try to limit the amount of sugary foods you eat and instead include healthier sources of carbohydrate in your diet, such as wholegrains, potatoes, vegetables, fruits, legumes and lower-fat dairy products.
- Foods high in fibre (fruit, vegetables, pulses and starchy foods) can help to keep your bowels healthy and add bulk to your meal, helping you to feel full.
- Slow-digesting food like pitta bread, salad, cereal or toast provide a constant release of energy.
- Before eating, drink plenty of water to help rehydration and reduce the chances of overindulgence. Try to avoid caffeine-based drinks such as tea, coffee and cola, and have some fluids with vitamins, such as fruit juice.
- Avoid deep-fried foods (such as pakoras, samosas and fried dumplings), high-sugar and high-fat foods (such as sweets like gulab jamun, rasgulla and balushahi), and high-fat cooked foods (such as parathas, oily curries and greasy pastries).
- Healthier alternatives include baked samosas and boiled dumplings, chapattis made without oil, baked or grilled meat, homemade pastry using just a single layer, and milk-based sweets and puddings like rasmalai and barfee.
- Consider shallow frying, grilling or baking as alternative cooking methods to deep-frying.
During Ramadan, it is also recommended that people with health issues such as diabetes, severe migraines, high or low blood pressure should consult their GP before fasting. Pregnant women and people who take regular medication should also speak to their GP for advice.
For more information about a healthy Ramadan visit www.nhs.uk