What to Eat During Ramadan

What to Eat During Ramadan
File Photo: Mir Imran/GK

During fasting hours when no food or drink is consumed, the body uses its stores of carbohydrate (stored in the liver and muscles) and fat to provide energy. The body cannot store water and so the kidneys conserve as much water as possible by reducing the amount lost in urine. Depending on the weather and the length of the fast, most people who fast during Ramadan will experience mild dehydration, which may cause headaches, tiredness and difficulty concentrating. However, different studies have suggested that this is not harmful to health, provided that enough fluids are consumed after breaking the fast to replace those lost during the day. For those who would normally consume caffeinated drinks such as tea and coffee during the day, the lack of caffeine during the fast may initially lead to headaches and tiredness. This may ease over the course of Ramadan as the body adjusts to going without caffeine during the day.

Once the fast is broken, the body can rehydrate and gain energy from the foods and drinks consumed. Having not eaten for a long period, you may find it helpful to eat slowly when breaking the fast and to start with plenty of fluids and low-fat, fluid-rich foods. Drinking plenty of fluids, as well as consuming fluid-rich foods, such as fruit, vegetables, yogurt, soups and stews, is very important to replace fluids lost during the day and to start the next day of fasting well hydrated. Salt stimulates thirst and so it's a good idea to avoid consuming a lot of salty foods.

Sehri Foods

The Foods to be preferred in Sehri (pre-dawn meal) during  Ramdhan,  needs to be wholesome to provide enough energy to last during the long hours of fasting. It should include fruits and vegetables. High-fibre carbohydrate foods like brown rice and whole meal bread take longer to digest, helping to sustain energy levels longer during the day. Skinless chicken, fish and low-fat dairy products are a great source of protein while limiting your fat intake. Furthermore, they help repair and build body tissue, and build up your immune system. Consuming high-calcium dairy products also helps maintain strong bones. Those that are lactose intolerant can choose lactose-free milk or calcium-fortified soybean milk.

Iftar Foods

While as Iftar meals are often a time for celebration, with families and friends coming together to break their fasts, it's important not to go overboard when eating during Ramadan. Consuming a lot of deep fried, creamy and sweet foods may actually cause you to gain weight during Ramadan. Ramadan can be a good time to make changes to improve the balance of your diet that you can sustain in the longer term. At Iftar, you replenish energy levels so every effort should be made to consume foods from all major food groups, fruit and vegetables, rice and alternatives, as well as meat and alternatives (which include dairy). It is recommended that two servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit per day. Make sure you have one serving of fruit and one  serving of veggie at each of your two meals. During Ramadan, dates are eaten at the start of Iftar to symbolize the breaking of the fast. Besides being an excellent source of energy, dates are also rich in potassium – helping muscles and nerves to function well. But don't consume too much as dates are high in sugar.

To keep your meals healthy, limit the use of oil and opt for steaming, grilling, baking or shallow frying instead. When choosing oils, you should also pick those that are high in unsaturated fats such as canola oil and soybean oil.The changes to eating habits and lack of fluids during the day may cause constipation for some people. When you can eat and drink, consuming plenty of high fibre foods, such as whole grains, high fibre cereals, bran, fruit and vegetables, beans, lentils, dried fruit and nuts alongside plenty of fluids may help to ease constipation as well as doing some light physical activity, such as going for a walk after Iftar.

Those taking regular, long term medications , should confirm Ramadan medication dosage with their  doctors before the fasting month begins. You must also be sure about when to take your medicine, particularly when the medicine is affected by food intake. It was found that the blood sugar levels of patients during Ramadan tend to be lower. As such, the regular dose of diabetes medication during the fasting month may in fact be "too much". Dose adjustments may be necessary if you have diabetes, so that you will not suffer from symptoms of low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia).

Use separate cutting boards for fruits or vegetables and raw lamb, chicken, or other meat. This will help prevent cross-contamination between ready-to-eat foods that don't require cooking and raw meat or poultry. The only way to make sure your meat and poultry is safe to eat is to cook it to a safe internal temperature as you can't see, smell, or taste harmful bacteria that may cause illness. For that reason, following minimum safe internal temperatures, as measured by a food thermometer are recommended for Beef and Mutton (steaks, chops, and roasts): 145°F (63°C) and allow to rest for at least 3 minutes. Poultry (breasts, whole bird and legs, thighs, wings, and ground poultry): 165°F (74°C). Egg dishes: 160°F (71°C). Any leftover food should not be left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours. Instead, chill leftovers promptly. Bacteria grow and multiply rapidly at temperatures between 40°F and 140°F (4°C and 60°C).

The author is Food Safety Officer. Feedback: Loneshabir73@gmail.com

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