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Recommended foods for Ramadan
Sat, 06 Sep 2008 16:35:40
By Patricia Khashayar, MD., Press TV, Tehran
In Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, Muslims fast from dawn to sunset. They
are encouraged to focus more on their faith, self-accountability and self-restraint. They believe it
was in this month that the first verse of the Qur'an was revealed to Prophet Mohammad (PBUH).
In addition to strengthening willpower and developing one's appreciation for such values as
patience and humility, fasting improves eating habits. It provides a sense of health and
happiness. By reducing the three daily meals to two, it rests the stomach and the other organs in
the gastrointestinal tract.
Fasting also reduces the amount of energy needed for basal resting, leading to lower lipid and
glucose levels. An Italian study has shown that fasting also helps resolve MS complications.
Individuals can enjoy considerable advantages by fasting if they do not ruin their efforts by
overeating at night. The daily diet thus must be arranged in a way that does not allow an
increase in weight. A low calorie diet provides obese individuals with a great opportunity to lose
weight in this month.
A suitable diet for this period requires all the five food groups. Carbohydrates, fats, proteins,
vitamins and minerals are necessary and can result in more energy.
Each individual should choose a diet considering his/her condition, daily function and underlying
disease. The following tips can help individuals who want to fast:
Sahari (The food those fasting eat before dawn):
Individuals are recommended to wake up to eat sahari if they do not want to experience fatigue
during the day. Fasting without sahari may lead to halitosis, headaches and muscular pain as the
body would be required to use fat deposits as its energy source.
Sleeping early at night and waking up at least 90 minutes before dawn also helps the digestion
process. Individuals are also recommended not to sleep after sahari in order to reduce reflux.
Contrary to general belief, drinking a lot of tea for sahari does not reduce thirst. As a matter of
fact, the caffeine increases urination, leading to an increased excretion of water and minerals
from the body and, in turn, causes more thirst.
Eating protein-rich foods such as eggs, grains, dairy products and meat along with fruits,
vegetables, low-fat milk, fruit juice and several cups of weak tea is an effective way to reduce
daytime thirst particularly in the elderly. Individuals are also recommended to drink gradually
while eating sahari and avoid foods with high salt content.
Grape extract has tonic properties and is suggested for those who feel weak during the day.
Diabetic people, however, should avoid the extract.
While many load themselves up, hoping to easily end their fasting day, overeating is proven to
be associated with abdominal pain and indigestion. As a result, it is recommended not to eat
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fatty foods for sahari.
Alternatively, a balanced diet can help fasting individuals. In addition, adding enough fruits and
vegetables to the diet, not only provides the body with the required vitamins, minerals and
water, but also prevents constipation, the main disturbing complication associated with fasting.
Foods rich in complex carbohydrates including bread, rice and potato along with those with high
calcium content (cheese and milk) and whole grain breads are the best choices for sahari.
Iftar (The food those fasting eat after sunset):
Sahari provides the body with a great part of its energy needs; therefore, eating a light iftar is
preferred. If an individual intends to also eat dinner, two hours after iftar is a good time to have
a light dinner.
However, iftar should be rich in calories. Soup and pottage are best for those breaking their fast
because such foods are fairly light and prepare the stomach for dinner. It also lowers one's
feeling of thirst.
It is also recommended to eat a fruit at the end. Eating fruits and nuts after dinner is highly
recommended. Half a glass of fruit juice can substitute a fruit.
While individuals are encouraged to drink enough water between iftari and the sahari they will
eat the next day, they are urged not to drink too much tea, coffee or carbonated sodas due to
their diuretic properties.
Carbohydrate-rich foods such as dates and fruit juice are good choices for iftari. Sweet desserts
are not good because they make the individual feel hungry after a while (such foods contain
simple carbohydrates which enter the blood rapidly; they stimulate pancreas secretion and
shortly cause reduced blood glucose levels). Dates are considered a good alternative for such
desserts particularly in obese individuals.
Nutritionists also urge individuals to replace butter, fat, mayonnaise and various desserts
including chocolates with herbal fats such as those extracted from olive and nuts (peanuts, nuts,
hazelnuts and …).
Frequent complications experienced while fasting:
It is commonly due to the use of refined carbohydrates and inadequate amounts of water and
fiber. Lowering the intake of refined carbohydrates and adding more water and whole grain bread
to the diet can help overcome the problem.
- Indigestion and bloating
Consuming too much food particularly fat-rich, spicy and fried foods as well as those with
flatulence properties - such as eggs, lettuce, lentils, beans and carbonated sodas - are the main
culprits for indigestion. Therefore, following a healthy diet with low contents of the mentioned
foods can easily tackle the condition.
- Fatigue and low blood pressure
Fatigue happens following the insufficient intake of liquids and salt. Following a balanced and
healthy diet can prevent the condition.
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Individuals who want to fast are recommended to taper off caffeine, sugar and alcohol a few
days before fasting. Many fasting symptoms, such as headache, dizziness and fatigue, are
actually the body going into withdrawal, not hunger.
Working too hard and insomnia are other factors leading to headaches. The condition is
worsened by the end of the day. If associated with low blood pressure, the individual may suffer
severe headaches and even nausea.
- Low blood Sugar levels
Fatigue, vertigo, loss of concentration, excessive sweating, tremor, headache and palpation are
various problems a person may be experiencing because of low blood sugar levels.
In non-diabetic individuals, low blood pressure may be the result of eating too much refined
carbohydrates especially for sahari.
- Muscular cramps
Eating foods low in calcium, potassium and magnesium may lead to muscular cramps. Eating
mineral-rich foods such as vegetables, fruits, milk, meat, dates and dairy products can help.
- Peptic ulcers
High levels of acid aggravate ulcers and inflammation in an empty stomach and lead to epigastric
pain. Eating spicy foods, coffee and carbonated soda exacerbates the problem.
Individuals suffering from active peptic and duodenal ulcers should not fast as it may activate the
ulcer leading to troublesome conditions such as bleeding.
- Renal stones
The condition is increasingly reported among individuals who do not drink enough liquids. Such
individuals can tackle renal stones by drinking 8 glasses of water between iftari and the sahari
they will eat the next day.
High risk groups
Diabetic individuals older than 20, who have controlled blood sugar and weight, and those not
suffering from any underlying diseases including infectious, cardiovascular and respiratory
diseases neither renal stone and high blood pressure are allowed to fast.
Individuals on insulin can fast only if they depend on low doses of the medication, do not
experience hypoglycemia attacks during the day and are not suffering from any diabetes-related
Such individuals should not change their diet in Ramadan; however, they should drink sufficient
amounts of water. They should also visit their endocrinologist every week during the month to be
advised on their drug doses.
These individuals should take their medication regularly if they want to fast. They should not to
fast without eating sahari. Two hours before iftar and sahari along with two hours after iftar are
the best times for such individuals to check their blood sugar levels.