Ramadan begins on Monday, May 6, 2019 and ends on Tuesday, June 4, 2019. Millions of people from around the world will be recognizing this Islamic holy day through prayer and dawn to dusk fasting. Fasting can be done safely if you take the necessary precautions— especially for those with certain medical conditions. If you will be taking part in Ramadan, here are some helpful tips to ensure you stay in good health throughout the month.
Before you break your fast, be sure to drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Water is the best source of hydration. Juice and milk work as well, but be wary of beverages that contain high quantities of sugar and calories.
According to tradition, dates are eaten at the start of the iftar meal. Dates are a natural source of sugar, which helps to balance low blood sugar and fuel the body with much needed energy. Low blood sugar may cause headaches. Consuming two dates prior to your meal can help combat headaches and raise your blood sugar to an optimal level.
Soups are always an excellent choice to break your fast because they keep you hydrated and are packed with vitamins and minerals. Try to choose nutrient-rich soups such as vegetable, tomato or lentil and avoid cream-based soups. Cold soups such as Gazpachos make a great alternative to hot soups during warmer weather.
Vegetables are packed full of vitamins, minerals and fiber. Colorful salads are always healthier because they contain many different kinds of nutrients. Two servings of vegetables during each meal is a good rule of thumb. Try to incorporate a half a cup of raw or cooked vegetables, or one cup of leafy raw vegetables.
The iftar meal should contain healthy, complex carbohydrates. Some good choices may include brown rice, whole grain pasta, whole grain breads, potatoes and burghul. In addition to being a great source of energy, complex carbs are an excellent source of fiber and minerals.
During iftar, consuming healthy lean proteins are very important. Healthy, complete proteins such as beef, milk, yogurt, eggs, cheese, fish, and poultry contain a variety of amino acids and are critical to maintaining and producing muscle mass. You can avoid consuming saturated fats by choosing lean proteins like fish, skinless chicken, turkey, or low-fat dairy products. For vegetarian options, try legumes, beans and nuts.
There’s no need to rush through a meal. Breaking your fast by eating too much at once, too quickly, can cause indigestion and other gastric problems. Slowly eating smaller portions is the best way to prevent weight gain and is better for your overall health. In general, you don’t want to go over the amount you would normally consume for a typical lunch or dinner.
Heavy meals that contain lots of saturated fat, sodium and sugar should be avoided whenever possible. Instead of preparing fried meals, try baking, steaming, grilling, stewing and roasting. Rather than using salt and sugar to flavor meals, use herbs and spices. For dessert, reach for a healthy piece of fruit that contains natural sugars rather than candies, cakes or other baked goods that contain refined sugar or artificial sweeteners.
During the first few days of fasting, you may be feeling fatigued. Don’t push yourself to exercise too hard. Instead try a milder, low impact exercise routine. Try walking briskly just after the sun sets and right before dawn. Because Ramadan takes place in warmer months, you may want to avoid outdoor activity.
Despite being exempted by religion, many Muslims who have health conditions that put them at higher risk still decide to fast on Ramadan. The Holy Quran exempts the sick from the fasting tradition. But if you decide to fast, and you have a medical condition such as cardiac disease diabetes or are pregnant and/or breastfeeding, it is important to consult with your doctor and take the necessary precautions to ensure your health and safety.
Research indicates that patients with stable cardiac disease are minimally affected by fasting, and there is no significant danger to observing the fast during Ramadan. In fact, if practiced safely, fasting has been known to help improve cardiovascular health. Stable cardiac disease refers to patients whose heart disease symptoms occur predictably, for example, during exercise or times of stress. If you have been diagnosed with stable cardiac disease, it’s still important that your doctor clear you to participate in fasting and that you discuss any changes in medications during this time. Typically, drug regimens for cardiac patients during fasting do not require any changes.
It is not advised that people with Type 1 diabetes fast during Ramadan. If you have Type 1 diabetes and you intend to fast, make sure that you are being closely supervised by your doctor. Your doctor will need to monitor your blood sugar daily to ensure your safety.
If you have Type 2 diabetes, it is generally considered safe to fast during Ramadan. However, this is not the case for everyone living with Type 2 diabetes, so be sure to consult with your doctor about your plans to fast. Your medications may need to be adjusted.
When you break the fast, eat as you normally would, assuming you follow a balanced and healthy diet. Low blood sugar may occur during long hours of not eating especially if you are still taking your diabetes medications. It may be a good idea to break your fast at Suhoor, just before sunrise, to keep your blood sugar balanced throughout the fast.
If you are pregnant with diabetes you should not fast or consult with your physicians.
Islamic law exempts women who are pregnant and breastfeeding from fasting and your doctor will advise against it.
Some pregnant and breastfeeding women still decide to fast and must take precautions to keep themselves and their babies healthy. It is very important to stay hydrated and eat highly nutritious foods during predawn and evening meals. During the fast, be sure to take it easy and refrain from any excessive physical activity. If you notice decreased fetal activity, extreme fatigue, nausea, dizziness or vomiting, you will need to stop your fast and contact your doctor right away.
Many adolescents participate in the fast around puberty. However, many children often fast with their families for a portion of the day. For adolescents and children, it is important that they consume plenty of fluids and eat healthy, nutritious foods during predawn and evening meals and refrain from overexerting themselves during the day.
Have a healthy and happy Ramadan!
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