Did you know that fasting during Ramadan has immense health benefits? Fasting is a key component of the Holy Month, which is a time for kindness, spirituality, reflection and self-improvement.
Ramadan is a month in the Islamic lunar calendar considered Holy by Muslims worldwide. It is an Islamic rule that all Muslims fast from dawn to dusk during this month, forgoing even water throughout the day. As the timing of sunset and sunrise varies across countries, the duration of fasting varies between 12 and 14 hours.
This makes it similar to the current trend of intermittent fasting for weight loss. One difference is that intermittent fasting is observed during the day and night while you sleep and hydration is encouraged.
“The purpose of the Ramadan fast is to purify the mind, heart and soul and cultivate moral character”, explains Salim Shaikh, who has been observing the Ramadan fast since he was 13 years old. Now in his 60s, Salim recognises that perhaps this dedication has also contributed to his good health at this age.
Scientific research has gathered conclusive evidence on the benefits of fasting, ranging from an improved metabolic profile to the reversal of oxidative damage and neuroprotective effects. Let’s learn more about the positive effects of fasting.
Benefits of Fasting in Ramadan
Fasting helps to remove toxins from the body, reduces inflammation, improves blood pressure and cholesterol, strengthens brain functions, and improves mental health. The key motivation for fasting for the younger generation is reduced calorie intake, promoting weight loss. However, other benefits of fasting will help to keep you healthy for a long time
Regulates bad cholesterol
A recent study has shown that fasting improves the lipid profile, reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Total cholesterol and triglyceride levels decrease during fasting while high-density lipoprotein levels increase.
Give your digestive system some well-needed rest and a chance to recuperate. Your stomach size will shrink in time and naturally reduce your appetite. However, fasting also requires the controlling of hunger pangs, and probably even to a larger extent as compared to restrictive dieting.
Detox your mind and body
In addition to burning the fat reserves, fasting also releases the toxins stored in the body fat. With a month of fasting, the body detoxifies naturally, giving a healthy start to life beyond Ramadan.
Supercharge your mood and mental functions
Research suggests that fasting increases the growth and development of new brain cells. A healthy brain is more resilient to stress, adaptable to change, has a better memory and learning capacity, and allows you to be in a good mood.
Tips to Get the Best from Ramadan Fasting
Though the Ramadan fast can make you lose weight, it is easy to go overboard with the festivities after Iftar! As Salimah Aga says, “After a day-long fast, I can’t control myself when I see my Mom’s Nasi Briyani and samosas! Rather than losing weight, I often end up with weight gain after Ramadan.” Make the most of your fast and ensure you get the best health results with the following tips.
Eat a balanced diet
Ensure you eat enough calories to sustain you through the day, but don’t go overboard. Stick to eating healthy with 25% whole grains, 25% proteins and 50% fruits and vegetables. Nafisa Mohommad, who also observes the Ramadan fast every year, is very particular about what she eats to avoid weight gain. “Keep the oils and fats to a minimum and go easy on the heavy, creamy and fried foods”, is her advice. She also avoids salty and sugary foods.
Avoid overeating or having strong-tasting foods to prevent burdening your digestive system. Choose fish and leaner cuts of meat, wholegrain or brown rice and pasta. Also, ensure your main meal consists of a good portion of green vegetables and fruits. Break your fast with fibre-rich kurma to suppress your hunger and avoid eating too much.
Start the day with a healthy and wholesome Suhoor. You can consider nutrient-rich options like oatmeal, cheese, labneh, fruits and vegetables. Low glycaemic index food like oats, quinoa, multigrain and wholegrain bread, yoghurt and hummus release energy slowly.
The day-long fast can leave you dehydrated and cause headaches, constipation and high blood pressure, and it can also leave you tired and in a bad mood. Ensure you hydrate
Exercising while fasting can be dehydrating and even dangerous at times. Salim recalls when he was on a workout spree and fainted in the weights room during Ramadan. Stick to light exercise such as a brisk walk or training with light weights. The best time to exercise is just before the Suhoor or after your Iftar. As always, ensure you stay well hydrated while exercising.
Avoid fasting in these conditions.
Though maintaining a fast is an Islamic rule, you are exempt from fasting under certain conditions. It is not advisable to fast during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Also, if you are on medication for diabetes or other chronic conditions like kidney disease, it is better to get your doctor’s approval before you fast.
Drop the unhealthy habits and embrace the good ones
Ramadan is the best time to cleanse your body and start good habits. Take this opportunity to ditch your addictions like smoking and alcohol. Restraining yourself from these unhealthy habits will be easier after Ramadan. Also, take this opportunity to cut down on your sugar intake and continue to do so after Ramadan.
Ramadan fasting is a great way to embark on your wellness journey. Take this opportunity to invigorate yourself spiritually and boost your health.
- Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi. 2021. How Ramadan can boost your health and well being. [online] [Accessed on 4 April 2022]
- National Library of Medicine. 2014. Is Ramadan fasting related to health outcomes? A review on the related evidence. [online] [Accessed on 4 April 2022]
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