By Sonya Islam, MPH, RD
Sonya is a former Extension Associate with Cornell Cooperative Extension, and is a Registered Dietitian and a practicing Muslim.
Fasting during the month of Ramadan is as much a mental exercise as it is a physical one. Although we may differ in how we prepare our minds and bodies, here are some tips that can help Muslims adjust to the daily fast:
- Try drinking fluid several times throughout the night, even if you aren’t feeling too thirsty—thirst is a signal that your body is ALREADY dehydrated. Choose fluids that don’t contain caffeine, because caffeinated drinks can be dehydrating. Remember, breaking your fast at iftar (the evening meal after sunset) with water not only is traditional, it ensures that you get the best source of hydration into your body before becoming distracted with food.
But, be careful and don’t go overboard with drinking too much at one time. Trying to drink a few gallons all at once can dilute your body’s electrolytes, inducing a potentially fatal condition called water intoxication.
Variety is the spice of life.
- Eat a variety of foods during the evening. Now, more than ever, your body needs good nourishment to compensate for the stress of fasting. Whole grains, vegetables, fruits, lean protein, healthy fat (fat from plants, like olive oil and nuts)—all of these are important to give your body all the nutrients it needs.
Portion size is important.
- It takes the body about 20 minutes to register that it’s had enough to eat. So don’t go overboard with eating during iftar. Eating mindfully and listening for when your hunger is actually satisfied puts less stress on your body and gives you more energy than eating huge amounts at one time.
- Though fasting can be physically exhausting, try not to be completely sedentary. If you typically work out during the morning, see how your body feels if you switch exercise to the evening after breaking your fast. Strenuous exercise is not a good idea during the day because you can quickly become dehydrated. Think small—short easy walks (to classes or doing errands) or a few stretches can go a long way in keeping your energy up during the day.
A few secrets to a successful sehri (pre-sunrise meal).
- Together, the components of a balanced meal help your blood sugar remain most stable, which gives you good energy. Some of the elements to include in your sehri:
- Whole grains—sources include whole grain cereal, whole grain bread, brown rice, and oatmeal.
- Fresh fruits and vegetables—check out the produce section for dozens of ideas!
- Protein—sources include milk, yogurt, eggs, nuts.
- Healthy fat—sources are nuts and olives.