Muslims around the globe are obligated to fast (abstain from food and drink of any sort) from dawn until dusk during the holy month of Ramadan. Its basic purpose is to cleanse the body and soul. Unfortunately the whole sense of fasting is increasingly seen diluted and in effect, the Ramadan fast is serving as a breeding ground for numerous physical ailments.
I would like to describe the ideal practices to follow while fasting and suggest some healthy food practices to ensure that fasting does no harm to your body and mind, but on the other hand revitalize and strengthen them.
There are a couple of crucial aspects to be taken care of for this ongoing Ramadan. One is the impending COVID-19 pandemic and the need for maintaining a healthy immune system. For this, we must make sure that we take a nutritious and balanced diet. The other point of concern is the scorching summer season in which this year's Ramadan falls. So our body needs to be kept hydrated within the available time span and strictly avoid unwholesome food (apathya āhāra). Unwholesome food during this time may cause hyper-acidity, urinary infection, constipation and dehydration.
Suhur, the pre-dawn meal which is taken before sunrise, should never be avoided. It is the energy source for the whole day. So a diet rich in carbohydrates, proteins and fiber should be taken. South Indians' all-time favorite spicy foods may lead to acidity. Try this combination, instead:
- Oats porridge / Oats upma / Rice with vegetables
- Five dates
- A handful of nuts and almonds
- One litre of water
During Suhur, if you take a heavy meal, more enzymes are produced to digest it and a high energy requirement is needed for this. This leads to acidity. Citrus fruits should be avoided as it causes acidity. Do not take too much tea/ coffee or salted nuts as these are diuretics and may lead to dehydration.
The idea is to have foods that would take longer to digest yet do not cause indigestion, acidity or dehydration.
Remember the secret of fasting, it’s something that other people are unaware of: “Eat less, you are less prompt to be hungry”.
After hours of abstaining from any food or drinks, one must ensure that the fast is ended sensibly. Iftaar or breaking the fast is very crucial and it is to be done with utmost care. It is better to avoid a main course or heavy food and fried items for this purpose. Use of iced drinks or soft drinks is not advisable.
Ideally, break the fast with dried dates, nuts, fruits and diluted lime juice/orange juice. The traditional ‘Thari Kanji’ is an apt food item for Iftaar. Soups made of vegetable or meat can be included. The main course is preferably taken after 45 minutes of breaking the fast. It is best to keep the main course also light to digest.
There is an estimation in Ayurveda on how the stomach must be filled. It says, while having a full meal, half of the stomach should be filled with solid foods, one-fourth is to be filled with liquids and the remaining quarter is to be left empty for air and other gases to fill in. Following this principle will not only facilitate proper gastric movements and digestion, but it will prevent that bloated feeling and lethargy after a meal too.
Heavy foods like biriyani, spicy foods, fried and junk foods are better avoided. Excess food intake before bedtime can increase anxiety and laziness. Fruits and nuts are more advisable before bedtime. Vegetables like cucumber and lettuce can be added to the diet of people with constipation. Hydrate yourself with two litres of plain water. Avoid excess salt consumption.
Diabetics who may be taking medicines or insulin therapy must strictly follow the advice of their doctor while fasting. People suffering from diseases like piles, fistula, peptic ulcer, urinary calculus, gouty arthritis also need to modify the content of their diet during fasting.
By following all these simple steps, we can prevent exacerbation to a certain extent and do justice to the idea of fasting during Ramadan.
Wishing you all a healthy and blessed Ramadan.