Ramadan is an important time for Muslims all around the world. It is a month of fasting, prayer, self-reflection, and seeking guidance for the coming future. During this month, Muslims refrain from eating and drinking from dawn until sunset. The entire concept of Ramadan is more akin to spiritual healing; cleaning not just the body but also the soul and thus leading to good health, emotionally and physically.
While we all know the awesome benefits of fasting in allowing our body to rest and undergo metabolic detoxification and in clearing up toxins from our body, the crucial part of restoring and resetting lies completely in our hands during the eating hours. This means that while we fast 12-14 hours during Ramadan, the ~8 hours that we eat if done wisely, can heal and repair the gut microbiome and build an entire colony of healthy gut microbes in the entire GI tract. A nutrient-dense diet assists the body, not only in building healthy bacteria but also in supporting the detoxification process during the elimination process.
As a health coach, here are a few tips that I share to help you optimize digestion and strengthen the gut to promote optimal GI and immune functioning, leading to good health.
- Do not skip suhoor: by this, I mean 20-30 minutes before dawn and not an evening snack before you sleep. Eating slow complex carbs like wholegrain bread, sweet potato or rice (½ to 1 cup) along with a balance of veggies and some form of protein like eggs helps manage the blood sugar throughout the day.
- Iftar meals (first meal post-breaking fast): these should ideally consist of easy-to-digest foods and must again consist of a good balance of vegetables that fill half your plate, along with sources of proteins next, and carbs should be one-third of your plate. A good example of this can be a bowl of rice with some vegetable stew and protein. Avoid fried/fatty foods as they can hinder digestion and make you feel bloated.
- Get your desserts from natural sugars: these include fruit, honey or maple syrup, rather than processed baked goods that will not only make you feel uncomfortable but lead to a cramp feeling in your stomach. Always try to pair your sweets with nuts or protein to manage your blood sugar balance better.
- Stay hydrated: It is important to stay hydrated during the fasting period. Drink plenty of water and add minerals in the form of green juice, vegetable soup, or added trace minerals to your water. Avoid sugary drinks and caffeine. You can also hydrate with fruits and vegetables that have high water content, such as watermelon, cucumber, and oranges. Remember to drink water at suhoor and iftar, and throughout the night.
- Eat slowly and mindfully: Take your time while eating and enjoy your food. Eating too quickly can lead to overeating and indigestion. Eating mindfully will help you to appreciate your food and avoid eating more than you need.
- Exercise: During Ramadan, it is important to maintain your exercise routine, but it may need to be adjusted to accommodate the fasting schedule. You can exercise before suhoor or after iftar when your body has enough fuel to sustain your workout. You can also do low-intensity activities such as walking, yoga, or stretching during the day. A 20-minute walk post iftar is most beneficial even if you are unable to maintain your regular exercise routine. Just this post-meal workout does the trick of maintaining weight!
Hydrating Green Juice Recipe For Iftar:
- Celery (2 stalks)
- Cucumbers (2 large, with skin on)
- Green apple (1)
- Leafy greens of choice (handful e.g., parsley, coriander, lettuce, mint)
- Lemon/lime (1/2)
- Ginger root (1-inch)
- Turmeric root (1-inch)
- Blend all the ingredients in a blender
- Enjoy with all the fibre intact or juice it and let the nutrients hydrate you well.
May this Ramadan be a month of health, happiness, and spiritual growth for you and your loved ones! Ramadan Kareem!