By Dr Sarah Maan
Ramadhan is such a sacred time, a month full of mercy and forgiveness. We’ve all been blessed with the opportunity to observe this special month and its paramount that we try and make it as productive as possible.
When we feel tired, grumpy or down, it becomes difficult to engage and do things that we want to do. On the other hand, when we feel good, both physically and mentally, things are different. We’re more motivated, energised and capable of completing tasks that in other circumstances, we may have found difficult. It becomes easier to push ourselves, whether that be in resisting the temptation of food and drink, biting our tongues and being more patient or staying up later to pray.
Therefore, its really important we make it a priority to look after ourselves in Ramadan and engage in behaviours and habits that help us.
Here is some guidance on how we can help ourselves achieve the most out of Ramadan InshaaAllah.
5 ways fasting is good for us
1. Weight loss
There is lots of research out there looking at the benefits of fasting. Diets such as the 5:2 diet and intermittent fasting have been taken up by athletes and celebrities to reap the medical benefits that fasting gives, including weight loss or maintaining a healthy weight. What is even more insightful is that whilst this practice of 5:2 fasting has only just started to be on trend, for us Muslims it has always been ‘on trend’, as our beloved Messenger Muhammad SAW would fast on Mondays and Thursdays on a weekly basis.
It was narrated from Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said:
“Deeds are shown (to Allaah) on Mondays and Thursdays, and I like my deeds to be shown when I am fasting.”
Narrated by al-Tirmidhi, 747; classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Targheeb, 1041.
2. Increased blood sugar control:
The main body of research agrees that fasting is especially good for improving blood sugar control. It helps to regulate the level of insulin in our blood stream (The hormone which helps to control blood sugar). When we abstain from food and drink, we don’t have spikes of insulin throughout the day which means when we do need insulin, our bodies are more sensitive to it and less resistant to it.
3. Improved heart health:
Research has also found benefits in heart health through a reduction in blood pressure and a lowering of cholesterol.
4. Reduces inflammation:
Fasting has also been shown to reduce chronic inflammation which is a key component in many medical conditions including cancer and arthritis.
5. Improved mood:
Animal studies have shown an increase in the happy hormone (endorphins) in the fasting leading to an improvement in mood.
These are just some of the many benefits that research has validated.
10 Health Tips to make the most of you Ramadhan
It’s important we fast properly in order to attain these benefits.
1. Wake up for suhoor:
It’s really important to wake up for suhoor. Not only is there blessing in it but eating something at this time will make the rest of the day go a lot easier.
2. Choose wisely:
We should be consuming complex carbohydrates at this time, things that will slowly release energy throughout the day and keep hunger at bay. e.g. brown/wholemeal bread, wholegrain cereals, porridge.
3. Stayed hydrated:
Remember to hydrate yourself. The lack of water can cause headaches, dizziness and make your fast difficult.
4. Keep active:
Ideally we want to keep active, this in turn makes us feel more energised. Ramadan is not an excuse to become sedentary.
5. Have a routine:
Try and keep to your daily routine and incorporate some activity into it, eg going for a walk, stretching, yoga.
6. Portion control:
At iftaar time try not to overindulge, overeating tends to make us feel sluggish and slow, making it much easier to just fall asleep rather then stay awake and pray taraweeh. Stick to a regular meal portion or just under that.
7. Avoid the following:
Avoid fatty food, and anything that is too sweet or salty. These tend to dehydrate you.
8. Be colourful:
Lots of fruit and veg! Get those nutrients and vitamins in. Make your plate as colourful as you can.
9. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate:
Milk or water is the best for re-hydration.
10. Keep a food journal:
I’ve personally found that keeping a journal of what I’ve had for suhoor and iftaar and how challenging the fast was for me has really helped. That way I can identify what foods work for me.
InshaaAllah these tips have been a timely reminder for you all. I hope you can put them into practice and have a productive Ramadan. Ameen.