Avoid crash diets and follow doctor's orders during Ramadan fast, experts say

Muslims told of the need to care for their health during holy month

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People fasting during Ramadan are urged to avoid crash diets and to stay hydrated to maintain good health.

Experts spoke of the importance of eating nutritious foods to bolster the body's immune system and reduce vulnerability to infections, such as Covid-19.

Muslims abstain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset throughout the holy month as one of the five pillars of Islam.

Fiji Antony, chief dietician at NMC Speciality Hospital in Al Nahda, Dubai, said careful consideration should be given to how the fast is broken, particularly given the threat still posed by the pandemic.

She emphasised the need for people with conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and cardiac and kidney diseases to be mindful of their diet.

"Eating good healthy food makes sure our body’s defence system is set to fight against any disease," she said.

"Always eat a nutritionally balanced diet to boost your immunity.

"It’s a time where you can control your eating habits, schedule your routine and hydrate yourself as required.

"Those who are fasting are always advised to follow balanced, nutritious diets and not to follow any type of crash diets for weight reduction."

Tips for breaking fast sensibly

Dr Budoor Al Shehi , section head for chronic disease at Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre, recommends people enjoy a diet that includes all food groups.

“Try to include a variety of nutritious foods from all the food groups specified in your diet, such as a variety of fruits and vegetables to diversify the vitamin and mineral content and support the nutrient content of your meals,” she said.

Those suffering from chronic illnesses such as diabetes and high cholesterol can fast but have to be closely monitored by a physician and a dietician, she said.

The same advice applies to senior citizens with chronic conditions.

"My advice to senior members of the community would be to follow their treating physician’s recommendations regarding fasting and taking medications.

"Moreover, it is advisable to break their fast if they start displaying any symptoms or feel sick. In this case, they need to seek immediate medical attention and care,” she said.

Doctors’ advise people not to overindulge during iftar and suhoor.

“Try to eat fruit and vegetables during iftar or afterwards and ensure that you do not reduce the amount of nutrients you are taking in," Dr Al Shehi said.

"As our traditional foods are high in sugar and fats, we recommend keeping a balance between all food groups including protein (20 per cent to 30 per cent) and carbs (45 per cent to 50 per cent). Fats should constitute no more than 35 per cent of your meal and should be consumed from healthy sources such as avocados, nuts, and olive oil.

“It is common for people to consume an increased amount of sweets and sugars during Ramadan. People with chronic diseases, especially diabetic patients should monitor their blood sugar regularly especially after heavy meals and in case they develop any hyperglycaemic symptoms.”

“On the other hand, hypoglycaemic symptoms should be monitored and breaking the fast immediately is a must if patients develop symptoms such as dizziness. In addition, drinking enough water, non-sweetened drinks and hydrating fruits such as watermelon and vegetables such as tomato and cucumber, are advisable. Try to avoid caffeinated drinks. Plenty of water between iftar and suhoor is recommended to keep your body hydrated.“

Include fruits and vegetables in iftar

Breaking one's fast after more than 10 hours of no food and water should be a gradual process.

“The traditional and healthy way to break one’s fast is to eat three dates and drink one or two cups of water. Your iftar meal should include plenty of fruits and vegetables in addition to the right choice of protein, such as skinless chicken, lean meat, or fish. Avoid foods high in fat, or that are processed or high in sugar. Incorporating whole grains will give your body the energy to sustain itself and remain active for the rest of the day. Try to eat slowly and avoid overeating,” she said.

“To keep your body healthy during Ramadan, a balance between diet and a moderate level of physical activity is recommended. In addition, it is important to adhere to your physician’s advice on adjusting or modifying your medication during the holy month. We also recommend that you try to keep yourself active – Ramadan is a chance for many people to lose weight and control their blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels. It is the month that helps people learn discipline and self-control.

Updated: April 08, 2022, 12:00 AM