'Fasting is the first principle of medicine; fast and see the strength of the spirit reveal itself' - Rumi
Ramadan is the time to fill our days with good deeds and the nights with spiritually uplifting prayer. However, all the fasting and lack of sleep can take a toll on our bodies, if we lack the necessary nutrients and hydration to carry us through the days and nights.
Our energy levels are determined by what we eat because our body converts fats, proteins, and carbohydrates into daily energy. Therefore, if your diet is less than ideal, it could be a cause of our fasting fatigue. By taking the right steps, we can ensure that Ramadan will uplift us not only spiritually, but physically as well!
1. EATING A DIVERSE NUTRIENT DENSE DIET (+ EATING ENOUGH OF IT!)
Eating whole, nutrient-rich foods is one of the best ways we know to optimise our health and reduce fatigue. We need to consume as many nutrients as possible for our bodies! Our meals should be wholesome and replenishing. In addition, when we are not eating enough, our metabolism slows down in order to conserve energy, potentially causing fatigue!
We must incorporate a diverse diet from all the major food groups into our suhoor and iftar meals.
The major food groups are:
Eggs, meat, chicken, fish, greek yogurt, lentils, beans, quinoa, nuts, and seeds
2. Complex carbohydrates
Whole wheat flours, whole wheat bread, oats, brown rice, bulgur wheat, freekeh, sweet potatoes, carrots, beets, pumpkin and squash, green leafy vegetables, onions, tomatoes, peppers, dates, berries, apples, plums, pears, and bananas.
3. Healthy Fats
Nuts, seeds, olives, avocado, coconut oil, olive oil, greek yogurt, grass-fed butter, fatty cold-water fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines.
2. HYDRATION (NOT JUST WATER!)
Yes, water is the best way to hydrate our bodies, but it's not the only way – especially with the long hours of fasting, we need all the help we can get! Here are a few tips to increase your hydration:
Creating fruit and herb-infused water such as lemon, cucumber, mint or berries in water is a refreshing way to hydrate as well as replenish essential vitamins and minerals in the body.
Fruits and vegetables can also be an excellent source of hydration. The most hydrating foods are as such; watermelon, lettuce, cucumber, courgette, celery, tomato, melon, and coconut water.
Broth-based soups are also ideal for iftar especially when made with bone broth. Bone broth is abundant in minerals, enhances immunity, and helps heal the gut and reduce intestinal inflammation.
Smoothies are also an excellent source of hydration. Start with a base such as milk, yogurt, or coconut water. Add in fruit, vegetables, seeds, or grains. Depending on what’s added, smoothies can provide hydration, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and even protein, making them a fast and easy way to fuel you through the long fast.
3. AVOID REFINED SIMPLE CARBOHYDRATES (THIS INCLUDES SUGAR!)
A diet filled with refined simple carbohydrates such as white pasta, white bread, sugary desserts, and sweetened fizzy drinks and fruit juices, can all contribute to fatigue.
Refined simple carbohydrates can cause a rapid spike in blood sugar levels, which leads to a surge of insulin to move sugar out of the blood and into the cells, followed by a drop in blood sugar levels – all of which can leave you feeling tired and fatigued!
Limit refined simple carbohydrates and focus on whole grain fibrous carbohydrates such as oats, sweet potatoes, quinoa, brown, red and wild rice, bulgur wheat, freekeh, whole barley, rye and spelt.
When you do eat carbohydrates, combine them with protein and healthy fats to slow absorption and stabilise your blood sugar.
4. DO NOT MISS SUHOOR
Having suhoor might not seem like enough to be able to get you through the day, but Allah puts immense blessings in the food you eat at Suhoor. Eating Suhoor is a kick-start to your day and helps your body stabilise your blood-sugar levels because meals are being distributed instead of eating one meal at iftar. Therefore, Suhoor is a meal you should never miss!
A balanced suhoor is composed of complex carbs such as whole-grain bread or oats instead of white refined bread and contains a good source of protein such as eggs or nut butter. This combination ensures a stable level of glucose in your blood that will sustain you until iftar.
Eat a wide variety of colourful vegetables, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats and good quality protein. These are nutrient-dense foods which tend to be more satiating (makes us feel fuller), have more fibre and water. Try to minimise your intake of sugar and other sweeteners, industrial seed oils, and processed and refined food and snacks.
Ramadan is a powerful month-long reset button for self-renewal and self-discovery. This is the month of change and now is the perfect time to start adapting to new healthy habits. As believers, we need healthy bodies and minds in order to worship Allah in the correct way. To maintain a sound mind, a pure heart, and a healthy body, special attention must be paid to health. Everything we do in life should be in moderation and within a balanced approach to achieve real wholeness.