Ramadan is a Holy Month for Muslims all around the world, during which time strict fasting is observed in daylight hours, from dusk till dawn, sunrise to sunset.
I personally have a very fond memories of it as a child. My grandmother was a devoted Muslim and Ramadan used to be my favourite time of the year because, as I did not know in-depth the true meaning of it until I was older, I enjoyed the custom of bearing gifts for children, usually in money and new clothes. House would have been cleaned from top to bottom prior the start of Ramadan, with crispy, brand new or freshly washed and ironed bed linen, even carpet rugs would have been washed in the garden, if season allowed it, and there was this excitement and anticipation in the air. When it was time in the evening to break the fast, food was so plentiful and colourful. Some of my favourite dishes were almost exclusively cooked during Ramadan, like my favourite dish with okra – “bamija”. I guess, I have always been a bit of a foodie.
I would go to the top of the building where my grandmother used to live and wait for all the mosques to switch on the lights, marking the start of Iftar, break of a daily fast. I would rush down to report to everyone, whilst my grandmother is waiting for me with a glass of water with lemon in her hand, ready to break the fast, calm and content with herself, with a prayer on her lips before they touch the glass. Her apartment would be full with all my aunties, uncles & cousins, together with my parents, all ready to feast together, although not everyone fasted. It was a truly happy time I recall with the whole family together. Even more special now as majority has passed and I am blessed with only fond memories of my sweet and loving childhood.
The meaning of Ramadan?
Now, as an adult, I understand more about Ramadan and I came to appreciate its meaning.
While fasting is a very big part of this Holy Month and abstaining from food, drink and other physical needs during the daylight hours, the purpose of Ramadan is, I would say, more of a spiritual nature – to help men and women get rid of the habits they accumulated during the year, to teach discipline, self-sacrifice and self-control; it is a month of self-reflection, reformation and being closer to the Creator. You can almost call it as an MOT test and, when the test is over, we should be at a higher standard than when we started; it offers an opportunity to count our blessings, change ourselves for better, clean up our lives, our thoughts and our feelings. Our eyes must restrain themselves from looking at what is not whole and pure and what is unlawful; our tongue from arguments and gossip, hands from everything that does not belong to us, ears from listening words that are not pure & kind, feet from going to dirty & unpure places… Isn’t this how life should be lived, in general?
It truly is a time for devotion, generosity, charity, forgiveness. On a physical level, it is an opportunity to cleanse the bodies and, by experiencing thirst and hunger – to also sympathize with those in the world who have little to eat every day. Lessons we learn should stay with us for the rest of the year and this is an opportunity to start some healthy habits and stop some bad ones.
Healthy Eating and Hydration during Ramadan
Fasting during Ramadan, if done correctly, can be very good for our health. It is well-known that body starts breaking muscle when starved, so it is very important to eat right during this month. Food consumed during the pre-dawn and dusk meals may lead to some unwanted weight gain, but, if approached with discipline, it can be an opportunity to lose weight (or rather, body fat) and become healthier. No need to break the discipline at the end of the day.
It is very important not to break fast with a feast as that may cause weight gain. Break it slowly with some water first and a couple of dates, as an example. If eating right during Ramadan, body can also get rid of many toxins too, which is also very good for the body as it will appear more alert.
Good hydration between the fasts plays a huge part to help the detox process. You, can, however, become very dehydrated if you do not drink enough water before the fast. Hydration can be slightly more difficult if weather is hot. Islam does not require anyone to harm themselves during Ramadan, so, if you produce little or no urine, feel disoriented, confused or faint, you must stop fasting and you can compensate it by fasting at a later date.
Caffeine drinks such as tea, coffee and fizzy drinks should be avoided as caffeine is a diuretic and stimulates faster water loss through urination. Green tea is a great alternative as well as other herbal teas. Peppermint tea in particular is great for digestion.
I have created a plan for my mother who now finds it much easier and has more energy during the daylight than what she used to. She was 75 years old this February. This plan involves using some nutritional supplementation, which have proven to be a tremendous help and I touch on it in the next paragraph. The plan guides her in what & when to eat, drink and supplement. It helps her fulfill her fasting commitments a lot easier, as it is not easy at all. This year in particular, fasting period during the day is as long as 16 hours.
As far as regular food is concerned, Ramadan is no different from our normal diet. It is about making sure that we have a balanced intake of food from all major food groups, adequate amount of water, fibre, protein and nutrients. Refined carbohydrates and fatty foods should be avoided during Ramadan too.
Using Herbalife Nutrition during Ramadan
Herbalife Fasting Meal Plan includes nutritional products that can help tremendously to replenish lost nutrients during the day, to sustain healthy metabolism, increase absorption of nutrients, control hunger during the day & overeating when fast is broken, cut down unnecessary fat intake and ensure adequate protein intake to maintain muscle mass during Ramadan. This plan has been helping my mother and many like her have a lot more manageable fast. It has also helped her lose weight during Ramadan whilst preserving her lean muscle, which I monitor regularly during the month. There are the range of products that can help fill the gaps and, if this is of an interest to you, do get in touch.
Our Formula 1 Nutritional Healthy Meal is a great way to break the fast and to consume just before starting the fast. It is easily digestible meal to break the fast with and to replenish body with all the essential nutrients including vitamins, minerals, fibre, plant protein and it is a perfect meal to consume before starting a fast to ensure longer and sustained energy levels.
Our personalised plan can also help maximise hydration, may help avoid constipation developing as both hydration & fibre intake is personalised, although change in diet can be an unavoidable cause for changes in our digestion. Our plan may also prevent development of a heartburn by eliminating main culprits who cause it such as deep-fried foods, high-sugar and high-fat foods and rich, special dishes that are traditionally used to celebrate the fast.
My mother, like many muslims around the world, has been using Herbalife Nutrition for well over a decade for general health, as her ideal breakfast as well as major support during this Holy Month. Her favourite products are our Formula 1 Nutritional Healthy Meal and Thermojetics Herbal Beverage – fat burning, antioxidant rich green tea beverage that helps with hydration.
Who should take special care during Ramadan
UK NHS website provides some great information on who should and who should not be fasting during Ramadan. Whilst Islamic Law says that sick people should not fast and those that need to take tablets during the day should not fast either, people who take injections, patches, eardrops and eyedrops can indeed fast as those are not considered to be foods or drinks. Anyone with diabetes or high blood pressure should check with their doctor.
While breastfeeding women should not be fasting, pregnant are allowed, although it is not medically recommended, so it will depend whether woman feels strong and healthy enough to do it. It is also not advisable for children under the age of seven or eight. I have personally tried as a child and remember my first ever encounter with headaches, so I stopped. It is usually recommended for children once they reach puberty and fasting before this age will depend on the attitude of the parent and child’s general well-being, perhaps only advisable for a few hours in a day. What is more important is to teach them the meaning of the Holy Month. I somehow wish I was taught more as a child.
Use Ramadan to Quit Smoking
Last, but not the least, if you are a smoker, Ramadan is a great month to add extra benefit to your health by quitting smoking. Using patches during Ramadan, getting a help from a support group such as NHS Smokefree Helpline and involving friends and family members is a great idea. But, most importantly, one needs to be ready for it as many smokers claim that it is harder not to smoke during the day than not to eat. If you are ready, than this could be a great opportunity.
I have enjoyed writing this as it has brought so many happy memories of the month of Ramadan. If you are not a Muslim, I hope it gave you a useful insight into this very special month. Please feel free to reach out if you wish, have any questions or even need help with making this Ramadan more nutritious. Until then…
Wishing you and your family the blessings of Ramadan.