Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Well, Ramadan is fast approaching upon us again and in the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims would practice fasting (self-discipline from water, food, sexual pleasures from fajar to dusk). Fasting is the deliberate and controlled abstinence from food for a certain period. It is not starving, not even in a medical or natural sense.

In fact, people do not realize that the chief obstacle to fasting lies in overcoming cultural, social and psychological fears of going without food. Fasting is the most effective method of purifying the blood, organs, and all bodily tissues and helps to ward off premature degenerations of the body. Laboratory tests conducted on rats showed that fasting helped extend their average life span by up to 50 per cent. During the month long fast of Ramadan, the metabolic rate of a fasting person slows down and other regulatory mechanisms gradually starts functioning again.

A diet that has less than normal intake of food, but is nutrient-balanced is still sufficient to keep a person healthy and active during Ramadan. Health problems can emerge because of excess food intake, foods that make the diet unbalanced and insufficient sleep. Ultimately also, such a lifestyle contradicts the essential requirements and spirit of Ramadan. Fasting in general has been used in medicine for medical reasons including weight management, for resting the digestive tract and lowering lipids. Psychological effects of fasting:
· lowering the blood sugar
· lowering of cholesterol
· lowering of the systolic blood pressure, and
· utilization of body and dietary fat.

In fact, Ramadan fasting would be ideal recommendation for treatment of mild to moderate, stable, non-insulin dependent diabetes, obesity, and essential hypertension. On the other hand, patients who are suffering from severe diseases, like diabetes, coronary artery disease and kidney stones are exempted from fasting and should seek medical advice if they wish to fast.

Ramadan Fasting vs. Crash Diet
There are many adverse effects of total fasting as well as so-called crash diet. Ramadan fasting is different from crash diets, because there is no malnutrition or inadequate calorie intake during the fasting. Ramadan is fasting is differs with total fasting as re-feeding is essential twice in 24 hours and no restricted exists on the nature of food to be consumed during the re-feeding. The prescribed fast of Muslims has unique medical benefits due to the following factors:

- The type of food taken during Ramadan does not have any selective criteria of crash diet such as protein only or fruits only. Everything that is permissible is taken in moderation.

- Ramadan is a month of self-regulation and self-training in terms of food intake, thereby causing hopefully, a permanent change in eating patterns and resultant weight loss for those who need to lose weight

- Additional prayers are prescribed after dinner, which helps metabolize the food. A study has indicated that about 200 calories are burnt during tarawih, the special night prayer of Ramadan. This form of prayer, as well as the five daily prescribed prayers use all the muscles and joints and can be considered a mild form of exercise in terms of calorie output.

-Ramadan fasting is actually an exercise in self-discipline and can become habit-breaking fot those who are chain smokers or who nibble food constantly, or drink coffee every hour.

What To Eat During Ramadan

The diet should not differ very much from our normal diets and should be as simple as possible. Eating a variety of food using the principles of moderation and balance, is the foremost part of dietary guidelines that is internationally recognized. To be healthy, one must consume foods from the major food groups such as bread and cereal, milk and diary products, meat and beans, vegetables and fruits. A balanced diet improves the blood cholesterol profile, reduces gastric acidity, prevents constipation and other digestive problems and contributes to an active and healthy lifestyle.

In view of long hours of fasting, we should consume slow digesting foods including fiber containing foods rather than fast-digesting food. Slow-digesting foods last up to eight hours, while fast-digesting foods last between three and four hours. Slow-digesting foods are complex carbohydrates such as grains and seeds like barley, wheat, oats, millet, semolina, beans, lentils, whole meal flour, unpolished (brown) rice and such. A form of "time-released" food intake would greatly assist us in going through the day ahead.

Fiber-containing foods are wholegrain cereals, bran-containing foods, whole wheat and whole wheat flour, oats, brown rice, nasi ulam; vegetables like green beans, peas, spinach, pucuk ubi, ulam, kangkung; all fruits and dried fruits, especially dried apricots, figs, dates, raisin and prunes; nuts such as almond, walnuts; seed such as pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds. Eating oat meals is not a bad idea.

Fast-burning foods are refined carbohydrates and highly processed foods. These include foods that contain sugar, sweet kuih, cordials and soft drinks. Grains that are stripped of their fiber such as white flour, polished white rice and pulut (glutinous rice) are also classified as refined carbohydrates. Excessive intake of these results in a burn-out ot tired feeling a short while after consumption. It’s best to avoid fried and fatty foods as these cause indigestion, heartburn and weight problems. Avoid also foods containing too much sugar and foods that are very spicy.

When breaking fast, a normal diet should be resumed gradually, beginning with light, easily digested foods such as fruits or fruits juices followed by modest meal and thereafter a snack, at spaced intervals. At sahur (the last meal before sunrise), complex carbohydrates should be consumed to reduce hunger pangs throughout the day. Dates are excellent source of sugar, carbohydrate, fiber, potassium and magnesium. Almonds are rich in protein and fiber with less saturated fat. Bananas are a good source of potassium, magnesium and carbohydrates. Drink as much water or fruit juices as possible between the night meal and bedtime so that your body may adjust the fluid levels in time.

This can be caused by too much refined foods, too little water and not enough fiber in the diet. This can be overcome by avoiding excessive refined foods, increase in water intake and by eating enough fruits and vegetables.

Caffeine and tobacco withdrawal, lack of sleep and hunger could all contribute to headaches that worsen at the end of the day. To overcome headaches, try cutting down gradually on caffeine and tobacco (quitting tobacco altogether may not be such a bad idea really), starting a week or two before Ramadhan do get enough sleep above 7 hours per night. If you lose some hours at night, you may make up during the day.

Increased Gastric Acidity
If you have a burning feeling or heaviness in the stomach and a sour mouth (pahit mulut) then you do have a mild case of increased gastric acidity. Natural or supplementary dietary fiber may help to reduce gastric acidity and access bile acids. Whole-wheat bread, vegetables, legumes, beans, and fruits such as banana are excellent source of natural dietary fiber. They would help to trigger the delayed muscle actions that are much needed to digest the food in the stomach (small intestine). Those with peptic ulcer should avoid eating spicy food and acar (my favorite).

Muscle Cramps
This is caused by inadequate intake of calcium, magnesium and potassium. Eat foods rich in these minerals – vegetables, fruits especially bananas and dates, diary product and meats. But if you have allergy to dairy products you may substitute with Soya produce. Subsequently you may also acquire these essentials through the intakes of supplementary vitamins at the recommendation of your doctor. Please consult your doctor for advice before taking any sorts of vitamin supplements.

Low Blood Sugar
Some who fast and are not diabetic also experience weakness, dizziness, tiredness, poor concentration, have tremors (ninda saya kata kelam biji mata :), are unable to perform physical activities, have headache or minor to severe palpitations. These may be symptom of low blood sugar. Having just a little too much of refined carbohydrates at sahur (supper) could result in an insulin rush, causing the blood glucose to drop rapidly. Limiting the intake of rich sugar containing food during breaking of fast and sahur would go a long way in preventing a rapid drop in sugar level later on in the day. With these kinds of foods you must remember that they are rich in sugar, they pack in the sugar fast and they would just as well deplete just as fast. What you would want is some form of “timed release” control of sugar in the body.

When breaking fast, consume a lot of fresh fruits and non sugary fruit juice which are good source of sustainable energy.

People with diabetic type 1 or type 2 and other illnesses must consult their doctor before fasting. Adjustment in medication intake/routine, special diet and activity level may be needed. Please consult your doctor for advice. Please-please do so.

Generally, diabetic mellitus type 2 is manageable through proper diet and restricted activities during Ramadan fasting. This also goes for insulin dependant type 1. Having diabetic simply means that you must practice a detailed and tip top healthy life style. And seriously, don’t we all should be doing this too now? Please do consult your doctor for advice. All in all, please do eat moderately and practice a balanced and healthy life style always.

I sum up this writing with a quote from Dr. Otto Buschinger a senior general medical practitioner in Germany. “Fasting is without any doubt the most the most effective biological method of treatment. It is the operation without surgery. It is a cure involving exudation, it is re-attunement, re-direction, loosening up and purified relaxation. While fasting the person would improve his or her physical health and gains much. But he or she will have neglected the most important thing if the hunger or spiritual nourishment that manifests itself during fasting is not satisfied.”

Lastly, drink plenty of good clean plain water. The prophet Muhamad (peace be upon him) have described that drinking water is both good for this world and in the hereafter too. His personal favorite would be barley juice in its most natural form and taste. Salam Ramadan al Mubarak to all.

Best to consult your doctor before beginning
the fasting routine.



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Interesting. I learned a lot about iftar. I knew about the traditional date, but didn't know about the juice and broth.

Jackie at PhamFatale.com

Deliah's Deli said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply]Best Blogger Templates

Dear Jackie. Juice and hot broth and bits of pasta is always a meal for the heart any time :) Bright blessings to you and I would surely be checking out that site you've mentioned. Thanks for dropping by :)