During Ramadan you should aim to eat in a similar way to your normal everyday diet, unless that diet is full of junk food that is! Eat across all the food groups, particularly focusing on foods that will promote a slower rate of digestion which will help maintain energy levels during the fasting hours. This is particularly important for Suhoor. Many do well by eating smaller meals more regularly, during the non fasting hours.
Also it is important to eat slowly, it is very tempting to devour food after the long fasting hours but this will lead to overeating and problems with digestion. The first stage of digestion happens in the mouth, with chewing and enzymes in our saliva. Try putting your fork down in between mouthfuls, or engaging in conversation to prevent you from eating too quickly.
Be sure to boost dietary fibre during Ramadan. It is a type of complex carbohydrate and it is recommended that men and women consume 38g and 25g daily, respectively. The slower rate of digestion, when including dietary fibre, avoids spikes in blood sugar levels. Conversely, simple and refined carbohydrates such as sugar rich foods, sodas, sweets, white bread and instant white rice will digest at a faster rate, leading to energy slumps. Ways to increase fibre content in your Ramadan eating plan include keeping the skin on fruits and vegetables, such as eating your jacket potato with its skin on. You can also add beans or lentils to meals and a tablespoon or two of high fibre milled flaxseeds to yogurts/salads/soups.
The rate at which different carbohydrates raise blood sugar levels can be measured using the Glycemic Index (GI), with a lower GI indicating lower blood sugar levels and slower digestion. There are ways to lower the GI of a food, for example eating carbohydrates with a protein or a fat will slow the rate of digestion (brown rice and chicken or peanut butter on rye bread), preventing blood sugar spikes and energy slumps. Another way to slow digestion time is to opt for foods that are less cooked or processed, for example slightly undercooked pasta will have a lower GI. Adding a little lemon juice or vinegar will also help slow stomach emptying time, reducing the GI of carbs.
Make sure each meal has a good balance of vegetables (should fill half the plate), protein (around a quarter of the plate), low GI and wholegrain carbs (around a quarter of the plate) and a little healthy fat (avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, organic ghee, grass-fed butter, nuts and seeds).
Always start Iftar with rehydrating, drinking water and perhaps some coconut water or tea, with a piece of fruit, this will help to raise sugar levels gradually and all will help hydrate the body after the fast. Another great way to open the fast is by drinking a soup, perhaps a chilled version to both rehydrate and cool the body downor a traditional lentil based soup, the lentils are complex carbs that will act to raise blood sugar levels slowly. Consuming complex carbs (beans, lentils, brown rice, ), along with good sources of protein(chicken, lamb, fish, eggs) and good fats (avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oil) should form the basis of each meal.
Try really hard to eat slowly, chewing every bite very well as this will aid digestion and prevent overeating. Keep the meal simple and try not to differ too much from your normal everyday diet. Then leave a little time before having the more substantial meal to allow the stomach some time to start working effectively.
You want to consume at least 2 litres of water. It is a good idea to sip on water regularly during the non-fasting hours, to help you stay hydrated during the day. Refrain from activities that will cause dehydration during the day such as exercise or physical work, save it for after you have broken the fast.
We can also be hydrated from the foods we eat, for example certain vegetables like cucumbers, lettuce, celery, zucchini/courgettes and eggplant/aubergine are mostly water so they will rehydrate you. Fresh fruits are another great source of hydration with tomatoes, watermelon, grapefruit and apples being some of the best choices. The high water content of such fruit and veggies will also help us to feel fuller for longer, so we consume less calories overall. A super hydrating green smoothie can be made to pack a nutrient dense punch, adding some coconut water to the smoothie can add some well needed electrolytes, particularly if you are continuing to exercise in Ramadan.
For suhoor, it is very important to eat foods that have a slower rate of digestion, as this helps to keep energy levels elevated during the fasting hours. All carbohydrates are broken down into units of sugar but they do this at varying speeds. Choosing complex carbohydrates over simple carbohydrates will help maintain energy levels throughout the day. Simple carbohydrates consist of a chemical structure made up of no more than two units of sugar. Complex carbohydrates are larger in structure, consisting of at least three single units of sugar, which are usually linked together to form a chain. It is this complex structure that gives this group of foods a slower rate of digestion, making them an ideal choice for Ramadan.
When you eat complex carbohydrates they are broken down and digested slowly into units of glucose which is then either used for immediate energy or stored as glycogen in the muscles and liver; an energy reserve which is utilized during the fasting hours of Ramadan. This includes choosing wholegrains (millet, oats, brown rice, rye bread, whole grain pasta, and buckwheat) startchy vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes/pulses (peas, lentils, kidney beans, pinto beans etc).
Be sure to boost high fibre foods by keeping the skin on fruits and vegetables, such as eating your jacket potato with its skin on. You can also add beans or lentils to meals and a tablespoon or two of high fibre milled flaxseeds to yogurts/salads/soups.
Who shouldn’t fast?
There are some who shouldn’t fast including those who are sick or unwell, pregnant or breastfeeding mothers who feel fasting isn’t working for them and also those who are very young or old in age. People are always able to make up for time missed from fasting during Ramadan at a later point.