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Fasting with less hunger, fatigue and thirst

Consuming the right foods in the right quantity is key to a healthy Ramadan. (Thinkstock photo)Consuming the right foods in the right quantity is key to a healthy Ramadan. (Thinkstock photo)

Ramadan, a holy month for all Muslims, falls on the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. It is a time when Muslims are encouraged to practice self-restraint. This includes fasting or refraining from eating and drinking from dawn to dusk.

Make it a healthy Ramadan

Fasting during Ramadan carries a high risk of dehydration as food and drink are limited to before sunrise and after sunset. Furthermore, as fasting individuals are encouraged to wake up very early to have their Suhoor (or pre-dawn meal), sleep deprivation and dehydration can lead to headaches.

Barring this, “Healthy fasting is possible if you consume the right foods and in the right quantity,” says Ms Tan Sheau Kang, Dietitian, Department of Dietetics, Singapore General Hospital (SGH).

Here are some tips on healthy fasting:

Don’t skip Suhoor (pre-dawn meal)

    As the saying goes, ‘breakfast is the most important meal of the day’. And during Ramadan, it becomes even more important!

    Although skipping Suhoor to have uninterrupted sleep may sound appealing, you shouldn’t.

    Ms Tan explains, “Skipping Suhoor prolongs the fasting period as your body will need to rely on the previous meal to provide you with all the nutrients and energy until Iftar (dinner). Due to the longer hours of fasting, you are more likely to feel dehydrated and tired during the day. Furthermore, skipping Suhoor also encourages overeating during Iftar, which can cause unhealthy weight gain.”

    Related video: Diabetic and fasting? Learn how to do it safely

    Don’t overeat during Iftar (dinner)

      Just as it is not advisable to skip Suhoor, overeating when it is time to break the fast can harm your body.

      Iftar should be a well-balanced, nutritious meal and not a feast. Overeating and excessive consumption of high-fat foods in particular may result in indigestion and weight gain. “Slow down and enjoy each mouthful of your food,” recommends Ms Tan.

      Avoid eating fried foods, salty foods and high-sugar foods

        It is not uncommon for fasting individuals to reward themselves with rich, greasy, fried and sugary dishes come meal time. While these foods make you feel good in the short run, they can make fasting the next day more difficult.

        “Aside from the unhealthy weight gain, consuming fatty and sugary foods also cause sluggishness and fatigue. In addition, you should limit your intake of salt, especially during Suhoor (pre-dawn meal), as this increases thirst,” advises Ms Tan.

        Related article: Got a sweet tooth? Find out why sugary foods are so irresistible

        Instead, try incorporating foods from all the major food groups including fruit and vegetables, rice and alternatives, as well meat and alternatives. Consuming fibre-rich foods during Ramadan is also ideal as they are digested slower than processed foods so you feel full longer.

        Drink as much water as possible

          Drinking as much water as possible between Iftar (dinner) and Suhoor (pre-dawn meal) reduces your risk of dehydration during fasting.

          “Make every effort to drink at least 8 glasses of fluids daily before dawn and after sundown. Fluids include juices, milk, beverages and soups but water is the best choice,” says Ms Tan. Ideally, you should also cut down on caffeinated drinks like coffee, tea and colas as these have a diuretic effect and promotes fluid loss.

          A well-balanced diet is key to healthy fasting during Ramadan. Read on for our tips on what to eat during Iftar and Suhoor.

          Related article: Ideal foods to eat during the Ramadan fasting month

          This article was written by Alvin Chumari for Health Xchange, with expert input from the Department of Dietetics, Singapore General Hospital (SGH).

          Looking for doctor’s advice and health tips from the experts? Visit HealthXchange.com.sg, Singapore's trusted health and lifestyle portal.

          Health Xchange's articles are meant for informational purposes only and cannot replace professional surgical, medical or health advice, examination, diagnosis, or treatment.

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