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Beware of Food during Festive Eating: Ramadan and Eid   

Ramadan fasting has spiritual, physical, psychological and social benefits. Scientific evidence overwhelmingly shows that fasting is beneficial to our health. During Ramadan, Muslims must abstain from eating and drinking from dawn until sunset. Fasting causes changes to the normal operation of our body; the metabolic rate of a fasting person slows down and other regulatory mechanisms start functioning. The individual’s unique burning capacity slows down as the body starts conserving calories; the urinary output slows down thus helping to conserve fluid; the blood glucose lowers as does the systolic blood pressure.

However, unnecessary problems may occur if fasting is not properly practiced. In particular, consuming excessive amounts of food during the pre-dawn sehri, or evening iftar meals is a dangerous practice. Instead, it is advisable to have a modest dinner around 1½ - 2 hours after iftar, but not later. Do not leave dinner until the very end of the night, as it is important to always finish eating at least 2 hours before sleeping.

Dietary changes during Ramadan:
A dangerous habit is the combining of the dinner and iftar into a massive meal, which the body struggles to digest. sehri is also meant to be eaten at pre-dawn times; the practice of eating sehri around midnight (or just before sleeping) is not advisable, neither is it wise to totally skip sehri. The traditional rich foods associated with Ramadan and with the religious festival Eid-ul-Fitr, which marks the end of fasting, may also carry the risks of overeating.

The contents of the meals should also be wisely selected. Many families consume enormous quantities of sugary fluids, such as carbonated drinks, fruit juices, canned juices and sherbets at iftar and sehri. This is in addition to the typical fare of fried foods and carbohydrate-rich meals taken during the non-fasting hours, and the special sweet foods especially prepared for Ramadan. These combinations are no doubt delicious, and eagerly awaited by the fasting believer who has sacrificed her normal meals, but they also happen to be deadly if consumed in large quantities. We should practice restraint and await the rewards at the appropriate time, rather than insisting on consuming them all in the non-fasting hours of Ramazan!

Hazards of large meals
Health problems can emerge as a result of excess food intake during Ramadan. A few selected effects of overeating based on scientific evidences are listed below; the complete list is alarming:

- Overeating may cause indigestion or abdominal distress.

- Overeating increases the burden on your tummy and may increase your risk of having a heart attack. After a meal your heart has to work faster and stronger to digest food, and the more you eat the harder it has to work!

- Overeating increases the risk of high blood pressure which can lead to a stroke.

- If you are prediabetic or diabetic, your blood sugar rises; this might put you into a coma.

- Overeating leads to gaining weight and obesity. Big meals means large amount of calories. When the meal is large, we grossly underestimate the number of calories it contains.

Eating small meals; and practicing portion control is the only way of preventing the hazards of a large meal. By all means, go ahead and indulge in the special Ramazan treats, after all this is part of the unique charm of this holy month, however, have only a small portion of some of the dishes. This way, you will enjoy your meal, and not put your life at risk in the process. At the least, small portion sizes will help you to prevent indigestion; at the most, it will save your health.

Portion control is simple. Keep your fish and chicken within 3 ounces, which is about the size of the palm of your hand, or a deck of cards. Limit your pasta and rice to one cup, or about the size of your fist. Avoid having a second helping, unless it is for fresh salads. 

Take note of your weight before Ramazan begins, and make sure it stays the same throughout this month. Examine your eating patterns, don’t take increasing weight lightly, as it could lead to cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes, and other associated comorbidities.

The meals should be balanced by containing all food groups in the right amount. Our sehri dietary pattern should resemble breakfast. And the iftars should be a light meal, followed by a modest dinner. Eat a healthy meal, one low in saturated fat and rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

Smart people who fast remember to:

-Limit the amount of sweet foods taken at iftar.

-Have majority of their meals from wholesome grains

-Include fruits, vegetable, pulses (dhal, lobia, choley) and yoghurt in meals at iftar and sehri

-Have sehri at the proper time that is just before sunrise, not at midnight.

-Limit fried foods such as paratha, puri, samosas, pakoras, and fried kababs. Measure the amount of oil used in cooking (use 2-3 tablespoons for a six-person dish)

- Drink lots of water during sehri as your body needs it throughout the day.

For 2007, Ramadan is expected to commence on 11/12th of October and continue until 10 November. Please do remember that this is the holy month of fasting, and not a feasting time. Think of other people who do not have access to or cannot get food easily. We should be careful not to eat other people’s share, especially in this month.


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