Ramadan is upon us once again, promising blessings for those who turn away from physical comfort and attempt to purify themselves and their lives. As we embrace the spiritual bounties of this holy month, certain practical considerations can help those who are fasting stay healthy.
First, maintaining a healthy lifestyle of proper diet, exercise and stress relief prepares you for a successful fast. Fasting, when done properly, is a natural way to detoxify the body, and can even minimize the effects of withdrawal for those who take the opportunity Ramadan offers to move away from addictions to smoking, caffeine, alcohol or drugs. Your health care provider may also have advice on supplements to take while fasting.
Healthy fasting basics:
- Drinking as much water as possible and eating fruits and vegetables between sunset and the pre-dawn meal help you stay hydrated.
- Including protein from meat, fish, legumes, dairy products or nuts in each meal helps keep your energy up.
- For Suhur, the early morning meal, eat complex carbohydrates from minimally-processed whole grains that will keep you feeling full longer and give sustained energy through the day.
- Break your fast each evening with a few dates and a glass of water to rehydrate, restore blood sugar levels and stimulate your digestion before eating a full meal.
Unfortunately not everyone can partake of the bounties of fasting. Travelers, those who are ill, women in their courses, pregnant, recovering from birth or breastfeeding, the elderly and those who do hard physical work are all exempt from fasting but may make up their missed fasting days at another time or pay fidya to feed the hungry. Those who are mentally incompetent are not required to fast or pay fidya, and children, while not required to fast, should learn to fast little by little before puberty so they will be able to fast once they reach maturity. Those who have questions about fasting should seek advice at their local mosque.