Healthy Eating in Ramadan

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British Heart Foundation

The underlying message behind Ramadan is self-discipline and self-control and this shouldn’t be forgotten at the end of the day. The best way to approach your diet during fasting is similar to the way you should be eating outside Ramadan – keeping to a healthy diet and to eat in moderation.

    We know that that if you’re South Asian you’re more likely to have diabetesputting you at greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD).You may also be at increased risk of diabetes and CVD at a lower body mass index than the rest of the UK population. South Asians living in the UK eat more than the recommended daily intake of saturated fat. Consuming too much saturated fat could increase level of cholesterol which is a risk factor for coronary heart disease. So Ramadan is the perfect time to reflect on your eating and lifestyle habits. Make a change this Ramadan and protect yourself from CVD.

1.     Spread your meals out

Feasting during the non-fasting hours can be unhealthy. To prevent overeating – especially at suhoor – try and divide your eating into three meals. Have a morning meal before your fast starts; a lighter evening meal when the fast is broken, and then dinner.

2.     Choose filling carbohydrate foods

Particularly during Suhoor, base your meal on filling, slowly digested carbohydrate foods that will provide you with enough energy during the fast. These include foods such as barley, wheat, oats, millet, semolina, beans, lentils, wholemeal flour and basmati rice.

3.     Get your 5 a day

Fruit and vegetables are good sources of vitamins and minerals, are relatively low in calories and also contribute to your fibre and fluid intake. Dates and juices that are traditionally eaten during iftar can account towards 2 of your fruit portions, but watch portions sizes. 

4.     Avoid fatty temptation

When you’re fasting it’s tempting to get your calories quickly with fried snacks and sweets. Try baked samosas, chapattis made without ghee or oil, milk puddings made with semi skimmed milk and fruit instead of high-sugar and high-fat foods such as gulab jamun, rasgulla, Kheer, Halwa and balushahi.   

5.     Eat enough fibre

Not enough fibre and too little fluid can be a cause of constipation, a common complaint when fasting. Choose high fibre foods where possible – plenty of fruit and vegetables, whole wheat roti, brown rice, daal, beans and nuts. These foods also keep you feeling fuller for longer.

6.     Have plenty of fluid

Ensure you are drinking enough fluid, particularly as the fast will be long during the long summer hours. Aim for at least 8 cups of fluid. The best choice is water, but sugar free and decaffeinated drinks and low fat milk all count. Too much caffeine can stimulate faster water loss through urination. Keep to one glass of fruit juice a day and limit your intake of sugary drinks like fizzy drinks, squashes and sharbat.

7.     Leave out the salt

Excess salt can affect your blood pressure and make you feel thirsty. Choose less salty food. Try using, pepper, lemon, herbs and spices to flavour food rather than added salt.

8.     Use healthier cooking methods

Bake or grill foods instead of frying them. If frying, try measuring the oil in spoonfuls instead of just pouring it from the bottle. A tablespoon of oil should be enough for 4 people. Choose unsaturated fats such as rapeseed, sunflower, olive oil and spreads instead of butter or ghee. And try substituting low fat milk for whole milk and low fat crème fresh or natural yogurt for cream.

    In 2014, Ramadan in the UK is in the summer months and the length of fasts is very long. If you have any health conditions, such as such as diabetes and heart disease, then you should consult your GP before Ramadan to make sure that you are able to look after yourself properly.

Have a very happy and healthy Ramadan.

For delicious and healthy recipes please order a copy of ‘Taste of South Asia’ (G606) by calling the BHF orderline on 0870 600 6566 or emailing orderline@bhf.org.uk

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