During the month of Ramadan the daily fast means no food or drink is consumed from the time the sun rises to when it sets again in the evening.
Ramadan is not a time to be dieting, but it’s equally important that people eat healthily when they do break the fast in the evening, or prepare their breakfast (suhoor) ahead of the day.
Interestingly, the most commonly consumed foods by Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) were full-fat milk, dates, lamb/mutton and oats. Healthy foods mentioned in the Holy Qur’an are vegetables such as olives, onions, cucumber, fibre-rich fruits such as figs and dates as well as pulses such as lentils.
In fact, if you stick to healthy Middle Eastern foods such as olive, hummus, full fat cheeses or yoghurt, a salad of cucumbers, tomatoes and onions and eggs (which can be boiled, fried or served as menemen - a Turkish tomato, onion, spice and egg dish served with spicy sausage called sucuk), you'll do much better throughout the day than when you go for a typical Western breakfast of instant cereal with low-fat milk or toast with jam.
Health24 spoke to experts to find out what types of healthy breakfast food combinations will keep Muslims sustained for as long as possible; keeping their energy levels on an even keel with as little disruption to the body and mind as possible.
Read: Turks consider appetite-suppressing patches during Ramadan.
Healthy eating during Ramadan
Health24’s DietDoc says the breakfast needs to keep blood sugar and insulin levels steady for as long as possible, so ideally all the foods, especially carbohydrates, would be low-GI and eaten along with Halaal proteins.
Tip: Use the GI-value tool to calculate the glycaemic index of your favourite foods.
The breakfast should also be hydrating because beverages, including water, are not allowed during the fasting hours.
That means around 2 cups of water, rooibos tea or diluted fruit juice with breakfast, and avoid coffee and caffeinated tees as their high caffeine content can cause dehydration by increasing urine output.
DietDoc advises that anyone with a medical condition which affects blood sugar levels - such as hypoglycaemia, type 1 and type 2 diabetes - or who requires regular meals for conditions such as ulcers, pregnancy, lactation or for taking medications, must discuss this problem with their doctors as well as religious leaders and receive dispensations to eat and drink during the day.
Must read: Health24 Diabetes expert Dr Wayne May explains the important points about fasting as a diabetic during Ramadan.
Healthy suhoor ideas
Alex Royal of Alex Royal Dietetics says if you fast you should focus on lean protein and healthy fats, which reduce the glycaemic index of meals. This means that glucose moves more slowly from the stomach into the bloodstream, thereby ensuring the body is fuelled slowly.
Lean proteins include foods such as eggs, smoked salmon, cottage cheese and whey powders.
Healthy fats are found in avocado, peanut butter, nuts and seeds. She advises that you avoid refined starches (white bread, pasta, pastries, biscuits) or sugars as these will increase blood glucose and insulin and then cause a sugar low, which may lead to hunger cravings.
What to eat and why:
2 eggs on grilled giant mushroom topped with feta: eggs are a great source of iron and vitamins and high in protein to keep you sustained for the day.
Avo and smoked salmon on rye: Avo and salmon are great to keep you sustained. Salmon is high in omega 3 and rye is high in fibre and low in wheat, also keeping you sustained.
Oats with cinnamon and walnuts: Oats are high in soluble fibre which will keep you sustained for longer. Walnuts are high in the derivative of omega 3 while cinnamon has been linked to good blood glucose control in some studies.
Those on the Banting diet might be on to something when it comes to controlling hunger pangs.
Cape Town Nutritionist Nicole Stillwell devised some healthy and balanced breakfast options for people who are Banting, and those who are not.
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