Diabetes

Updated 18 May 2018

How to manage your diabetes during Ramadan

During the holy month of Ramadan Muslims around the world embark on a 30-day fast, abstaining from food and drink from dusk till dawn.

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There's a lot of controversy about whether diabetics should fast during the month of Ramadan. This is because they're required to eat before sunrise and then only again after sunset. 

It is recommended that those diabetics who are able to fast carefully reassess their meal plans in order to control their blood sugar levels throughout the day. 

Fried samosas or chilli bites with a warm bowl of soup can be tempting, but if you're a diabetic you have to be more mindful of what you consume.

When preparing suhur (pre-sunrise breakfast) and iftar (post-sunset supper) meals, choose options that are nutritionally beneficial to your health but also tasty enough for your family to enjoy. 

Apply these tips to help manage your blood sugar levels:

Suhur

  • Stay away from leftovers.
  • Always opt for high-fibre foods, dairy and protein to sustain you throughout the day.

Iftar

  • Break your fast with 2–3 dates or a bowl of yoghurt before enjoying your main meal.
  • Try to reduce your savoury intake to one serving per evening.

Hydration

  • Incorporate 4–8 glasses of water every morning and evening. 
  • Replace all soft drinks with the diet version.
  • Avoid or limit fruit juices that may cause a spike in blood sugar levels.

Main meal

  • Start with a bowl of soup; it's packed with nutrients that will prevent you from overeating.
  • Choose whole-grain fibre carbohydrates, like brown rice, quinoa or barley, over refined carbohydrates.
  • Select one starch, e.g. whole-wheat roti, fried roti or rice.
  • Limit steak, beef or mince to once or twice a week.
  • Avoid all fatty and processed foods, such as sausages and hot chips.
  • Increase your omega-3 rich foods, such as fresh fish like hake, pilchards or sardines.
  • Include fresh vegetables and legumes at least once or twice per week. The smartest way to include beans into your diet is to add them to your soups.
  • Swap your full-cream dairy products for low-fat options.
  • Replace all your saturated fats, such as butter, ghee and coconut oil, with olive or canola oil.

Sweet treats

  • Enjoy some masala tea with a digestive biscuit (no more than two) on the side.
  • Or have some fresh fruit salad.

Attempting to consume enough food during suhur and iftar can contribute to steady blood sugar levels. 

"Overindulging after sunset or before sunrise can be a problem because overeating can cause a massive spike in blood sugar," says Dr Heidi van Deventer Health24's resident CyberDoc. 

This article has been reviewed by Nutritional Solutions, Registered Dietiitians.Health24 does not endorse diabetics fasting during Ramadan or for any other reason without the approval of an appropriately qualified medical professional.

Image credit: iStock

 

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Diabetes expert

Dr. May currently works as a fulltime endocrinologist and has been in private practice since 2004. He has a variety of interests, predominantly obesity and diabetes, but also sees patients with osteoporosis, thyroid disorders, men's health disorders, pituitary and adrenal disorders, polycystic ovaries, and disorders of growth. He is a leading member of several obesity and diabetes societies and runs a trial centre for new drugs.

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