The Holy month of Ramadan has begun and Muslims all over the world are fasting from dawn to dusk. Ramadan is done for the purpose of spiritual growth, being one of the five pillars of Islam. And it comes with an array of health benefits too. Quite a number of research papers have been published regarding the benefits of fasting which could positively influence our overall health. Significant among them includes weight loss, reduced levels of bad cholesterol, increased levels of good cholesterol, and reduction in blood pressure. Fasting promotes fat breakdown and weight loss.
Due to fasting, calorie consumption is significantly reduced during Ramadan. But if you are binge eating on sweets, calorie reduction might not happen. However, if you maintain your usual eating habits, you are very likely to eat less amount of food and lose weight. This is especially true in Ramadan when your source of energy during your fast is mainly fat. Trying to stay lightly active during the day can promote even more fat breakdown.
Fasting improves your blood fat levels
A study conducted in the Annals of Nutrition Metabolism 1997 shows that fasting lowered bad “LDL” cholesterol levels by 8 per cent, triglyceride by 30 per cent, and increased good “HDL” levels by 14.3 per cent – thereby protecting your heart from cardiovascular disease.
This is mainly due to the change in eating and exercise habits during Ramadan. Most people tend to go for healthier food options such as dates, nuts, lentil soup, and home cooked meals.
Studies have noted that overall saturated fat consumption – usually found in butter, lard, fatty meat, and fast food, is reduced in Ramadan. Fasting leads to reduction in stress hormones in the body, which may lead to temporary reduction of blood pressure in people with hypertension.
Fasting prompts release of certain brain chemicals called endorphins, which reduce stress levels and give an overall sense of wellbeing.
Some helpful tips:
• Break the fast with fruits, fresh juices, and plenty of fluids
• Have a balanced meal: 50% from complex carbohydrates such as wheat, rice, potatoes, other veggies; 40% from protein food like meat, fish, legumes; and 10% from good fats
• Avoid deep-fried oily foods rich in mono unsaturated fats.
• Do not try to compensate for the missed meal by overeating.
Dr Francy Pullikan is specialist - Internal Medicine at Al Burjeel Hospital