Temperatures are already soaring, with almost 16 hours of daylight. That means getting on the right track with your consumption habits is a must for a healthier body and mind during the holy month of Ramadan.
Here are some tips on how to stay healthy during the month, as told to Ahram Online by Abdel-Hadi Mesbah, professor of immunology at American Academy, Noha Abu Sitta, nutritionist and health educator, and Mohamed Salah, family medicine consultant.
Keep the water flowing:
International guidelines say you shouldn't abstain from water for more than 12 hours, so arrange the duration of your fast to avoid dehydration.
After sunset, keep a bottle of water within close reach until sunrise the next day so you can reach the goal of 1.5 litres of water per day. Add a squeeze of lemon for a refreshing taste.
Also, cut out foods and beverages that include diuretic ingredients and thus speed up dehydration, like those with caffeine and alcohol. Some pills and medication also contain diuretics, so beware.
Try not to sweat to reduce the evaporation of body fluids. This means staying indoors and not exercising too much.
Eat right, or find an alternative:
The golden rule of five-a-day for fruits and vegetables is especially important during Ramadan: you need your required nutrients, but you're fasting and only eating at night.
Can't make it? Pop a pill. Over the counter multi-vitamins can help you reach your daily quota.
Needless to say, Ramadan is a good chance to cut down on fried and fast food, which are heavy in calories and sodium and make you feel lethargic and thirsty.
Beware of the white poison: sugar. Ramadan is a month of indulgence, especially with desserts, but keep in mind that sugar-loaded foods and beverages increase insulin levels, which means a spike in blood-sugar levels and then a crash.
Eat suhoor later at night:
Eating the last meal of the day at a much earlier time – or, even worse, skipping it altogether – is the worst thing you can do to your body. Set the alarm and prepare yourself a small meal of complex carbs that take a bit longer to digest, thus ensuring longer hours of feeling full. Beans, lentils, eggs and yoghurt are highly recommended.
Go easy on your stomach:
Very few of us don't fall victim to indigestion after a heavy iftar. The three golden rules to avoid the discomfort and ease stomach indigestion are to begin the meal at dawn with a portion of salads, chewing every bite slowly and taking your time before switching to another kind of food and, finally, not indulging in many varieties of food in one meal.
Indulge in dates:
Eat dates at sunset, before your meal. There's more to it than tradition. Dates are refined carbohydrates that are quickly digested and thus help restore blood-sugar levels. They're also rich in fiber, sugar, magnesium and potassium.
No more headaches:
For many, headaches are an inevitable part of Ramadan. Our brains constantly need oxygen and glucose. Take them away, like during fasting hours, and you've got a headache. Then there's the headache that comes after eating iftar – you eat a lot and so blood pours into the digestive system, depriving your brain cells.
And it doesn't stop there – disturbances in sleeping patterns and a shortage in caffeine intake can also bring on a headache.
So get ready now. Establish a constant sleeping pattern. Don't eat too much at once. And gradually decrease your caffeine intake before Ramadan starts.
Also try to stay away from other headache triggers: processed meat, aspartame, old cheese, chocolate and MSG in artificial broth and Chinese food.