Fasting is one of the religious rituals of the Holy Month of Ramadan. Muslims worldwide abstain from eating food and drink from dawn to sunset. And like last year, the Covid-19 pandemic means that Ramadan this year is more vital than ever.
The virus has infected millions of people around the world and killed millions more, especially people suffering from various forms of immunodeficiency. Though vaccinations against the virus have started in many places, including Egypt, the pandemic is still not over, meaning it’s important to strengthen the immune system to help prevent infection with Covid-19.
The immune system is the inborn defence ability of our bodies to fight back against viruses, bacteria, fungi and other environmental toxins. Luckily, fasting can restore the immune system, and many studies have shown that prolonged fasting can lead to the regeneration of old or damaged white blood cells, which leads to rejuvenating the immune system to fight infections.
Maintaining good hygiene and a strong immune system are effective preventive measures in fighting the Covid-19 virus. Modern exercise training and proper nutrition are also important factors in supporting immune function.
However, while several studies have shown that fasting or cutting back on calories can boost our immunity, it is important to get adequate nutrition during the Ramadan fasting. Diets that are high in bad fats and sugar can deprive our body of adequate and balanced nutrition.
So, stay immune and healthy with these expert fasting tips this holy month.
- Eat fresh food every day, including fruit, vegetables, legumes, lentils, whole grains like wheat, brown rice, oats, corn or quinoa, milk products and lean protein choices like eggs, chicken, fish or meat.
- Limit the use of processed and packaged foods loaded with salt and sugar.
- Minimise red meat as much as possible as it increases the risk of inflammation.
- Consume an adequate daily amount of fruit and vegetables rich in Vitamin C, one of the best-known immune boosters, like red peppers, kale, broccoli, citrus fruit or strawberries.
- Include key nutrients in your diet like food rich in Vitamin B such as bananas, green vegetables and hummous, which supports biochemical reactions in the immune system.
- Consume food rich in Vitamin E like nuts and seeds which are known to be powerful antioxidants and support your body when fighting an infection. Choose food rich in Omega-3 fatty acids such as oily fish and sea food.
- Eat food rich in iron like meat. Chickpeas also contain lots of protein, an essential nutrient made from amino acids that helps the growth and repair of body tissues.
- Replace fried foods and sugary desserts with healthy alternatives. Snack on fresh or dried fruit or nuts and adapt healthy cooking methods like steaming, baking, sautéing and stir-frying.
- Use minimal salt for cooking and instead add herbs, spices, lemon and other seasonings.
- Consume an adequate amount of lean protein to maintain muscle mass in addition to lots of different vegetables, fruit, legumes and fibre for good digestion.
- Avoid fatty and sugary foods at Iftar and Sohour meals as they have a negative effect on immunity.
- Add garlic to your diet, which boosts immunity because of the high concentration of sulphur-containing compounds it contains.
- Don’t overcook vegetables as they can lose the nutrients, colour and flavour.
- Drink lots of water and choose low fat dairy, herbal teas and soups for hydration.
- Aim to get at least eight hours of sleep during every 24-hour period. A well-rested body and mind will make it easier for you to concentrate, have more energy throughout the day and boost your immunity.
- Stay active whenever possible by exercising regularly or doing stretches. Modern exercise training and proper nutrition are the most important factors in supporting the immune function.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 15 April, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly