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HomeBlogHow Ramadan can help to reset the immune system

How Ramadan can help to reset the immune system

By: Medix Team
How Ramadan can help to reset the immune system

The holy month offers an ideal opportunity to re-think how and why we eat certain foods, making changes for the better

For the second year running, the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims are contemplating how they can celebrate Ramadan in a safe and healthy way. This year, it falls between April 12 and May 11, subject to the first sighting of the crescent moon.


Ramadan is a time of great ritual, but in 2020 many of those centuries-old traditions were disrupted by Covid-19. Mosques were shut and governments imposed tight restrictions on people’s ability to gather together for the evening meal that marks the breaking of the daily fast.


This year, some of those restrictions have been lifted, but the reality will still be far fewer social gatherings. However, being forced to re-think rituals, also offers an opportunity to re-think the foods that are typically consumed around them and make positive, long-lasting changes.


During Ramadan, Muslims do not eat or drink in daylight hours. Instead, they have one meal before sunrise (suhoor) and one after sunset (iftar).


Going without food and drink for a defined period can have numerous health benefits. It gives the gut a rest, boosts cellular regeneration and may improve heart health by improving blood pressure.


The key is to underpin all of this good work by bookending the fast with the right food choices. After a period of abstinence, it’s all too easy to think about treating ourselves to guilty pleasures, or filling our empty stomachs with too much, too soon.


Yet, breaking a fast with a plateful of fatty or fried food, followed by large sugary dessert will only provide a temporary sense of satisfaction, if that.


Over the short-term, these kinds of food are far more likely to cause physical discomfort such as bloating, indigestion and broken sleep. Over the longer-term, many types of chronic illnesses beckon: from type 2 diabetes to heart disease.


Here’s some food for thought about how to eat for health during Ramadan and beyond:


1. Hydration


Health experts generally recommend about two litres of water per day. Avoiding dehydration is one of the biggest issues that Muslims face during Ramadan since they don’t drink anything while they’re fasting.


This is particularly important right now given that some academic research suggests that dry airways increase susceptibility to viral illnesses.


The best way to combat dehydration is to avoid fizzy, caffeinated, or sugary drinks pre- or post-fast. Opt for water, meals with a high fluid content such as soups and stews and individual foods with high water levels such as courgettes (97%) and aubergine (92%).


Combat developing a dry throat during the day by drinking milk or yoghurt for suhoor. Avoid overly salty food.


2. Fibre


Few of use eat the recommended 30 grams per day at the best of times. But your gut microbiome will thank you for eating more, as it’s their main food source. A balanced microbiome helps to regulate the body’s immune response.


Fibre is the part of plants, which the body cannot digest. It passes through to the large intestine intact. Good sources are wholegrain cereals, cruciferous vegetables, fruits, beans and pulses, nuts and seeds.


It’s especially important to get a lot of fibre during Ramadan, as changing eating habits can prompt constipation. Many Muslims eat three dates at the start of iftar for spiritual reasons, as that’s what the Prophet Muhammad did. But they’re also a great source of fibre (about eight grams).


3. Starches


Carbohydrates are the main energy source for our cells. Eating complex carbohydrates for suhoor helps to set the body up for the day.


But choose starches, which are low on the glycaemic index (GI). These are digested more slowly and help to maintain even blood sugar levels, preventing food cravings and metabolic mayhem. Opt for brown or red rice rather than white. Eat potatoes with their skins on.


4. Proteins


We need protein to repair our muscles and bones. It also makes us feel fuller for longer and helps to avoid overeating after breaking the fast. Choose lean proteins such as chicken or fish, tofu or eggs.


5. Fats


It’s easy to think that fats should be avoided during Ramadan, or even generally to maintain weight loss. But the key is to eat the right fats because they’re the ones that keep the body ticking over in good health.


We need fats for our immune system, for hormone production and cellular regeneration. They also help to make use feel full and aid the absorption of certain vitamins – A, D, E and K.


Good fat sources are butter, nuts and nut oils, avocados, fish oil and flaxseed. Cook a curry with coconut oil, or add a teaspoon of olive oil to a soup or stew.

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