Nutritionist urges to avoid overeating during Ramadan
Manama, July 6, 2014
Late night feasts and binge eating might be tempting after 15-and-a-half hours of fasting, but a top nutritionist is urging people to exercise restraint in the interests of health.
The holy month coinciding with summer, when the days are longer, means Muslims must go without food and drink in daylight hours for longer than at any other time of the year, said a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.
Health Ministry Public Health Directorate nutrition section chief Dr Nadia Gharib says that fasting can benefit the body by removing toxins and halting the intake of unhealthy foods and drinks.
However, she added the benefits would only be felt if people stick to the right diet once the sun goes down - and balance their consumption with proper exercise.
"Ramadan is a chance to improve health habits and to cut down on fat, sugar and carbs," she told the GDN.
"But people need to balance the amount of food they eat with their activities.
"They should burn calories in the form of activities and exercise, otherwise these calories will accumulate, build up in the long term and increase their chances of getting fat.
"Some people really overeat in Ramadan, like they are going to run out of food if they don't gorge themselves.
"The problem is also that we find many types of food on the table which sometimes lack nutritious quality."
While Muslims are not supposed to eat or drink during the day, they make up for it at night - often enjoying at least three meals between sunset and sunrise the following day.
The first, Iftar, takes place after sunset prayers and coincides with the end of fasting.
Later on in the evening it is common for people in Bahrain to attend ghabgas, traditional gatherings where food is once again served.
Finally, Suhoor is the last meal before sunrise and takes place in the early hours of the morning.
However, Dr Gharib said the right meal choices meant the difference between a healthy and unhealthy Ramadan.
"People eat the same amount in the three meals, which are loaded with fatty main courses," warned Dr Gharib.
"Iftar should start with dates and then buttermilk, juice or soup - and then people should go for Maghreb (sunset) prayers.
"After prayers they can have a meal that consists of a good portion of salad and one piece of meat and carbs, like rice or pastries and samboosa.
"Carbs are actually very important to eat during the night of fasting because it contains glucose that breaks and becomes absorbed very quickly in the blood circulation and nourishes our brain cells.
"However, people shouldn't eat from all the dishes that have carbohydrates in them - two types are enough as each contains around 240 to 250 calories per portion.
"It is also a good idea to start with soups, but go for healthy soups with nutritious value that fills the stomach and benefits the body at the same time."
While Dr Gharib warned against overeating in Ramadan, she added it is acceptable to enjoy some sugary foods - especially after prayers.
"You can have small portions of desserts, but only an hour after your Iftar meal or Taraweeh prayers," she explained.
"However, fruit is a healthier substitute for desserts and people shouldn't forget that.
"We also need substitute baked food for fried food.
"Believe me, it tastes better and is healthier."
Meanwhile, Dr Gharib said drinking water through the evening and eating the right things during Suhoor helped people cope without food and water the following day.
"For Suhoor you can have a cheese sandwich, preferably a wholewheat bread one - also eggs, juice, yoghurt, dates and veggies," she said. "Stay away from desserts because sugar makes you thirsty within an hour.
"A total of eight glasses of water should be distributed throughout the evening in order to keep your body hydrated the next day.
"Juices and soups can help, but water is still needed. People should also keep an eye on the amount of caffeine they take.
"Some abuse it and drink six cups of tea or coffee when all you should have is two cups, which shouldn't be drunk immediately after Iftar.
"Adding milk to your coffee or tea is a better choice and you should go for Arabic coffee instead of the regular coffee." - TradeArabia News Service