Healthy Diet During Ramadan
Mohammad Zafar A. Nomani, Ph.D., R.D.
is a globally recognised and foremost part of dietary guidelines
that eating a variety of food using principles of moderation and
balance is key to good health. This is particularly true during
the Islamic month of Ramadan when Muslims fast from dawn to sunset.
To be healthy, one must consume food from the major food groups:
bread and cereal, milk and dairy product, meat and bean, vegetable
and fruit. During the month long fast of Ramadan the metabolic
rate of a fasting person slows down and other regulatory mechanisms
start functioning. Body and dietary fat is efficiently utilised.
Consuming total food intake that is less than the total food intake
during normal days is sufficient to maintain a person's health.
Intake of fruits after a meal is strongly suggested. A balanced
diet improves blood cholesterol profile, reduces gastric acidity,
prevents constipation and other digestive problems, and contributes
to an active and healthy life style. (Int. J. Ramadan Fasting
Research, 3:1-6, 1999)
during the Islamic month of Ramadan can be good for one's health
and personal development. Ramadan fasting is not just about disciplining
the body to restrain from eating food and drinking water from
predawn until sunset. Ramadan is also about restraining anger,
doing good deeds, exercising personal discipline, and preparing
oneself to serve as a good Muslim and a good person during and
fasting has spiritual, physical, psychological, and social benefits;
however, manmade problems may occur, if fasting is not properly
practiced. First of all, there is no need to consume excess food
at iftar, dinner or sahur (sehri). The body has regulatory mechanisms
that activate during fasting. There is efficient utilisation of
body fat. Basal metabolism slows down during Ramadan fasting.
A diet that is less than a normal amount of food intake but balanced
is sufficient enough to keep a person healthy and active during
the month of Ramadan.
problems can emerge as a result of excess food intake, foods that
make the diet unbalanced, and insufficient sleep. Ultimately also,
such a lifestyle contradicts the essential requirements and spirit
According to Sunna (the practices of Prophet Muhammad, Pbuh) and
research findings referred in this report, a dietary plan is given:
Bread/Cereal/Rice, Pasta, Biscuits and Cracker Group: 6-11 servings/day;
2. Meat/Beans/ Nut Group: 2-3 servings/day. 3. Milk and Milk Product
Group: 2-3 servings/day. 4. Vegetable Group: 3-5 servings/day;
5. Fruit Group: 2-4 servings/day. 6. Added sugar (table sugar,
sucrose): sparingly. 7. Added fat, polyunsaturated oil 4-7 table
Juice, 1 serving (4 oz.)
Vegetable soup with some pasta or crackers, 1 cup
The body's immediate need at the time of iftar is to get an easily
available energy source in the form of glucose for every living
cell, particularly the brain and nerve cells. Dates and juices
are good sources of sugars. Dates and juice in the above quantity
are sufficient to bring low blood glucose levels to normal levels.
Juice and soup help maintain water and mineral balance in the
body. An unbalanced diet and too many servings of sherbets and
sweets with added sugar have been found to be unhealthy.
Consume foods from the following food groups:
Group: Chicken, beef, lamb, goat, fish, 1-2 servings
(serving size = a slice =1 oz); green pea, chickpea (garbanzo,
chana, humus), green gram, black gram, lentil, lima bean and other
beans, 1 serving (half cup). Meat and beans are a good source
of protein, minerals, and certain vitamins. Beans are a good source
of dietary fiber, as well.
Group: Whole wheat bread (roti), 2 servings (serving
size = 1 oz) or cooked rice, one cup or combination. This group
is a good source of complex carbohydrates, which are a good source
of energy and provide some protein, minerals, and dietary fiber.
Group: milk or butter-milk (lassi without sugar), yogurt
or cottage cheese (one cup). Those who can not tolerate whole
milk must try fermented products such as butter-milk and yogurt.
Milk and dairy products are good sources of protein and calcium,
which are essential for body tissue maintenance and several physiological
Group: Mixed vegetable salad, 1 serving (one cup), (lettuce,
carrot, parsley, cucumber, broccoli, coriander leaves, cauliflower
or other vegetables as desired.) Add 2 teaspoons of olive oil
or any polyunsaturated oil and 2 spoons of vinegar. Polyunsaturated
fat provides the body with essential fatty acids and keto acids.
Cooked vegetables such as guar beans, French beans, okra (bhindi),
eggplant (baigan), bottle gourd (loki), cabbage, spinach, 1 serving
(4 oz). Vegetables are a good source of dietary fibre, vitamin
A, carotene, lycopenes, and other phytochemicals, which are antioxidants.
These are helpful in the prevention of cancer, cardiovascular
diseases, and many other health problems.
Group: 1-2 servings of citrus and/or other fruits. Eat
fruits as the last item of the dinner or soon after dinner, to
facilitate digestion and prevent many gastrointestinal problems.
Citrus fruits provide vitamin C. Fruits are a good source of dietary
Fruits and mixed nuts may be eaten as a snack after dinner before
Consume a light sehri. Eat whole wheat or oat cereal or whole
wheat bread, 1-2 serving with a cup of milk. Add 2-3 teaspoons
of olive oil or any other monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats
in a salad or the cereal. Eat 1-2 servings of fruits, as a last
cholesterol and uric acid levels are sometimes elevated during
the month of Ramadan. Contrary to popular thinking, it was found
that intake of a moderately high-fat diet, around 36% of the total
energy (calories), improved blood cholesterol profile. It also
prevents the elevation of blood uric acid level (8-10). The normal
recommended guideline for fat is 30% or less energy. On weight
basis, suggested fat intake during Ramadan is almost the same
as in normal days. Fat is required for the absorption of fat-soluble
vitamins (A, D, E, K) and carotenoids. Essential fatty acids are
an important component of the cell membrane. They also are required
for the synthesis of the hormone prostaglandin. Keto-acids from
fat are especially beneficial during Ramadan to meet the energy
requirement of brain and nerve cells.
Ramadan increased gastric acidity is often noticed, exhibiting
itself with symptoms such as a burning feeling in the stomach,
a heaviness in the stomach, and a sour mouth. Whole wheat bread,
vegetables, humus, beans, and fruits -- excellent sources of dietary
fibre -- trigger muscular action, churning and mixing food, breaking
food into small particles, binding bile acids, opening the area
between the stomach and the deudenum-jejunum and moving digesta
in the small intestine. Thus, dietary fibre helps reduce gastric
acidity and excess bile acids. It is strongly suggested that peptic
ulcer patients avoid spicy foods and consult a doctor for appropriate
medicine and diet. Diabetic subjects, particularly severe type
I (insulin dependent) or type II (non-insulin dependent), must
consult their doctor for the type and dosage of medicine, and
diet and precautions to be taken during the month. Generally diabetes
mellitus, type II, is manageable through proper diet during Ramadan.
and lactating women's needs for energy and nutrients are more
critical than the needs of others. There is a possibility of health
complications to the pregnant woman and the fetus or the lactating
mother and the breastfed child, if energy and nutrient requirements
are not met during the month of Ramadan. Governments, communities,
and heads of the family must give highest priority to meet women's
dietary needs. In African countries, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan
and many other places malnutrition is a major problem, especially
among women from low-income groups. Further more, it is common
among these women to perform strenuous work on farms or in factories,
and other places. Malnutrition and strenuous conditions may lead
to medical problems and danger to life. Under these conditions
one must consult a medical doctor for treatment. Quran Al-Hakeem
and Hadith allow pregnant women and lactating mothers flexibility
during the month of Ramadan.
Drink sufficient water between Iftar and sleep to avoid dehydration.
sufficient vegetables at meals. Eat fruits at the end of the meal.
intake of high sugar (table sugar, sucrose) foods through sweets
or other forms.
Avoid spicy foods.
caffeine drinks such as coke, coffee or tea. Caffeine is a diuretic.
Three days to five days before Ramadan gradually reduce the intake
of these drinks. A sudden decrease in caffeine prompts headaches,
mood swings and irritability.
is a health risk factor. Avoid smoking cigarettes. If you cannot
give up smoking, cut down gradually starting a few weeks before
Ramadan. Smoking negatively affects utilisation of various vitamins,
metabolites and enzyme systems in the body.
not forget to brush your teeth before sleep and after sehri. Brush
more than two times or as many times as practicable.
or overweight people should not gain weight. For overweight people
Ramadan is an excellent opportunity to lose weight. Underweight
or marginally normal weight people are discouraged from losing
weight. Analysing a diet's energy and nutritional component, will
be useful in planning an appropriate diet.
is recommended that everyone engage in some kind of light exercise,
such as stretching or walking. It's important to follow good time
management practices for Ibada (prayer and other religious activities),
sleep, studies, job, and physical activities or exercise.
summary, intake of a balanced diet is critical to maintain good
health, sustain an active lifestyle and attain the full benefits
writer is Professor of Nutritrtion, West Virginia University,
USA. The article was first published in the The International
Journal of Ramadan Fasting Research, a publication of the International
Society for Ramadan Fasting Research, an association of scholars
studying human metabolism and behavior related to Ramadan fasting.
The society is dedicated to the improvement of dietary, medical,
health, social and personal practices by Muslims and non-Muslim
during the month of Ramadan and afterwards.