Fasting, which normally takes 13 hours in Nairobi and its surrounding, enables the body to make use of the stored energy and fats during the day.
According to Dr. Osman Harare, Executive Director, East Africa Health Project, the month of Ramadhan is the time when the stomach, liver, and kidney should rest from the normal body metabolic activities and the burden of active digestion.
Since the energy available is meant for sustenance, simple exercises like walking are recommended.
However, doctors rule out vigorous workouts when fasting simply because of starvation.
Overeating, a common hunger-preventing belief ironically causes more hunger with enzymes actively working on the heavy meal so fast – depleting energy within a short time.
Eating more when breaking fast doesn’t mean hunger prevention during the day.
“If in the morning before you start the fast, you have had a heavy meal, what happens? The enzymes are digesting the energy required to digest and everything is happening so fast, acidity is building up.
“By 10 o’clock in the morning, your belly is rumbling. The Sunnah is having a light meal and Suhoor (breakfast); is for the purpose of Baraka”, says Dr. Mufti Menk, a Muslim cleric, director of the Islamic Educational Centre.
Fried samosas and pies are not the best alternatives when breaking the fast.
Although taking such food during Iftar (breaking fast) has become a habit for many households, health wise, it should be avoided if possible. A good case is the Somali community.
Samosa cooked with excess cooking oil will likely lead to gastric and constipation.
When preparing Samosa, don’t use the same oil in the pan more than once, health wise it is not good. Body inactiveness due to intake of fatty foods will attract chronic diseases.
“From a health perspective, the worst way to break your fast is with savouries including Samosas, pies, and fries.
Let’s say you like the mincemeat in Samosa and eat one, five, ten or even twenty, what would happen?
You get sick, not because the Samosa was bad but your eating habit was bad,” Adds Dr. Mufti Menk.
Having few bites of red meat is not harmful. Making yourself comfortable with the whole cow is the problem. Regular intake of such meat inhibits weight management.
Health experts recommend increasing intake of pure water between Iftar and Suhoor for hydration. On the contrary, soft drinks dehydrate the body.
“Many people who fast believe that excessive drinking of water during Suhoor will see them through the day, thinking that they won’t feel thirsty. Excess water intake will cause the person to urinate more, drying the body of the water. Instead, a glass of water is enough, less water leaves the body; thus keeping it hydrated”, says Dr. Osman Mohamud Dufle, a physician.
“People make the mistake of drinking more at Suhoor time thinking that such practice will keep the body hydrated throughout the day”, he warns.
The secret is to stay energized throughout the day. Eating foods that sustain your productivity and prevent digestive distress should be the major concern during this month of Ramadhan.
Take cereal products, for example, it stay in the stomach for a longer time as opposed to foods that easily be digested within a few hours, signing early hunger.
Certain foods, with little or no fibre and nutritional value, such as refined white rice and spaghetti, is not the best alternative when breaking the fast.
Such diets will inhibit bowel movement, whereby if the body waste is not released, it will likely turns to poison, an indicator of poor health.
You need something that takes a long to digest, for instance, cereals, porridge, grinded maize, milk, and dates. In this scenario, less energy is used for digestion purposes.
Ali, a nutritionist-cum-herbalist based in Canada, says sugary foods and beverages absorbs water from the body leading to dehydration.
Such drinks include carbonated sodas and flavored drinks. Alternatively, take fresh juice such as watermelon and lemon.
Salty foods also dehydrate the body during the day leading to hunger; depriving of strength and energy to do daily activities. Keep off salty nuts, chips and soya sauce particularly Suhoor time – it makes you feel thirsty.
Although, it is a common phenomenon to some people, gobbling down spicy foods is not the right thing. Heartburn and stomach distress is the result.
Other sources of food to be on the lookout when fasting include fast foods such as chips, hamburgers, pizzas, hot dogs and fried chicken. It induces hunger and weight gain.
Don’t be tempted to compensate for the long hours the stomach is empty for overeating and unhealthy lifestyle when breaking the fast.
With the right food consumption, you will inherit healthy body in terms of weight management and keeping fit.
By the end of the fasting month, Ramadan, your health should be improving.