Fuelling Your Mind and Body During Ramadan: A Dietitan’s Top Tips

March 6, 2024by One Elephant

The Holy Month of Ramadan is observed by Muslim people all over the world. For 30 days, Muslims fast from dawn to sunset as a way of strengthening their spiritual connection to God, as well as empathizing with the less-fortunate. Beyond its religious significance, fasting serves as a holistic approach to nourishing the mind, body, and soul. For those who are healthy and able to fast for the month of Ramadan, there are ways to enhance your overall health during this sacred month. Wondering how?

Spiritual Connection

Fasting during Ramadan fosters self-discipline, patience, and empathy for those in need. It is a time for increased devotion, reflection, and spiritual growth, reinforcing the connection between the individual and their faith. Continue to keep this front of mind during the month through acts of kindness, prayer, and reflection. This month is about so much more than abstaining from food and water from dawn to sunset.

Balanced Nutrition

Suhoor (pre-dawn meal) and iftar (meal to break the fast) play pivotal roles in maintaining energy levels. Many people choose to sleep through Suhoor to avoid an interrupted sleep; however in doing so, you may notice lower energy, dehydration-related headaches, and difficulty focusing on tasks, including the spiritual connection that is so important this month. Opt for a balanced suhoor, incorporating complex carbs, protein, and healthy fats to sustain you throughout the day. If your appetite isn’t large enough for a meal, you can consider incorporating a light bowl of oatmeal + a rich smoothie that includes Greek yogurt or protein powder, nut butter or seeds, and some fiber-rich fruit. For iftar, emphasize whole foods, lean proteins, and a variety of vegetables. A balanced plate will allow you to get the proper nutrients in the evening and aid with replenishing your body after a day of fasting.

Hydration Strategies

Hydration is crucial during Ramadan. Many would agree that the lack of fluids is easily the more challenging part of fasting compared to the lack of food. Consume plenty of water between iftar and suhoor to prevent dehydration. Incorporate hydrating foods like water-rich fruits and vegetables into your meals. If you struggle with water intake, consider sipping on other hydrating fluids outside of your fast such as herbal teas, broths, or smoothies made with milk or milk alternatives. All of these will contribute to your daily hydration goals! And, as much as you may feel like you need the caffeine, do your best to limit it in the evenings to ensure it does not impact sleep.

Mindful Eating

Ramadan itself is a month of mindfulness, awareness, and reflection. This can also mean practicing mindful eating. Pay attention to your body’s hunger and fullness cues, and savor the flavors of your meals. Enjoy your meals with friends and family and take the time to truly appreciate the flavors, aromas, and textures you are enjoying during your meals each morning and evening. This can feel challenging after a 12 hour day sans water and foodd, but it is possible. Break your fast with a small, light portion of food – this is often dates, and water to help bring your blood sugar up and give you some quick energy, followed by a light soup. Many muslims will take a short break at this time to pray before sitting down for the main meal. This can do wonders for digestion and prevent an upset stomach, feeling of uncomfortable fullness, or bloating.

Nutrient-Rich Foods

Opt for nutrient-dense foods that provide essential vitamins and minerals. Include a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins to meet your nutritional needs. Dessert is not off the table; prioritize the foods that will fuel you and give you the most nutrition, and there can always be room for a treat as well.

Quality Sleep

Adequate rest is essential. Ensure you get enough sleep during the night to support overall health and energy levels during the day. Consistent sleep patterns contribute to improved physical and mental well-being. This is easier said than done when you’re waking early for suhoor, but do your best to limit screen time before bed, practice a relaxing evening routine to promote better sleep hygiene in the evenings.

Social Support

Ramadan is often a month that many Muslims look forward to. It’s an opportunity for people to reconnect with their faith, and also reconnect and share their joy with friends and family. Cooking and breaking the fast together can strengthen social bonds. Collective prayers and communal activities foster a sense of community and support during this special time. Lean into it and enjoy the month for all it brings and offers.

By approaching Ramadan with a holistic perspective, focusing on both spiritual and physical well-being, you can use this month as an opportunity for personal growth and improved overall health. Ramadan Mubarak to all that observe!

Written by Norine Khalil, MSc RD, Co-Founder and Registered Dietitian at One Elephant Integrative Health Team