This year, with the holy month of Ramazan being marred by a global pandemic, concerns about staying healthy while fasting seem to have increased manifold – the worry is not without reason; we need a strong immune system to lessen our chances of contracting the dreaded Covid-19.
So, how do we go about Ramazan this year? In times of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is vital to maintain an optimal immune strength, say dieticians. This means, we need to be watching what kind of food groups we turn to, to ensure replenishment of lost nutrients.
“While several studies have indicated that fasting or cutting back on calories can actually enhance the activity of our T-cells and boost our immunity, it is important to get adequate nutrition when ending the fast,” Gulf News quotes Zeina Younes, Clinical Dietician at the Dubai Diabetes Centre.
Keeping that in mind, here are some dos and don’ts of eating in Ramazan to ensure that whatever you eat for sehri or iftar keeps you healthy and your immune system in prime condition.
Be mindful of macro, micro nutrients
As reported by Gulf News, we need to consume adequate amounts of all the macro-nutrient groups like proteins, carbohydrates, fats and water for efficient metabolism. Not just that, but we also need to be aware of our intake of micro-nutrients like vitamins, enzymes, minerals and trace elements to build up an efficient immune network.
How do we make sure we’re taking the right kinds of macro and micro-nutrients in our diet? “A donut and a plate of mixed stir fry vegetables with quinoa or brown rice might give you the same calories. But a donut is fried and has a very high glycaemic index with a very small portion size, which makes it poor in nutrition. It will make you feel hungry again. Whereas the plate of complex carbohydrates with vegetables has a low glycaemic index and is rich in vitamins, minerals and fibre. It will provide far greater nutrition and boost your immune system,” explains Archana Baju, clinical dietician at Burjeel Hospital Abu Dhabi.
Strike a balance of proteins
Baju recommends that we incorporate a healthy balance of both plant and animal protein in our diet. “While we focus on animal sources of protein, it is essential to include legumes, lentils and pulses in your diet and have one portion of plant-based protein in your diet at least once. In case of animal protein, choose lean protein such as eggs, dairy, fish or chicken and have it grilled, pan fried or baked. Too much oil can destroy the nutritional element,” she says.
While our body also needs fat, it derives that part of its nutrition from fats in the oils and nuts we choose in our diet, so any excess source of fat is not the best idea – this would include fried food and fatty meats. “We must include nuts and seeds in our diet for source of healthy fats. In case of oils, we must choose from olive groundnut, sesame, mustard and other oils, but we must rotate these in our cooking for best results and also use small amounts only,” recommends Baju.
Here’s a simple checklist to ensure a healthy Ramazan, as compiled from Gulf News.
1) Avoid all processed and packed foods loaded with salt and sugar.
2) Try to include more fruits and vegetables that are rich in Vitamin B, C, E, A and D.
3) Eat fresh foods everyday including fruits, vegetables, legumes, lentils, whole, milk products and lean protein choices (egg, chicken, fish, meat).
4) Replace fried foods and sugary desserts and try healthy cooking methods like steam, poach, bake, sauté, stir-fry etc.
5) Use minimal salt for cooking and instead add herbs, spices, lemon, garlic and other seasonings.
6) Trim off the visible fat from the meat, skinless chicken is best. Include good protein choices for iftar and sehri.
7) Drink lots of water. Choose low fat dairy, coconut water, herbal teas and soups for hydration.
8) Stay active whenever possible at home by taking small walks, climbing stairs, doing stretches etc.
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