Joy of fasting

The traditional Ramzan meals should be carefully planned. Make sure
you are eating a balanced diet, says K. D. L. Khan

IF the industrialised world is top-heavy, i.e. the ratio of youth to elderly is low, the ratio of the emerging Generation X in Islam is the opposite. As such, it falls to reason that the modern youngsters in Islam are making all attempts to get the best for their health in the 40-day Ramzan fasting. Mainly, the health conscious among the youth knowing the value of the buzz word, detoxification, have realised that Ramzan fasting is one of the best ways to health, and that the good effects are not lost by overeating. Overeating during Ramzan is a problem in all major Indian cities, for, after breaking the fast, there are special localities (like Muhammad Ali Road in Mumbai, Chandni Chowk in Delhi) where high-calorie food is available for the hungry.

Prepare yourself both mentally and physically for Ramzan
Prepare yourself both mentally and physically for Ramzan

Nutrition experiments have been carried out on Ramzan-fasting and starving 30 Muslim students at the University of Granada.

Nutritionists have come to the conclusion that the body's detoxification requirements can be very well taken care of during the Ramzan fasting.

Fasting technically commences within the first 12 to 24 hours of the fast. A fast does not, nutrition-wise, begin until the carbohydrate stores in the body begin to be used as an energy source. The fast will continue as long as fat and carbohydrate stores are used for energy, as opposed to protein stores. Once protein stores begin to be depleted for energy (resulting in loss of muscle mass), a person is technically starving. Detoxification is the foremost argument presented by advocates of fasting. Detoxification is a normal body process of eliminating or neutralising toxins through the colon, liver, kidneys, lungs, lymph glands and skin.

At a very basic level, the act of fasting may be compared to an intensive workout at the gym, or any other strenuous physical exercise. Though a person is exhausted, a sense of something meaningful accomplished leaves him more invigorated and strengthened in the body and mind. The body heals itself, repairs all the damaged organs during fast. Finally, there is good evidence to show that regulated fasting contributes to longer life.

This requires that mentally as well as physically, you have to get prepared for Ramzan. For this we need to keep some important things in mind. As the month approaches, prepare yourself both mentally and physically. Make an effort to unburden yourself at work by getting more done in the preceding month. It is important to try and reorganise your routine ahead of Ramzan, to ease the transition and to shift the workload appropriately when the need arises.

The traditional Ramzan meals, the Sehri and Iftaar, should be carefully planned. Make sure you are eating a balanced diet that contains food from all the major food groups cereals, poultry, meat, fruits and vegetables. Experts say that binge eating at Iftaar, or during Sehri, for that matter, has a negative effect on energy levels, and an average healthy meal is best.

Sehri, the meal before fasting, includes slow-digesting foods such as those containing grains and seeds like barley, wheat, millets, oat, semolina, lentils, beans, whole meal flour and unpolished rice. These last longer, up to eight hours, and provide good energy, compared to fast-digesting foods such as those containing refined carbohydrates (white flour) and excess of refined sugar. Avoid excess of spicy and fried items as they cause heartburn, obesity, acidity and also increase thirst.

If you are having Iftaar, and are also planning to have a late dinner, lighten either of the two meals, and try to bring in a gap of at least three hours between the two. Also, for a more fulfilling sleep, avoid eating two hours before your bedtime. An Iftaar of fruit, juices and other light snacks, is recommended, followed by a light dinner later on if the need is felt. Fast-digesting foods only last about three to four hours, resulting in lower energy levels throughout the day.

When fasting, one not only abstains from food, but also practices restraint in all behaviour, that can taint his or her life. Try a hand at the above simple and easy tips, and you will notice the differences. This is the key to unlocking the joys of Ramzan for the Generation X. MF