Ramadan is a time for reflection and gratitude for Muslims around the world. The holy month, which began on April 13, marks the period when those observing refrain from eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset.
During this time, people are often more conscious of the food they eat and are especially looking for ways to prevent hunger, thirst, and exhaustion during the day.
Questions such as “What foods will make you thirsty while fasting?” and “How do I maintain my energy levels on an empty stomach?” are frequently asked.
Clinical Dietician at Dubai’s Healthbay Clinic Sara Abdelghany explained to Al Arabiya English what foods people should avoid to stay energized and prevent thirst while fasting during Ramadan.
“To stay energized during the fasting hours, it is very important to plan your meals and divide the calories you will consume into two to three meals and snack per day. That said, it is also very important to make healthy choices to avoid hunger, headaches, dizziness and low energy,” Abdelghany said.
Some categories of food should be avoided during Ramadan because they can cause bloating, dehydration, and weight gain, the dietician told Al Arabiya English.
“Avoid having deep fried food and fatty foods during Iftar. High fat meals will cause abdominal discomfort and bloating,” Abdelghany added.
Processed foods, like sausages and breaded meats, and ready-made soups are very high in sodium and mono-sodium glutamate, which will cause excessive thirst, she added.
Some drinks that are popular during the holy month of Ramadan, such as jallab, tamereddine, amareddine, fresh juices, and sodas, are loaded with sugar, which will cause weight gain and lead to a spike in insulin levels – resulting in increased sugar cravings and excessive snacking, as well as hunger during fasting hours.
While some people like to indulge in sweets during Ramadan, its best to limit the amount of desserts that are consumed, Abdelghany told Al Arabiya English.
“Avoid having excessive amounts of sweets and desserts on a daily basis. Try to limit the sweets, especially popular Ramadan sweets, to three times a week and always keep a moderate portion,” she said.
“Many people will skip or replace a hot meal with sweets. That will definitely cause weight gain and increase hunger due to missed nutrients like protein and vegetables,” she added.
Caffeinated beverages, such as coffee and soft drinks, should be avoided because they cause the body to lose water and increases dehydration, according to the dietician.
Hydration is key during Ramadan since Muslims go hours without having a sip of water, Abdelghany told Al Arabiya English.
“Generally, we need between eight to 12 cups of water every 24 hours, depending on our activity level, age, and sex,” she said.
“Drinking the whole amount in one go in one to two hours will not help. Our kidneys have a limited capacity to filter one liter per hour,” Abdelghany added.
Its best to distribute our fluid intake throughout the period between Iftar and Suhoor, according to her.
“Break your fast with one to two cups of water and aim to drink one cup of water every hour,” Abdelghany said.
“Avoid waiting till dawn to drink water. That might increase thirst the next day. Also, overhydration is not recommended as this will deplete potassium and increase the thirst.”
Another way to ensure that those fasting are staying hydrated is to incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables in meals since they are rich in water and high in potassium, which keeps the body hydrated for hours.