Wishing you a Heart-healthy Ramadan!

Wishing you a Heart-healthy Ramadan!

By Azmina Govindji RD, Registered Dietitian and Consultant Nutritionist, Azmina Nutrition

Starting this evening (Monday 12th April 2021), millions of Muslims around the world will observe the month of Ramadan. This is a time when many will fast from sunrise to sunset, refraining from food and drink. It is also a time of self-reflection, so indeed this could be an opportunity to take a closer look at your eating habits and make your meals at Suhoor and Iftar interesting, varied and healthier. 

Ten Top Tips
  1. A little planning goes a long way. If you plan your two main meals, you may be more conscious of including healthier items like whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, fruit and vegetables. Planning ahead also eases the pressure of thinking about each meal every day!
  2. Drink lots of water outside the times of fasting so you help reduce symptoms of dehydration, such as headaches.
  3. Make sure your meal at Suhoor is rich in high fibre foods that are slowly digested and can help you to feel fuller for longer. Try a bowl of porridge – the oats give you beta-glucans that can help to reduce blood cholesterol levels. Or if you’re making a paratha, roti or other bread, choose a high fibre flour like coarse wholemeal atta or millet (bajra) flour. Try having a banana too; fruit and vegetables can help to reduce the risks of heart disease.
  4. When it's time to break the fast, it's natural to reward yourself by over-indulging. Best to eat slowly and have only small amounts, so that you’ll be more aware of when you start to feel full. This way, you might realise that you don’t need as big a portion to satisfy your hunger.
  5. Avoid over-indulging in sweet or fatty foods. Enjoy a couple of dates (they are great for getting your blood sugar up quickly after the fast, but too many can add extra sugar and calories), and rehydrate with water or low fat milk. Drink plenty of sugar-free fluids to reduce dehydration.
  6. Rich foods like samosas, meat-based curries made with fried onions and masalas, and rice dishes like biryani give you lots of fat and calories and can make you feel heavy and sluggish after a fast. Keep an eye on your portion size.
  7. Choose to eat more plant-based foods as they are richer in fibre, can help to fill you up and are typically less rich and calorific. Try different varieties of dahl, chick peas, kidney beans, black eyed beans and so on.
  8. Team meals up with a mixed salad: use lots of different coloured ingredients such as lettuce, tomato, cucumber, radish, apples, pomegranate seeds and sweetcorn. Include fruit and vegetables often – try grilled aubergine (bengan), and lightly stir-fried okra bhindi. For dessert, make home-made mango pulp mixed with low fat milk, a fresh fruit salad or a spicy fruit chaat.
  9. Snacking late in the evening? A handful of nuts such as almonds are a good source of unsaturated fats and nuts also contain fibre, plant protein and essential vitamins and minerals. Or try some homemade popcorn: you don’t need to add salt, simply flavour with some chilli and lemon.
  10. Consider having a walk after your meal to help you feel more energised. 

See what makes up a heart-healthy South Asian diet.