Ramadan is a time of improving our spiritual focus. That said, health is an important aspect too! Not only does fasting have inherent physical benefits (such as giving our digestive system a break and helping to reduce cholesterol), but staying healthy is important to help us perform and focus on our ibadah.
But sometimes, we can indulge a little too much during the month. We've all been there, drinking one too many cups of bandung at iftar or eating extra murtabak for supper ? It’s easy to fall into these habits every Ramadan but in the long run, it can have negative effects on our health. In addition, staying healthy is extra important this Ramadan, given the current COVID-19 situation. So if you’re looking for ways to take care of your health this Holy Month, we’ve rounded up some common mistakes and what you can do differently this year!
1.More sugary beverages being consumed than water
Staying hydrated is a crucial part of having a healthy Ramadan. Given that we fast for a large portion of the day, it’s important that we consume enough water so that we don’t get dehydrated. Drink plenty of water during iftar and sahur - setting reminders for yourself to drink or having a bottle filled with water readily available can make it easier to remember to drink during this time ?
It’s also best to avoid or reduce sugary drinks as too much sugar consumption can lead to health issues. While it might be tempting to break fast or enjoy supper with bandung or katira, these drinks are often super high in sugar and have a lot more calories! While our recommended daily sugar intake shouldn’t exceed 11 teaspoons, a glass of bandung already contains 6.5 teaspoons of sugar ? Instead, break your fast with water and a date as Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) did - it’ll help satisfy any sweet cravings while also providing fibre ? To jazz up your plain water, try infusing it with fruits and herbs like lemons, mint and cucumbers for that extra refreshing touch. If you would still like to have some sweet beverages along with your plain water, you can opt for lower-sugar drinks (such as those that have the Healthier Choice Symbol in Singapore!) ?
#HHWT Tip: Do note that dates are high in natural sugars and calories and should be consumed in moderation!
2. Not getting enough sleep
Hands up if you love getting a good night’s sleep! Getting enough rest is super crucial to taking care of our health. While many of us already have a routine and sleeping schedule that fits our needs, during Ramadan this often gets disrupted as we get up earlier for sahur. So during this time, we should make adjustments in our daily routine to ensure we can still get adequate rest and won’t go through that mid-afternoon slump ?
Go to bed earlier so you can accommodate the earlier wake-up times - for a start, try going to bed 15 minutes earlier each night so you can transition more easily. It’s often tempting to binge-watch our favourite K-Drama or scroll through Instagram right before bed, but it might not be the best thing for our sleep! Practice good sleep hygiene such as powering off your devices about an hour before bedtime and sleeping in a dark room. You can also set aside time to take power naps during the day to help you stay refreshed and productive. Getting enough rest will not only help you function better in general but it will also boost your immunity, which is crucial at this point in time. Plus, it’ll help regulate your appetite too!
3. Eating more than the energy exerted throughout the day
It’s often easy to assume that because we’re not eating during the day, we can consume a lot more food when breaking our fast (plus it’s hard to resist those extra servings of rice when we’re hungry! ?). But with big iftar meals that are often accompanied by our favourite kuih and supper dishes like roti john and murtabak, we usually end up consuming far more calories than the energy we exert during the day ? This leads to weight gain over the long run and it can have immediate effects too - sometimes when we eat too much we may feel sluggish while performing our terawih prayers!
We should take note of our portions and stick to regular serving sizes instead of loading up plate after plate. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was said to have eaten moderately and often stopped before he was full ? Be sure to also get a regular intake of fruits, veggies and nutritious foods that could help boost your immunity. While it’s ok to indulge in your favourite Ramadan treats, remember to do so in moderate portions, and try not to make it a daily habit!
4. Not being mindful during mealtimes
Besides portion control, it’s great to practise mindfulness when we eat, which includes eating more slowly. Not only will you be able to truly savour your food, but it can also help prevent overeating as you’ll be able to tell when you’re satiated more easily. Chew your food thoroughly and take the time to appreciate the flavours ?
It’s also good to enjoy your food without distractions like the television or looking at your phone (we’ve all been there ?). This will help you focus on what you’re eating and be present as you tuck into your food. As a bonus, it’s a great opportunity to prioritise family time as you enjoy your iftar together.
5. Not getting any movement in
Getting in some physical activity is super important on a day-to-day basis. As many of us are often sedentary while we work or study, taking the time to squeeze in pockets of activity can help prevent everything from back pain to cardiovascular diseases. With exercise playing such a big part in sustaining overall fitness, it’s important that we keep it up during Ramadan too! Not to mention, it can also help us maintain our mental and emotional well-being, especially while we’re staying home during the circuit break period.
So If you’re fasting and working from home this Ramadan, get up to move around or do stretches at least once every hour - it’s the perfect excuse to have a break from work ? If you find the idea of exercising while fasting daunting, it doesn’t have to be super strenuous! Do light exercises such as yoga, stretching and other low-intensity work-outs. It’s also recommended to exercise in the evening closer to iftar so you can drink plenty of water soon after your workout session. If you’re exercising after iftar, do be sure to give some time after you consume your meal (nobody enjoys working out on a full stomach!).
6. Not leveraging on Ramadan to make lifestyle changes for the better
While Ramadan is seen as a month to make spiritual adjustments for the better, it’s also a great opportunity to reset some of our other lifestyle habits too! Use Ramadan as a stepping stone to improve on your daily routines, building momentum as you go so it’ll be easy to sustain in the long run. By the time the month ends, you would have set yourself up with good practices that you can continue into Syawal and beyond ?
For example, if you like sugary drinks like teh tarik or soda, opt for low-sugar drinks such as those that have the Healthier Choice Symbol and limit yourself to a smaller quantity. If you usually have fried foods, try and have them only once or twice a week. You can also set goals for yourself, such as aiming to drink at least 3-4 glasses of water between iftar and your bedtime or taking time to do some stretches every day. The aim is to set small, achievable goals that you can build upon as time passes ?
7. Health and well-being not being prioritized
Given the current situation, it’s good to be extra vigilant about our health and make the right choices given our individual circumstances. While it’s easy to get caught up with our daily responsibilities and tasks, it’s important to prioritise our health too! Be mindful of how you’re feeling and invest in good habits (such as getting enough sleep and drinking lots of water).
If you’re feeling unwell or sick, consult your doctor and abstain from fasting if that would prevent you from getting better more quickly. In addition, if you’re taking medication or have a medical condition, do be sure to check with your doctor on whether it’s ok for you to fast. It’s good to stay informed on any possible side-effects if you fast and take the proper precautions.
Ramadan this year will take place under some pretty exceptional circumstances, and taking care of our health has never been more important. As we stay at home and strive to have a fulfilling Ramadan that brings us closer to our Creator, it’s important that we don’t neglect our physical health as it plays a part of our ibadah too! With these reminders, we hope you can have a great and healthy Ramadan ahead ?
This article was brought to you by the Health Promotion Board. For exciting drink recipes and tips for a healthier Ramadan, follow the Korang OK? Facebook page.