How to maximise health benefits by avoiding feasting after fasting — Dubai experts offer guideline

Dubai: As Ramadan helps reset the physiological functions of the body, experts advise moderation during Eid in order to capitalise on the health benefits that accrue during Ramadan. We can reinstate the normal rhythm and avoid excessive feasting during the festive week.

Dr Hamed Farooqi

Dr Hamed Farooqi, director at the Dubai Diabetes Centre of the Dubai Health Authority (DHA), said: “Ramadan teaches people self-control. What one learns during this period must be followed for the rest of the year. So during Eid, slowly re-introduce eating and do not overwhelm your body with heavy food, sugar and oil. This can actually trigger high blood glucose episodes. This can happen even to non-diabetic individuals. “

The best method of re-setting life is to look at the basic four aspects that are crucial to getting back to the routine. This are: Food, sleep, hydration and physical fitness.

Food:

Dr Yogesh Shastri

Dr Yogesh Shastri, specialist gastroenterologist at NMC Specialty Hospital, Abu Dhabi, explained why it was important to not over eat during Eid. Dr Shastri said: “The dawn-to-dusk fast during Ramadan gives one ample opportunity to replenish energy with pre-dawn and dusk meals. This provides a progressive, gentle transition from using glucose to fat as the main source of energy, and prevents the breakdown of protein from muscle. The use of fat for energy aids weight loss, preserving the muscles, and in the long run reduces body’s cholesterol levels. In addition, weight loss results in better control of diabetes and reduces blood pressure.

‘Sense of happiness’

“A detoxification process also seems to occur, as toxins stored in the body’s fat are dissolved and removed from the body. After a few days of the fast, higher levels of certain happy hormones appear in the blood (endorphins), resulting in a sense of happiness and overall feeling of mental well-being. In order to maintain the positive impact of the fast on one’s health, it is important that people transition very smoothly to eating three meals. Heavy meals with oil, sugar and spice during Enid must be avoided as this can trigger many gastrointestinal problems such as acid reflux, indigestion and heart burn. We see many patients coming in during Eid with such gastrointestinal complaints.”

Portion control is the key

Sakina Mustansir, clinical dietician with Prime Healthcare Group said: “After Ramadan, it is important to have small portions of food in the day until the body readjusts to regular eating. Be sensitive to the needs of the body and do not give in to temptations that can later cause digestive disturbances and weight gain.”

Sakina Mustansir

She advised that on Eid day, people must begin their day with a regular high fibre breakfast. “This balances the macro nutrients (proteins, carbohydrates and fats). Have some complex carbohydrate with good amount of fibre that will help keep you full until lunch. Because of the festivity, you are likely to overload your system with meat during lunch and dinner. Limit your portion size and opt for grilled, braised or stir-fried meat and keep large meat dishes for lunch and avoid heavy dinners.”

Dr Farooqi also cautioned people with diabetes to consult their treating physician to readjust their insulin or oral medicine and meal advice to ensure a good blood glucose metabolism. “It is preferable for people with diabetes to undergo a complete blood test and get their HBA1C levels checked, as well as get any blood pressure, cholesterol issues flagged so that they can plan their meals as per the doctor’s advice.”

Sleep

Many people upset their normal sleep cycle by staying awake until late hours, sometimes right up to the suhour and sleep during the day. Mustansir explained: “Our bodies are designed to be active with sunrise and slowdown and rest after sunset. This is the circadian rhythm, which also regulates our metabolism. One is supposed to rest after iftar and sleep early to be able to rise up for Suhour. But disrupting this cycle will release cortisol in one’s body, which is the stress hormone and that can impair metabolism, increase cravings and hunger pangs and ultimately lead to weight gain. So, it is important to reset and normalise one’s sleep pattern and get seven-eight hours of quality sleep.”

Hydration

Hydration is not just about having two-three litres of water daily, but making sure one has a correct electrolyte balance in the body, which is crucial to one’s good health as it hydrates the cells and tissues of the body and assists in maintaining steady body temperature and aids metabolism. Mustansir advised having a glass of water every hour and a couple of times squeezing the juice of lemon to maintain fluid balance.

Physical fitness

It is important to build back your workout and physical activity, slowly and gradually.

Sample Meal

Breakfast options:

* Boiled eggs, whole grain toast with avocado.

* A vegetable omelette made of soaked and ground lentils and veggies.

* A small bowl of steel-rolled oats porridge with either yoghurt or skimmed milk and one fruit.

Lunch:

* It is important to begin lunch with a large garden salad, a soup and some hummus to provide high fibre and protein to the diet, which will fill you up and help you choose smaller portions of the main course. Food items to be included in healthy meals are Tofu, paneer, fish, chicken, meat, lentils, whole grain wheat items such as pasta, quinoa, rice etc., low-fat yoghurt, laban, etc.

Dinner:

Keep dinner very light and have it early, around 7.30pm. This will also be the time around which you were ending fast during Ramadan. Post-dinner go for a light walk to help boost digestion. Start your dinner with a light soup and fresh green salad. Main course can be a small portion of whole grain carbohydrate with vegetables such as couscous, Quinoa, a whole grain flour veggie wrap with grilled vegetables. For protein, include a fish, chicken or turkey. Avoid red meat for dinner to keep it light on digestion.

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Tips for good health:

• Eat responsibly during all three meals. Start with salads and soups at lunch and dinners.

• Fill only 1/3rd of your stomach with food, 1/3rd with fluids and keep 1/3rd empty.

• Avoid overindulgence on foods such as desserts, fried food, caffeinated sodas and processed food.

• Do not exercise on a full stomach. It is preferable to exercise either early morning or an hour prior to your Eid dinner.

• Do not lie down right after eating your meal, wait for at least three hours after your last meal before going to bed.

• Stay well-hydrated and drink fluids about 30 minutes before and after a meal rather than along with the meal.

• Avoid late-night snacking.

Some key lifestyle patterns to follow:

• Sleep with your head elevated (at least six inches) and use a pillow to prop yourself up.

• Quit smoking because smoking irritates the stomach lining and increases acidity.

• Avoid passive smoking (being in company of smokers) and also practise relaxation, pilates etc.

— Source: Dr Yogesh Shastri

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