Public Health Researcher gives 5 Tips for a Healthy Ramadan

Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, holds immense spiritual significance for Muslims worldwide. While the primary focus during Ramadan is on spiritual growth and self-discipline, it is equally essential to emphasise the importance of maintaining  health during this holy month. Dr Ayazullah Safi, researcher and Senior Lecturer in Public Health at Birmingham City University, gives his top tips for a healthy and active Ramadan!

1). Nutrition

During Iftari (the opening of the fast meal) drink plenty of water, try to eat a good balance of high quality starchy carbohydrates, vegetables, proteins and dairy for the natural fats to provide your body with key nutrients.

During Suhur (the pre-dawn meal), try oats, rye, barley, brown rice, quinoa, berries, apples, and oranges, which have a low glycemic index and do not spike blood sugars. These are good options to consume to keep you going during the day.

2). Avoid processed food

Some of the things you need to avoid when preparing meals for Suhur in high volumes are salt, caffeine, sugars and processed foods. 

It is important to ensure you avoid too much salt, as this will dehydrate and make you thirsty during the day. It is also important to avoid processed foods and those with added sugars because they have a relatively low nutrient density and are linked with increased risk of infection and health complications

3). Switch up cooking methods

Swap the deep-fried foods for healthier alternatives like baked and grilled foods. Similarly, with sugary goods like doughnuts, ice cream and cakes, try and swap them with things like fruit salads and yoghurts. Avoid cooking methods like deep frying instead swap it for methods like baking or grilling and even light frying. Of course, treat yourself, but in a healthy balance. For curries, it is useful to cook with a larger base of tomatoes and onions and less oil.

4). Continue gentle exercise

Muslims observing Ramadan will find it even more challenging to be active. However, engaging in physical activity has significant health benefits. Therefore, it is important to engage in regular exercise throughout Ramadan. 

Start off with light exercises, for 15-30 minutes of low intensity such as walking, jogging, pilates, yoga, or stretching. Maintaining this routine, the frequency and intensity can then be gradually increased. If you go to the gym, try lifting lower weights with higher repetitions for a less intense workout. Training early in the morning is best during Ramadan after your first meal of the day.

5). Plan ahead

To maintain productivity for work and revision as well as assessments it is important to plan your time ahead. 

Whether you’re studying, working from home, or going to the workplace, it is vital to plan what you’re going to be eating in Suhur and Iftari. What you eat has an impact on your energy levels and therefore, it’s important to plan your meals. Don’t skip Suhur to keep up with your sleep.

One of the common mistakes people make during Ramadan is skipping their lunch break. Make your lunch breaks productive. Even though you cannot eat or drink, avoid working through your lunch break and do things like going out for a walk and getting fresh air, take prayer breaks, or take a nap. 

Make a daily to-do list and write down things that you’re finding challenging and plan how to combat them efficiently.

Find out more about Dr Aayazullah Safi and his research expertise here. 

Check out Dr Ayazullah Safi's podcast here