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EDITOR IN CHIEF- ABDULLAH BIN SALIM AL SHUEILI

Health benefits of fasting

Twenty days into Ramadhan and one more day make it 21 days. Good deeds of Ramdhan becomes a habit. If you have not set a goal yet, it is still never too late.


Many would have seen the difference on the weighing scale. The holy month of Ramadhan is known for the detoxification process due to the fast from Fajr prayer till sunset until Maghrib.


Breaking the fast is to rehydrate and regain the energy from the food and drinks consumed.


Why is it important to maintain a slow pace of eating while breaking the fast? That is a question we do not think about much as we sit for Iftar.


After being on an empty stomach for so many hours, it is helpful to start eating slowly.


“We should eat slowly while breaking the fast and ensure that we start with fluid, low-fat fluid rich food. I advise you to take fruits and vegetables instead of sweets and food that contain sugar and fat,” said Dr Mariam al Waili, Senior Consultant in Nutritional Medicine, Director of Supportive Services, Ministry of Health.


Although deep-fried food items, creamy sweets are an attraction, they could be the cause of weight gain during Ramadhan.


“Because of the change in food timings and lack of fluid during the day, some people might suffer from constipation. So when they eat, they are supposed to eat high fibre food such as whole grain, bran, high fibre cereals, fruits, lentils, vegetables, dry fruits and nuts alongside plenty of fluid might help in constipation as well. They must also do some physical activity such as going for a walk after Taraweeh, that is two hours after eating,” Dr Mariam explained.


She added that the Covid-19 pandemic has made Ramadhan very important this year because the virus has affected millions of people worldwide and killed thousands, unfortunately, especially people with immune deficiency.


“So indeed we should maintain good hygiene and support the immune system along with moderate exercise. Training and proper nutrition are the most important factors to support immune functioning. So consuming high-calorie food leads to obesity, causing chronic inflammatory diseases, which is known as low-grade inflammation. Many human and animal studies have shown that diets, especially that mimic fasting, improve many health indicators both in healthy people and people with chronic diseases,” noted Dr Mariam.


According to Dr Mariam, the benefits of fasting such as reduction in meal frequency, diets with meal frequencies such as meals every other day fasting or calorie restriction and others have shown to increase life span and improve insulin resistance and continuous energy restriction amongst obese and non-diabetic subjects. Therefore it might have an important role in protecting against obesity-related cancer.


“There is also a decrease in resting heart rate, insulin, circulating level of glucose, which is favourable in bringing down risks of cardiovascular diseases. It also reduces fat mass, cholesterol and also there is a reduction in blood pressure. This is why fasting is highly recommended because it reduces many types of inflammation.


But if people are sick and unable to fast, it is better to eat a well-nourished diet containing vitamin C, protein and take food that is rich in vitamin D and Zinc to boost the immune system. Some people who have recovered from Covid-19 might still feel weak to perform fast.


Once they have built up their strength, they can continue to fast,” she advised.


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