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What Fasting Really Does to Your Body

Ramadan tips to get the most benefits out of fasting! 

Fasting during Ramadan can have many benefits to your health if done correctly. There are many changes that your body goes through during the month of Ramadan so it is crucial that you take care of what you eat for you to feel the beneficial aspect of fasting in regards to your health. Not taking care of your diet during the hours in which you can eat can have many detrimental effects. 

Registered nutritionist for Action on Sugar, a charity focused on the health effects of high sugar diets, Kawther Hashem, gives a breakdown on what fasting does to your body and how to ensure your health is taken care of effectively. Alongside her role with Action on Sugar, Kawther is also a Researcher at Queen Mary University of London. 

Images from: @nutirition_by_kawther

“The body enters into a fasting state eight hours or so after the last meal, when the gut finishes absorbing nutrients from the food,” explains Kawther. “In the normal state, body glucose, which is stored in the liver and muscles, is the body's main source of energy.” While fasting, glucose becomes the first source of energy. Once this runs out, fat becomes the next source of energy to be used which many use as an opportunity to lose weight. 

“With a prolonged fast of many days or weeks, the body starts using protein and breaking down protein for energy. This is the technical description of what's commonly known as "starvation". You are unlikely to reach the starvation stage during Ramadan, because the fast is broken daily.” Therefore, fasting cannot be considered as starving yourself as you can still eat daily and your energy can be replaced with the pre-dawn and iftar meals which prevents the breakdown of muscle. 

Furthermore, there is emerging evidence that there are many benefits on the human body that comes from fasting. “The use of fat for energy preserves the muscles and eventually reduces your cholesterol level. In addition, weight loss results in better control of diabetes and reduces blood pressure,” explains Kawther. 

Not only is this beneficial to your physical health, but also to your mental health and wellbeing the longer it gets into the Ramadan month. “After a few days of the fast, higher levels of endorphins appear in the blood, making you more alert and giving an overall feeling of general mental wellbeing.” 

Yet, to generate the maximum benefits, ensure that you are giving your body a balance food and fluid intake between fast. “Try to make sure that the foods you eat are based on complex carbohydrates and high fibre foods. These foods will help to release energy slowly during the long hours of fasting and hopefully make you feel fuller for longer.” Also, if you experience dizziness or fatigue, this is likely to be due to dehydration so ensure to drink plenty of water.  

Include wheat, oats, basmati rice and lentils in your diet as your complex carbohydrates. Fibre-rich foods are also digested slowly and include bran, cereals, whole wheat, grains and seeds, potatoes with the skin on, vegetables such as green beans, and almost all fruit, including apricots, prunes and figs.

Below are a few examples Kawther suggests of what you should eat for Suhoor:

• Oats, porridge or muesli – choose plain and unsweetened varieties

• Breads such as pitta bread, naan or toast – choose wholegrain options as these provide more fibre.

• Breakfast cereals – choose high fibre varieties and those that are lower in salt and sugar. Most breakfast cereals are fortified with vitamins and minerals providing you with extra nutrients.

• Yoghurt or milk – choose low fat versions e.g. semi skimmed

• Eggs - poached, scrambled or soft-boiled with soldiers, eggs are packed with protein that will help stave off hunger.

• Fruit- try adding fresh fruit or dried foods such as dates or figs to your breakfast cereal.

For more information on health and nutrition related topics, you can come and meet Kawther at the Haute Elan Iftar dinner in Chelsea on Friday the 9th of June. Click here to get your tickets! 

Follow Kawther for more information

Instagram: @nutrition_by_kawther

Twitter: @KawtherH 

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