It is Ramadan month! It is a special time of the year that has been awaited by Muslims around the world. It is a month of fasting, prayer, and spiritual reflection. During this month, Muslims abstain from food, drink, smoking, and coitus (a fancy word for boom boom time) from dawn until dusk.

As fasting limits food consumption which leads to a calorie deficit, most people take this opportunity to lose weight besides using this time to seek a higher level of closeness with Allah. But do you know that fasting has greater benefits than just losing weight?

We spoke to Salsabila Rabbani binti Aznan, a dietitian at Studio Dietitian Malaysia about the various benefits of fasting and how you should fast the right way during this holy month. The studio is a virtual dietitian centre and offers advice on nutrition and health without promoting any products on supplements.

Weight loss

Salsabila shared, “One of the most significant health benefits of Ramadan is weight loss. When you fast, your body uses stored fat for energy when glucose is unavailable, which can help you lose weight.” One meta-analysis study in 2014 shows that individuals who fasted during Ramadan can lose an average of 1.24 kg at the end of the month.

However, be mindful that you can also gain weight during Ramadan if you indulge in high-calorie food for suhoor (pre-dawn meal) and iftar (meal to break fast). So, make sure not to indulge in too many roti johns at the Bazar Ramadan, guys!

Anti-inflammatory effects

Fasting during Ramadan has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects. One study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that fasting during Ramadan led to reductions in markers of inflammation in the blood––which are used to diagnose conditions that cause inflammation––especially waist circumference, blood pressure, blood glucose, and cholesterol. “For people with type 2 diabetes or those at risk of developing the condition, fasting helps to improve insulin sensitivity and helps to regulate blood sugar levels,” said Salsabilla.

Effects on your mental health

Fasting during Ramadhan also has been proven effective to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression levels in healthy participants. “Fasting helps to increase the serotonin hormone that is depleted when depression and anxiety hit up. However, fasting may not be recommended for individuals with a high risk of medical conditions or those who have pre-existing medical conditions”.

Get the best out of Ramadan for your health

To get the best health benefits during Ramadan, proper healthy eating is a must. Improper eating habits may cause dehydration, fatigue, and hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar levels) in people with diabetes. Here are some tricks and tips that Salsabila shared on how to get adequate nutrition during Ramadan to fight hunger and thirst.

1. Eat a balanced meal during suhoor (pre-dawn meals)

Ensure you have a balanced meal with complex carbohydrates, protein, healthy fat, and vegetables. Protein and fibres from vegetables help to slow down the release of energy and keep you fuller. It is okay to have rice in the morning as long it is in well-balanced portions.

One to two cups of white rice with a serving of chicken or fish, and one to two scoops of vegetables is an excellent meal to have. It is best to delay suhoor as much as you can before dawn to ensure your body stays energised throughout the day.

2. Avoid caffeine during suhoor

Thirst is one of the most challenging things to cope with during Ramadan. Caffeinated drinks like coffee and tea have a diuretic effect which causes fluid loss from the body and causes thirst. Make sure to drink at least two glasses of water during suhoor.

3. Break your fast with dates

Breaking fast with dates is part of Prophet Muhammad's teaching where he quoted “When one of you breaks his fast, let him break it with dates for they are blessed. If they are not found, let him break it from water for it is pure” (Sunan al-Tirmidhī 695).

Dates are fruits that are high in sugar which helps to boost energy after fasting. Three small dates are packed with minerals like potassium and magnesium and help to maintain fluids and electrolytes in the body.

4. Eat slowly during Iftar

Do you know that it takes 20 minutes for our brain to signal that we are full? When breaking fast, you are in a state of hunger so you may eat quickly too. Savour small bites and chew thoroughly so that your body can recognise when you are full. One of the best practices is to have a ‘mini iftar’ first with dates and water, perform Maghrib prayers, and then only have your main proper iftar meal. These practices will help to avoid bloating and indigestion after iftar.

5. Stay hydrated throughout the day

Ensure to get at least eight glasses of water in a day to avoid dehydration and constipation. You can have two glasses during suhoor, two glasses during iftar, two glasses during tarawih prayers and two glasses before sleeping. Salsabila said, “Staying active is important during Ramadan but I recommend light to medium exercises before iftar to avoid severe dehydration.”

6. Healthy snacks for iftar or moreh

One of the customs for Ramadan in Malaysia is to have ‘moreh’. Mosques usually serve some snacks like desserts. Ensure to limit your desserts to one to two pieces or one small bowl. It is best to have healthy snacks like fruits, milk, nuts, and yoghurt for iftar or moreh.

Overall, Ramadan is a time for spiritual and physical renewal. While fasting can be challenging, it is important to instil good eating habits so that you can enjoy greater health benefits beyond the fasting month. Use this time of Ramadan to mould yourself to become more self-disciplined, especially with your eating habits.

These are some helpful tips but if you have a medical condition, make sure you seek nutrition guidelines from your dietitian to get the best advice tailored to your condition at any hospital or Studio Dietitian My.

We wish all Muslims a blessed month of Ramadan!

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Image credit: @syahredzan, VD Photography on Unsplash

  1. Faris 'AE, Jahrami HA, Alsibai J, Obaideen AA. Impact of Ramadan diurnal intermittent fasting on the metabolic syndrome components in healthy, non-athletic Muslim people aged over 15 years: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Nutr. 2020 Jan 14;123(1):1-22. doi: 10.1017/S000711451900254X. PMID: 31581955.
  1. Sadeghirad B, Motaghipisheh S, Kolahdooz F, Zahedi MJ, Haghdoost AA. Islamic fasting and weight loss: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Public Health Nutr. 2014 Feb;17(2):396-406. doi: 10.1017/S1368980012005046. Epub 2012 Nov 27. PMID: 23182306.