How fasting during Ramadan can affect your health
The month of Ramadan is the ninth and holiest month of the Muslim year. Muslims fast, avoiding food and drink from sunrise until sunset, as a way to practice spiritual strength and empathize with the poor.
Aside from spiritual benefits, fasting during Ramadan can also have a positive impact on one’s health. Alisa Oler, a registered dietitian at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago, says that fasting during Ramadan has the potential to help kick-start healthy eating habits and practices.
Oler says some benefits of fasting during Ramadan include:
- The chance to cut back on calories. Fasting during Ramadan can also help those looking to lose weight. Since those practicing refuel only in the evening hours, the amount of food consumed could potentially decrease, which helps many people cut back on calories. Eating less can be a starting point for those wanting to lose weight, says Oler.
- An opportunity to start a good habit. The time to eat is very limited during Ramadan. Those who are fasting should focus on forming good eating habits, such as methods to avoid giving in to cravings and snacking when not hungry. Adherence to the fast removes the opportunity for mindless or unnecessary snacking, says Oler.
- Limiting over-eating. During a long fast, a person’s ability to consume a lot of food decreases as the weeks go on. “After a day of fasting, a person tends to feel full on less. Becoming mindful of satiety may lead to less overeating,” Oler says.
- An increased focus on healthy eating. A focus on spiritual strength during Ramadan also correlates with a focus on a healthy body. In order to keep a body healthy and capable of the long fasting days, healthy eating is advised. Healthy eating includes fruits, vegetables, proteins and fluids, says Oler. She also advises that those who are fasting stay away from salty, processed foods and focus on nutrient-dense foods.
Fasting during Ramadan can lead to many physical and lifestyle benefits when done moderately and safely, and when such modifications are structured into a consistent lifestyle. It is also recommended that those who observe Ramadan stay hydrated and eat healthy foods to help their body through the process.
Of course, there may also be risks involved with any extended fast, so be sure to speak with your physician if you have a history of certain conditions or any concerns about fasting for a prolonged period of time.
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.