Ramadan forms an important part of the Muslim calendar. This is when Muslims concentrate on their duties to Allah (SWT) and their faith. Throughout Ramadan, people fast during daylight hours. When the sun goes down, eating and drinking is allowed.
Observing Ramadan provides spiritual rewards as well as health benefits.
Dr Michael Mosley, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller The Fast Diet, states: “There is nothing else you can do to your body that is as powerful as fasting.”
Eating fewer meals, through intermittent fasting, helps the body shed fat. Research studies have shown that people observing the Ramadan fast possessed lower levels of cholesterol; a leading cause of heart diseases. Through fasting, the body’s main energy source, glycogen, is turned off. Glycogen is usually created through the consumption of carbs and without it the body must turn to fat to burn energy instead. This helps aid weight loss, which in turn results in lower cholesterol and reduced blood pressure.
Mr. Zohair Al Arabi, a Clinical Dietitian at the Hamad Medical Corporation, states: “Since the body is unable to get its energy from food during fasting, it dips into glucose that is stored in the liver and muscles. This begins around eight hours after the last meal is consumed. When the stored glucose has been used up, the body then begins to burn fat as a source of energy, which can result in weight loss as well as in preserving muscles and reducing cholesterol levels.”
It is vital to avoid overindulging once the fast is over, and it is important to eat a good amount of food for suhoor and iftar as well as having plenty of water to stay hydrated throughout the day.
Strengthening the immune system
Research has shown that just three days of fasting can result in a positive impact on the immune system. It creates an influx of new white blood cells, thus strengthening the immune system.
Helping us learn healthy habits
Fasting helps re-educate the body towards a more healthy diet. Eating lots of sugary foods is not healthy. Observing the Ramadan fast enables you to stop these bad habits by choosing healthy foods capable of being converted slowly into glucose like grains and other high fibre foods. It is also an opportunity to cut out unhealthy practices like smoking.
Spiritual and mental benefits
“Verily in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest” (Quran: 13:28)
Quite apart from the health benefits gained through the Ramadan fast, there are spiritual and mental benefits to be gained. Hearts and minds can obtain peace by reciting the Quran, and its memorisation helps improve overall memory skills. Being mindful, focusing on good actions, helping others and worshipping is the ideal way to develop a healthy mindset. By abstaining from food during the day, it gives Muslims an opportunity to refocus their aims and actions on more spiritual goals, becoming closer to Allah (SWT).