Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, is a time for prayer, reflection, and fasting between dawn and sunset. It can and often does bring one closer to God. But if you happen to live in a city that gets hot, Ramadan can be rough.
If you observe Ramadan, you know you’re halfway through the holy month — and you may be looking for some creative new ways to stay hydrated and full throughout the day. So, although I do not observe Ramadan, I was intrigued by this problem and decided to reach out to my Egyptian family — and our family doctor, Dr. Ashraf Azeem — to find out how they stay hydrated and, to quote my cousin Karim, avoid becoming “truly hangry” while fasting in a hot climate.
What to eat at Suhoor (the meal in the morning before fasting begins) and at Iftar (the meal after sunset)
Not only is yogurt delicious, it’s also hydrating. Almost 90% of plain yogurt is water, which will keep you nice and hydrated throughout the day. Another added benefit: Plain yogurt promotes the growth of healthy bacteria in your stomach, which helps you feel less bloated. Do note that this trick does not work with Greek yogurt, as Greek yogurt is boiled or strained to give it its texture, thus removing much of the water.
It’s no surprise that dates are used in many Middle Eastern recipes — they have tons of health benefits! Dates are not only rich in protein and vitamins, they also contain natural sugars that will give you some much-needed energy when the heat of the day threatens to drain you.
Water (lots of it!)
This one seems rather obvious, but don’t forget to drink as much water as possible! Dr. Ashraf Azeem recommends drinking two glasses of water during the sunset meal, and continuing to drink a glass of water every hour until bedtime. The total amount of liquid a fasting person should drink is 3/4 of a gallon.
One third of your meal should consist of fruits and veggies
We already know that we need to eat lots of fruits and veggies, but Dr. Azeem points out that you need them even more when you are fasting. Green, leafy vegetables provide you with minerals, while fruits will provide you with much-needed vitamins (as will veggies). Plus, they’re full of water, which will keep you feeling less like a prune and more like a peach.
What not to eat
Salty and spicy foods
Albeit delicious, salty and spicy foods do make you thirsty. This is for two reasons: 1) Salty foods actually pull water from your body’s cells, which then triggers thirst. 2) Spicy foods usually have chili peppers, which can cause gastrointestinal irritation if eaten on an empty stomach — the worst-case scenario when you’re fasting for the rest of the day.
Minimize your coffee, tea, and sugary drinks
We all love and need caffeine, but in order to stay healthy, you will have to cut down during Ramadan. Sugary drinks raise your blood sugar, which can lead to dehydration, headaches, and more, and caffeine may have a diuretic affect, which can cause you to feel thirsty and miserable.
How to avoid becoming dehydrated
If you live in a hot climate, there are a few rules of thumb you can follow to prevent becoming dehydrated. In addition to eating the right foods, Dr. Azeem recommends avoiding excessive manual work during the hottest hours of the day, as well as staying out of the sun. Remember hot sun + lack of water = dehydration. And don’t forget that if you get sick, do take a day off from fasting. You can always make it up later, but be sure to stay healthy.
If you have more questions on staying healthy during Ramadan, please call Dr. Ashraf Azeem of Step-by-Step Pediatrics at (303) 338-5437.