Healthy eating tips during ramazan amidst Covid-19

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Ahead of the holy month of Ramadan, International SOS is raising health awareness among organisations around the world

During Ramadan, Muslims observing fast refrain from eating, drinking and smoking from dawn to dusk each day.

World’s leading medical and security assistance provider, International SOS advises organisations on healthy fasting and workplace routines, as well as important precautions for Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) during Ramadan.

Ahead of the holy month of Ramadan, International SOS is raising health awareness among organisations around the world. This year, Ramadan has started on 24th April and will end around mid of May, depending on the Islamic lunar calendar. Taking into account the longer daylight hours and warmer weather, medical experts at International SOS have collated essential health tips for fasting employees. 

During Ramadan, Muslims observing fast refrain from eating, drinking and smoking from dawn to dusk each day. The main evening meal for breaking the fast is known as Iftar, and many Muslims also have a second meal known as ‘Suhoor’, which must end before ‘Imsak’ time at dawn. Daylight hours during Ramadan this year will average around 16 hours in London, 13 hours in Dubai and 12 hours in Kuala Lumpur.  

Dr.Nazar Allatifi, Coordinating Doctor at International SOS said, “It should be safe for healthy people to fast during Ramadan provided they follow guidelines on physical distancing and hand hygiene to help prevent infection. Even if the practices are performed differently this year, it is important to reassure believers by explaining that they can still reflect, pray, be generous and help others - while keeping a healthy distance”.

International SOS urges people to avoid gatherings and respect the rule of social distancing of at least 2 meters (6 feet). Asymptomatic patients who feel healthy and fit should be able to fast in Ramadan. Again, they must be self-aware should they develop any symptoms or change in condition they must be assessed by a doctor. 

It is particularly important to identify persons at risk of severe form of Covid-19, such as the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions (eg, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease or cancer), to respect the social distancing and respect hand and general hygiene measures. However, people who are affected by COVID-19 may wish to consider the religious license to break their fast in consultation with their doctor.”

International SOS’ top five tips for employees observing the fast this Ramadan are:

Do not skimp on rest and sleep: Ramadan is a time of increased prayer. Though it may be tempting to stay up late for Suhour and only sleep after Imsak, you should still aim to get at least 8 hours of sleep during every 24-hour period, even if this is accumulated over several separate periods of rest. A well-rested body and mind will make it easier for you to concentrate at work and have more energy throughout the day.

Stagger your hydration: Thirst can be one of the most challenging symptoms of fasting, leading us to chug plenty of water and liquids as soon as we break our fast and then just before Imsak. However, rehydration should be a cumulative process. The best way to rehydrate fasting bodies and maintain this hydration for longer is to pace your liquid intake by consuming at least 2 litres of water - one or two glasses at a time - between Iftar and Imsak. It also helps to cut down on caffeinated drinks at night, and to top up your liquid intake with soups, fruits and vegetables rich in water, such as cucumbers and watermelon.

Beware excess salt and sugar: After a full day of fasting, avoid satisfying cravings by filling up on sweets and sugary beverages such as soda and energy drinks, which lead disturbed body metabolism. Instead, opt for the natural sugars found in fruits, and consume complex carbohydrates such as rice, bread and wholegrains alongside vegetables, which will keep you fuller for longer. As for salt intake, it is worth keeping in mind that having moderately savoury foods with water can help you retain some hydration for longer. However, consuming too much salt will have an adverse effect and contribute to thirst and dehydration during the day and destabilized a controlled blood pressure in hypertensive patients, so go easy on salty snacks such as popcorn and salted nuts at night.

Do more in the morning: Where possible, schedule more difficult tasks requiring greater concentration or physical effort in the morning, when you will have more energy. International SOS encourages businesses each year to schedule important meetings during the first half of the day, when fasting employees will have more energy and will be better able to retain new information.

Don’t stop exercising: Though you may feel more tired and understandably less active while fasting, skipping regular exercise for a full month is unhealthy, particularly as most of your food intake will be consumed at night. Moderate exercise is advisable and will also help you feel less sluggish. Just remember to wait a couple of hours after Iftar before doing an activity. 

In addition, individuals suffering from chronic illnesses should consult their doctors on how to manage regular medication and to ensure it is safe for them to fast.

International SOS also reminds its members and employees to be mindful of the following guidelines to have a safe Ramadan amidst Coronavirus outbreak:

  1. Follow the general hygiene measures strictly.
  2. Wash your hands frequently, regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.
  3. Wash all the fruits and vegetables before consumption.
  4. Maintain social distancing at least 2 meters (6 feet), and avoid gatherings with friends and relatives during Breaking Fast (Futoor) Suhoor times and stay at home.
  5. Stay informed and followadvice given by your healthcare provider and health authorities.