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Nutritionist Phaidon Toruan says that fasting is good for health.
“A body needs time out from eating, it needs rest. Fasting also helps the body detoxify.”
Even when fasting, the body needs six nutrients — carbohydrates, fat, protein, water, vitamins and minerals — from food in order to conduct routine activities, he added.
All of the needed nutrients can be absorbed from food such as brown rice (which has more fiber than white rice), corn, cassava,
pasta, wheat, steamed meat or fish, egg whites, boiled vegetables and fruit.
“What you need to do is watch what you eat. Basically, you only shift your eating schedule during fasting: sahur [predawn meal] for breakfast, breaking of the fast as lunch and then dinner as usual.”
Amanda, 27, from Tangerang said she had devised her own diet that combined certain foods over the past few months and would continue it during Ramadhan.
“I’ve become accustomed to eating white rice with steamed vegetables, side dishes such as fried tofu and fruit instead of meat for meals. It is how I combine foods.
“As I eat more fruit for breakfast, I’ll do the same for sahur,” she told The Jakarta Post.
Amanda, who gave up carbonated beverages and coffee during high school, said she had begun to monitor her diet after reading health articles on the Internet.
“After eating fruit for breakfast and more vegetables for meals, I now feel the difference. I have become healthier,” said the mother of one, who eats home cooked meals for lunch.
Amanda said that before changing her diet, she often had a sore throat. “In the six months since starting the diet, I’ve never been sick. I feel a lot more fit.”
Slightly different from Amanda, Dian, 27, said that she chose to go on what is referred to as the “hibernation diet”, which incorporates honey in the diet to keep fit.
“I usually drink distilled lemon and honey mixed in a glass of water when I wake up, before breakfast. I also I eat a spoonful of honey before going to bed. It’s an effective way to detox,” she said. “During Ramadhan, I will do the same.”
Dian said that she had not reduced her food portions. “I will eat anything halal, but when it comes to rice, I prefer brown rice.”
Dodo Harahap, 25, said he had started eating more protein.
“I will have a plate of rice with unsalted side dishes and vegetable soup, plus complex carbohydrate foods like corn or cassava and a glass of tomato juice for sahur.
“A glass of sweet hot tea, dates or raisins to break the fast, while for dinner, I’ll have anything served at home, but a smaller portion as I will have a complete meal for sahur,” he added.
Phaidon suggested that those who fast should eat complex carbohydrate foods, which are high in fiber, during Ramadhan as the body needed the energy.
“If you don’t get enough fiber, your body crashes. When you eat porridge for sahur, for example, your blood sugar level immediately increases. But at around 9 a.m., it will level out. This condition can cause moodiness,” he added.
Phaidon also said that those fasting should avoid eating fried food, like fried chicken, in order to avoid drowsiness. “Fried food has the ability to reduce oxygen in the body by up to 20 percent, which can cause drowsiness.”
A healthy diet for Ramadhan
• Consume fruit during both the pre-dawn meal (sahur) and when breaking the fast. This will give you enough supplies of vitamins and minerals for your body’s metabolism. The fruit could be a banana, tomato or a slice of papaya before having the main meal. You are also suggested to drink the juice of at least two fruits in different colors.
• Choose carbohydrate complex food as your main dish to stabilize sugar blood levels and maintain the body’s detoxification. Choose brown rice instead of white; spaghetti instead of instant noodles; wheat bread instead of white bread; yam or cassava instead of cake; mung bean porridge or red bean soup instead of rice porridge with chicken.
• Choose food that contains pure protein and avoid frying it – such as fish, chicken and white egg. The body needs fat, but too much fat can cause obesity.
• Coconut water, honeydew and watermelon juice are the best beverages to break the fast. These drinks contain a lot of natural electrolytes, which are needed by the body after fasting throughout the day.
— JP/Niken Prathivi