A Path to Better Health

August 28th, 2009 healthwiki Health Resources 0

Like Islam, many of the world’s religions and spiritual practices include element of fasting as a way to boost their spiritual development. Alongside with the spiritual significance, fasting has certain physical, psychological and social benefits. By maintaining proper norms of Ramadan, we can get these benefits and move a significant step towards better health.

Increasingly, scientists are starting to recognise the benefits of fasting that reduces energy intake. Research on animals shows a restricted-calorie diet increases life span. There seem to be two mechanisms by which it amplifies life span.

First, it reduces free radical production, or the production of highly toxic forms of oxygen that damages cell and the second is that calorie restriction increases the resistance of cells to stress. Both of these are important in protecting against a number of different diseases that have a negative impact on life span. It helps in reducing cholesterol levels and improves blood glucose levels and provides protection of certain emerging diseases like cardiovascular problems, diabetes, cancer etc.

Research by Zafar Nomani, Professor Emeritus of Human Nutrition and Foods, West Virginia University has shown that the basal metabolism of fasting individuals slows down during Ramadan. A person can stay healthy and active during Ramadan consuming a diet that is less than that of the normal intake but balanced in nutrients.

Some studies suggest that many people are consuming too many calories that are not nutritious and not consuming enough of the right kinds of calories. Cutting calories excessively and not paying attention to the quality of food may result in severe health consequences. This practice can affect our immune system, concentration and ability to focus.

Some people overeat during Ramadan and especially bulge their bellies with fried and fatty food. Studies indicate that health problems can emerge as a result of eating too much or eating a diet that is not balanced. The body has regulatory mechanisms that activate during fasting and we do not need to overeat to get the essential nutrients.

Changing the food habit is particularly important in Ramadan to get health benefits. Slow-digesting foods that contain grains and seeds like wheat, oats, beans, lentils and unpolished rice. These foods can last for up to eight hours, making them more suitable for fasting.

Dates and juices are good sources of sugars that can bring low blood glucose level to normal level rapidly. Indeed, breaking the fast with several dates is considered “sunnah” in Islam that was practiced by the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

Muslims are advised to refrain from not only food and water, but also from other bad habits like smoking, foul talk and harm to others. The restrictions — both caloric and behavioral — can be good for us holistically for sustaining good practice in time after Ramadan.