Starting next Thursday and continuing for 29-30 days (depending on the moon sighting), this year’s Ramadan is set to become the longest in recent years. This is not only because of the long hours — with fasting expected to last nearly 14 hours a day — but also because of the scorching summer heat.
As if that isn’t enough, June 21 is officially the longest day of the year, here in the northern hemisphere. For the first time in several years, the summer solstice falls in Ramadan. That means 13 hours, 42 minutes and 46 seconds of daylight in the UAE and a corresponding period of fasting — at least we won’t have to fast for nearly 22 hours like fellow Muslims in Denmark and Norway, for instance.
However, to make things easy for you, we’ve turned to experts in the country for tips on how to survive this year’s gruelling fast and even make the best of it.
1 Get in the zone
“Ramadan is a month of devotion and self-discipline, which demands a nutrient-rich diet that maintains your health and endurance levels. This is a strenuous fast in the summer months, lasting over 13 hours on the longest days. For an average person, fasting like this would require mental, spiritual and physical preparation. And although the changes brought about by fasting can cause increased stress and moodiness, the body and the biological clock usually adjust to the worst of the discomforts within a period of 24-48 hours.”
Chandy George, Ayurvedic Lifestyle Consultant at Balance Wellbeing 360
2 A word on dates
“Ramadan can be a great time to break habits. Rather than fuelling your body with high-glucose foods, you can choose healthier foods such as whole grains and high-fibre foods — rich in nutrients and low in calories. At iftar, it is important to bring your fluids and blood sugar levels up slowly. It is customary to break the fast with dates, which give a spike in blood sugar and a burst of energy. Therefore ensure you drink plenty of water before the dates to rehydrate and fill up so that you don’t overindulge.”
Carol Quelch, Nutritionist, Bespoke Wellness at Emirates Golf Club
3 Start with a salad
“After ending the fast with dates and milk, comfort your stomach by eating a fresh salad like humeidh with green mango, and grilled or roasted dishes seasoned with spices such as fennel, cumin, ginger and cardamom to enhance your digestive ability.”
Rabah Samra, Executive Chef, Seven Sands
4 Eat slowly
“Eating your soup and salad slowly at iftar will help ease your digestive system into processing food and prevent you from overeating.
“Make sure your soup includes lots of vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, peas, green beans, squash and carrots. These fibre-rich vegetables add vitamins and minerals to your soup and are essential for a healthy digestive system.”
Cedric D’ Ambrosio, Head Chef, Sofitel Dubai Downtown
5 Grill, steam, poach
“It is best to avoid hot and spicy dishes as well as high-fat foods, as they increase thirst. So opt for dishes cooked in healthier ways such as grilling, baking, broiling, steaming and poaching.”
Nadine Tayara, Dietitian and Centre Manager, Right Bite
6 Carbs need a partner
“Pair carbohydrates with protein. Carbs are converted into sugars and can eventually take their toll on your body once you are done with iftar. Combine them with protein-rich foods like beans, meat or eggs to balance out an iftar or suhour meal and help with your workout efforts.”
Maryam Fattahi Salaam, Owner and CEO, Physique 57
7 Choose complex carbs
“During suhour, I focus my meal on slow-releasing carbohydrates to stabilise my blood sugar levels, such as sweet potatoes and steel-cut oats, and I also eat lots of nutritious fruits like berries and plenty of vegetables. I tend not to avoid starchy vegetables when fasting as I don’t want to deprive myself too much, but I opt for healthier options most of the time — the key is moderation.”
Asma Hilal Lootah, Founder and Owner, The Hundred Wellness Center
8 Shop for fresh produce
“One way to ensure you are well hydrated during the month is to include a balanced amount of fruits and vegetables in your diet. This needn’t be a chore, since healthy, tasty fruits can easily be combined into recipes, or eaten as a light pre-suhour or post-iftar snack.”
Ben Hughes, Regional Manager, Zespri Kiwifruit
9 Don’t skip suhour
“An essential meal, suhour helps in preventing tissue breakdown, while offering the strength needed to last the long Ramadan days. Your suhour should consist of foods that are rich in fibre and complex carbohydrates that slowly release nutrients throughout the day, while avoiding foods that may dehydrate your body. It is advisable to eat slowly for better digestion and drink enough water as well.”
Dalya Tabari, Director, Al Ittihad Drug Store