The healthiest way to fast this Ramadan: An interview with Jeffrey Zorn
The benefits of fasting
With June 29 announced as the official first day of Ramadan, Buro 24/7 Middle East sat down with Daintree Foods founder Jeffrey Zorn to discover the best ways to ensure a healthy Holy Month this June/July...
What's the ideal food to break a fast with? When the fast is broken, what are the best things to eat?
Firstly, we need to stress the importance of water and hydration. After a long day fasting, most people can only think about filling up their plates with food. However, proper hydration is key when you first break fast as even a 2% drop in the body's water reserves can trigger symptoms of dehydration.
Once you have had your water, it's meal time. A well-balanced meal that covers your body's requirements form protein, carbohydrate and fat is required. An example of this would be; a fresh piece of steamed or grilled fish with a side of sweet potato and green vegetable avocado salad with a splash of olive oil, followed with some nuts for dessert (or over 85% dark chocolate if you have a sweet tooth).
When breaking your fast it is also important to take it slow and ease your body back into the process of digesting. Overeating and eating too quickly can cause symptoms such as nausea, stomach aches, as well as weight gain.
What are the foods to stay away from, the worst things to eat during a fast?
During Ramadan, it is extremely important that your diet consists of nutrient-rich foods that provide the necessary building blocks required for daily life. It is crucial not to deprive your body of essential nutrients and load it with refined, nutrient deficient food. Some top foods I would consciously avoid are;
– Avoid all together High Fructose Corn Syrup and sugary foods – (HFCS) should be eliminated completely! Don't be scared to read the labels of your food. Know what your putting into your body. HFCS is not the same as glucose it can and does have devastating effects on your health. It's manufactured in a factory and unlike glucose it is rapidly absorbed into your blood stream and then straight into the liver where it is directly converted into fat.
– Stay away from frying/deep frying and Industrial vegetable seed oils – such as; corn, cottonseed, soybean, safflower, sunflower, etc. Vegetable oils have been proven in extensive studies to dramatically increase instances of all inflammatory diseases.
– Get rid of white, processed, refined, beige food – Junk food, process snacks like candy, cookies, chips, popcorn, anything with added sugar etc. All these foods are completely void of nutrients, which is to say they do not benefit your health in any way.
– Try to avoid going crazy on carbs – go easy on the carbs! Hefty portions of potatoes, pasta or rice during Ramadan is something everyone should avoid. Carbohydrates are generally quite low in nutrients and converted into sugars, which you convert into body fat, particularly around the stomach area. So instead try to stick to carbohydrates with a lower glycemic index such as sweet potato or quinoa.
What are the dangers of fasting and how can they be avoided?
One of the biggest dangers faced during the holy month is dehydration, both in terms of your health and whether or not you are able to complete your daily fast.
Symptoms of dehydration include increased irritability, dry or sticky mouth, headache, constipation and decreased energy levels. Temperatures around the UAE are pushing 43 ºC so we can't stress enough the importance of adequate hydration. In the hours from sunrise to sunset we would recommend at least 3 liters of water. Before consuming any meal, fasters should drink at least 1 liter of water to make sure they are properly hydrated.
Coconut water is a tasty way to make sure you are hydrating the body adequately. The ingredients in coconut water are far more effective at hydrating the body than those of sports and energy drinks. During periods of heat exposure and fasting the body loses mineral-rich fluids. However, coconut water can serve as an excellent replacement. Coconut water is rich in potassium, sodium and low in carbohydrates and only .5 mg of natural sugar per glass, unlike your favorite sports drink that only contains half of the potassium content and five times the amount of processed sugar.
Do you have any special Ramadan meals or packages running at Daintree for the Holy Month?
Our menus are constantly evolving and during any given month we prepare over 80 unique recipes. For Ramadan, we will be making some traditional Ramadan dishes but of course they will all be gluten, dairy and sugar free. Fasters can look forward to their most healthy and productive Ramadan yet with Daintree Foods because not only do we focus on providing a variety of healthy, nutrient dense foods but we also cut out all the toxins which is so important when your food intake is limited.
What are the top 5 things that should be on our shopping list this Ramadan and why?
Protein – Protein is a building block of cells throughout the body. It is necessary for healthy skin, nails, muscles, cartilage and blood. Protein helps to build and repair bodily tissues, and it is used to produce hormones and enzymes. Protein will also leave you feeling fuller for longer, which can lead to healthier eating habits and possibly even weight loss. Each type of protein has its own benefits so make sure you get them all by having a variety of seafood, chicken, beef, lamb, nuts etc.
Coconut water – this is one of the best ways naturally replenish your electrolytes and stay hydrated during the holy month. Consider diluting with water as it does contain sugar. Try to avoid fruit juices as they also high in sugar and will spike blood sugar.
Sweet potato – it is important to get a complex carbohydrate into the system once fast has been broke. With a GI score of only 54, a serving of sweet potatoes will provide just the right amount of energy without sending your blood sugar levels sky high. They are also loaded with many important nutrients such as beta-carotene, Vitamin C and potassium.
Vegetables – make sure you try and get an array of colour on your plate: purple (beets), orange (carrots, sweet potato), green (spinach, kale, sprouts) and red (tomato, capsicum) etc. Eating all the colours of the rainbow makes sure that your body is getting a wide variety of antioxidants and phytochemicals which help to reduce the stress effects of fasting and potential nutrient deficiencies.
Chia Seeds – this super food is great for so many reasons. They have higher omega 3 levels than salmon and are an amazing source of fiber to boot. Add it to soups to help you feel fuller while controlling blood sugar levels.
After Ramadan, what is the best thing that fasters can do to keep up the benefits they achieved during their fasts?
Ramadan is a time to center one's self and create good habits to follow for the rest of the year. One of the major takeaways from Ramadan should include re-establishing control over your appetite. In this time, fasters should realize that eating itself is a habit and that we don't necessarily eat because our bodies need nourishment, sometimes we eat for pleasure and comfort or because its expected socially. This is the perfect time to become more conscious of the quality and quantity of foods we eat, what affects they have on our body and what drives our urge to eat.
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