What Are the Health Benefits of Ramadan?

Ramadan is the "fasting month" in the Islamic calendar. It is technically the ninth month in the calendar, although the exact date moves from one year to the next. Ramadan is a blessed month, when people concentrate on their commitments to God and their faiths. During Ramadan, people fast only during daytime hours. As soon as the sun goes down, they're allowed to eat and drink again. Besides the spiritual rewards, Ramadan also has some health benefits.

A bowl of dates beside Ramadan lantern. (Image: LiliGraphie/iStock/Getty Images)

Weight Loss

Although Ramadan won't necessarily cause weight loss, a September,2008 article "The Washington Post" indicates that Tehran diet doctors are now are using Ramadan to help overweight people achieve their goals. Rather than eating a feast and gorging on sweets and fatty foods as soon as the sun goes down and the fast ends, people following Ramandan can just eat a healthy evening meal consisting of soup, fresh bread, dates and goat cheese. These are traditional foods eaten in Ramadan anyway, but without the added sugars and sauces, they can be slimming.

Low Blood Sugar

When you spend long hours without eating, your blood sugar goes down. According to Dr. Razeen Mahroof in an August, 2010 article for "Arab News," your body uses up stored glucose for energy when you're fasting. People with diabetes should talk to their doctors before fasting for long periods of time, but those with high blood sugar -- but no diabetes -- will benefit from the process.

Learning Healthy Habits

If you're used to eating lots of sugary foods in your day-to-day life, Ramadan could also be a good time to break the habit. As the sun goes down, you can choose to feed your body foods that are converted into glucose slowly -- such as whole grains and other high-fiber foods -- rather than going for sweets again. This change has a double benefit. The most obvious one is that you will be eating healthier foods that are richer in nutrients and lower in calories. The other benefit is that you will be less hungry during the day, when you're fasting. Foods that take time to convert into glucose will keep you energized for more hours and will help control cravings and hunger during the day.

Additional Benefits

Depending on what your "normal" diet is like, Ramadan could be a time to cut down on fats, which can help lower your cholesterol. For that to work, you will have to skip eating high-fat meals in the evening and instead go for healthier lean proteins and non-fried dishes. Because you're fasting for so many hours, you will also be eating less sodium, which could help you reduce your blood pressure.

A review in the 2010 issue of "Nutrition Journal" states that although the general concensus is that fasting during Ramadan does not have negative health consequences, there does seem to be a greater intake of trans fats during night meals. If you celebrate Ramadan, choose leaner cuts of meat.

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