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How fasting can be healthy

August 5, 2012

Seven surprising health benefits of Ramadan.

FEATURE

Although millions around the world have successfully observed the spiritual cleansing of Ramadan for more than a thousand years, some people fear that fasting over such a long period time will have detrimental effects on their health. If you’re one of those worriers, then check out these seven surprising health benefits you’ll enjoy during and after Ramadan.

Dates

Although three dates are eaten at the start of Iftar every day during Ramadan for spiritual reasons, they also come with the added bonus of multiple health benefits. One of the most important aspects of fasting is getting the right amount of energy, and considering an average serving of dates contains 31 grams of carbohydrates, this is one of the perfect foods to give you a boost. Dates are also a great way of getting some much-needed fibre, which will aid and improve digestion throughout Ramadan. Add to that their high levels of potassium, magnesium and B vitamins, and it quickly becomes apparent that dates are one of the healthiest fruits out there.

Boost your brain

No doubt you’ll be aware of the positive effects fasting can have on your mental wellbeing and spiritual focus, but the brain-boosting powers of Ramadan are even more significant than you might think. A study carried out by scientists in the USA found that the mental focus achieved during Ramadan increases the level of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which causes the body to produce more brain cells, thus improving brain function. Likewise, a distinct reduction in the amount of the hormone cortisol, produced by the adrenal gland, means that stress levels are greatly reduced both during and after Ramadan.

Ditch bad habits

Because you will be fasting during the day, Ramadan is the perfect time to ditch your bad habits for good. Vices such as smoking and sugary foods should not be indulged during Ramadan, and as you abstain from them your body will gradually acclimatise to their absence, until your addiction is kicked for good. It’s also much easier to quit habits when you do so in a group, which should be easy to find during Ramadan. Fasting’s ability to help you cut out bad habits is so significant that the UK’s National Health Service recommends it as the ideal time to ditch smoking.

Lower cholesterol

We all know that weight loss is one of the possible physical outcomes of fasting during Ramadan, but there’s also a whole host of healthy changes going on behind the scenes. A team of cardiologists in the UAE found that people observing Ramadan enjoy a positive effect on their lipid profile, which means there is a reduction of cholesterol in the blood. Low cholesterol increases cardiovascular health, greatly reducing the risk of suffering from heart disease, a heart attack, or a stroke. What’s more, if you follow a healthy diet after Ramadan, this newly lowered cholesterol level should be easy to maintain.

Lasting appetite reduction

One of the main problems with extreme fad diets is that any weight lost is often quickly put back on, sometimes even with a little added extra. This isn’t the case with Ramadan. The reduction in food consumed throughout fasting causes your stomach to gradually shrink, meaning you’ll need to eat less food to feel full. If you want to get into the habit of healthy eating then Ramadan is a great time to start. When it’s finished your appetite will be lower than it was before, and you’ll be far less likely to overindulge with your eating.

Detoxify

As well as being great for spiritually cleansing yourself, Ramadan acts as a fantastic detox for your body. By not eating or drinking throughout the day your body will be offered the rare chance to detoxify your digestive system throughout the month. When your body starts eating into fat reserves to create energy, it will also burn away any harmful toxins that might be present in fat deposits. This body cleanse will leave a healthy blank slate behind, and is the perfect stepping stone to a consistently healthy lifestyle.

Absorb more nutrients

By not eating throughout the day during Ramadan you’ll find that your metabolism becomes more efficient, meaning the amount of nutrients you absorb from food improves. This is because of an increase in a hormone called adiponectin, which is produced by a combination of fasting and eating late at night, and allows your muscles to absorb more nutrients. This will lead to health benefits all around the body, as various areas are able to better absorb and make use of the nutrients they need to function.

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