By Faruk Zorlu
ANKARA (AA) — Türkiye's Health Ministry on Thursday emphasized the importance of a healthy and balanced diet while fasting, which Muslims around the world will be doing through the holy month of Ramadan.
In a list of recommendations for proper nutrition during Ramadan, the General Directorate of Public Health said those who plan to forgo food and drink through the day should avoid skipping sahoor, the nighttime meal eaten before fasting starts at pre-dawn and continues until sunset.
At iftar, the evening fast-breaking meal, fattening dishes are discouraged, according to the guidelines, which urge people to have at least two main meals and snacks from during the non-fasting time.
For a healthy and balanced diet, these meals should include the five main food groups, namely fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy.
The ministry stressed the importance of having sahoor to sustain energy levels throughout the day while fasting. Skipping it or just drinking water may cause blood sugar to drop earlier while fasting, it said, while eating in that way for a full month could also pose health risks.
Also, consuming heavy meals containing excessively oily or salty foods or pastries increases the rate of its nutrients being converted into fat, resulting in weight gain, since a person's metabolism slows down at night, it noted.
A light breakfast consisting of such foods and drinks as milk, yogurt, cheese, eggs, whole grain bread, raw vegetables, and fruits, or of soup, olive oil dishes, yogurt, and salad are preferable for sahoor.
For iftar, after breaking the fast with water, olives, or dates, the recommendations suggest starting the meal with soup and salad.
This can be followed by vegetables with or without olive oil, and fatty but light meat dishes, salads, a couple slices of bread, or a small serving of rice or pasta.
Between iftar and sahoor, fresh or dried fruits, nuts, milk, or yogurt, can be consumed, along with the occasional milk-based desserts in small portions.
Besides staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water during Ramadan, the ministry recommended consuming lots freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juices, mineral water, or ayran, a traditional salty yogurt drink.
Eating in small portions at frequent intervals is better after iftar, it said, adding that this could help prevent overeating, which can lead to discomfort and indigestion.
It also recommended healthier methods of food preparation, such as grilling, boiling, baking, steaming, and staying away from roasted, fried, and smoked dishes.
Meals should be chewed slowly and thoroughly rather than being eaten hastily. It is important to drink plenty of water and other hydrating fluids during the non-fasting hours to prevent dehydration during the day.
Also, it suggested consuming vegetables like carrots, broccoli, zucchinis, cabbage, parsley, along with fruits including oranges, tangerines and apples, which are rich in antioxidant vitamins such as A and C, which strengthen the immune system.
Leafy green vegetables, legumes, and oilseeds such as hazelnuts and walnuts are also rich in vitamin E, which is also good at strengthening the immune system.
Regular short-distance walks for a couple of hours are suggested after iftar also helps digestion, it noted.