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Fasting on the first nine days of Duhl Hijjah comes with immense rewards. The Prophet (saw) said: "There are no days on which righteous deeds are more beloved to Allah (SWT) than these [first] 10 days." [Bukhari] 

Of these 10 days, there is particular importance on fasting for the day of Arafat (9th Dhul Hijjah), which will atone for two years of sins. The Prophet (SAW) was asked about fasting on this day, and he said: “It expiates the sins of the preceding year and the coming year.” [Muslim]

To ensure we reap these rewards, we need to make sure we are staying healthy so that our fast is not difficult, and then we can focus on our good deeds and complete the long fasts successfully. At this time of year, the fasting day will be longer, and you will be hungrier. It is also warmer at this time of year, making the risk of dehydration even higher. This combination can lead to headaches, making the fast that much more difficult. Read on for our tips on healthy fasting to avoid bad physical health, ensuring you can focus more on pleasing Allah (SWT).

Avoid fried foods, salty foods, and sugar

It is a wonderful feeling when you have been fasting all day and can reward yourself with fried foods and sugary foods like cakes and pastries. While they make you feel good in the short run, they make fasting the next day more difficult.

Sugar makes you feel tired and sluggish, resulting in body aches, pains and headaches. This makes your food cravings worse and causes weight gain. Excessive salt can increase your thirst and make you dehydrated, leading to even more headaches. If you want to feel energised with no headaches during your fast, we advise you to avoid sugar and to cut down on salt, especially fried foods.

Eat nutritious meals

IFTAR MEAL (breaking your fast)

This is when you replenish energy levels, so you should eat a healthy, well-balanced meal. You should break your fast with dates and hydrating fruits, like watermelon or low-glycemic berries, then pause and complete your evening prayers.

The natural sugars will allow your body to register you have had food, and you will be less likely to overeat afterwards. For your main meal, vegetable soup or roasted vegetables are good for you, and vegetables should take up half of the space on your plate. A quarter of your plate should be of complex nutrient-dense carbohydrates that have fibre that won’t make your blood sugar levels spike up such as, for example, roast potatoes with skin, sweet potatoes, brown rice and whole-wheat bread.

The remaining quarter should be lean proteins or, better yet, lentils, legumes, and nuts with fibre, protein, and healthy vitamins to keep your digestive system healthy. Avoid refined carbohydrates that have little nutrients like white bread and white rice.

SUHOOR MEAL (pre-dawn meal)

This is the meal that needs to provide lasting energy for the long hours of your fast. You should have fibre-rich fruits and high-fibre carbohydrates like wholemeal bread and oatmeal, which takes longer to digest, giving you energy for longer.

A small handful of protein-rich unsalted walnuts and almonds helps with hunger and induces sleepiness because they contain melatonin, magnesium and zinc. Unsweetened almond milk is a good source of these nutrients and Vitamin D and calcium, so we recommend having it with your oatmeal. Proteins such as scrambled eggs with healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil or avocado with wholemeal bread is a good meal, too, and it will give your body a well-needed health and energy boost.

Don’t skip Suhoor

 Sleep is important to reduce your cortisol levels, so you might be tempted to skip Suhoor. Although skipping Suhoor sounds like a good idea because you won’t need to wake up and lose hours of sleep (especially if you have work or school the next day), it will be counter productive.

 Skipping your pre-dawn meal will prolong the fasting hours, which will make you more tired and dehydrated the next day, and in turn, increases your bodies cortisol levels leading to weight gain. It can also encourage overeating during Iftar, which can cause weight gain, and it is a much better idea to have a light but filling pre-dawn meal and a healthy Iftar meal.

Don’t overeat during Iftar

Overeating when it is time to break your fast can harm your health, resulting in indigestion and weight gain. Your body needs a well-balanced, nutritious meal and not a feast of junk food that will overwhelm your system and result in you feeling bloated and tired. If you want to reap the benefits of fasting for such long hours, you need to make sure you eat in moderation and eat healthily. Instead, eat mindfully, slow down to enjoy each mouthful of your food, drink a lot of water, and know exactly when you are full.

The Prophet (SAW) emphasised that eating less is one of the best ways to prevent sickness and disease. He said: “Nothing is worse than a person who fills his stomach. It should be enough for the son of Adam to have a few bites to satisfy his hunger. If he wishes more, it should be one-third for his food, one-third for his liquid, and one-third for his breath.” [Tirmidhi & Ibn Majah]

Stay hydrated

Ideally, you should cut down or stop having caffeinated drinks like coffee, teas and sodas, because they are diuretics that promote fluid loss. If you must have these drinks, stick to one serving of a decaffeinated and sugar-free version of your favourite beverage. Make sure you have eight glasses of water daily as well as water-rich fruits such as watermelons and strawberries.

Coconut water also makes for an excellent way to stay hydrated. It has every electrolyte you need in abundance (potassium, magnesium, sodium and calcium), helping you to feel less weak when you fast. If you find that you get dizzy or weak during your fast, have a glass of coconut water every day.

By fasting healthily over the first ten days of Dhul Hijjah, it will enable us to remain grateful for the days that are most beloved by Allah (SWT). Please consider donating to Orphans in Need today.

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