People urged to adopt healthy dietary practices in Ramazan – The News International

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Children say their prayers before breaking fast during the holy month of Ramadan. — AFP/File
Children say their prayers before breaking fast during the holy month of Ramadan. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: With the start of holy month of Ramazan, health experts and nutritionists have urged the people to adopt healthier dietary practices, advising them to utilise herbs and spices to reduce salt, sugar, and fat intake, promoting improved health during fasting.

Health experts also advised reducing the intake of such foods to maintain hydration levels during the day, saying overindulgence in salt, sugars, and fat can lead to various health issues, including cardiovascular diseases, chronic inflammation, gut imbalance, bloating, and intense cravings.

Adopting a healthy diet becomes paramount for those observing fasts to continue reaping the blessings of Ramazan. Implementing sensible cooking techniques can allow individuals to relish their meals without compromising their well-being, they added.

“During Ramazan, excessive consumption of salt, sugar, and fat is commonplace. While the salt used in cooking may suffice, many additional salty side dishes, such as deep-fried foods, olives, pickles, sauces, and cheeses, contribute to increased thirst during fasting,” Dr Rezzan

Khan, a consultant nutritionist at Shifa International Hospital, Islamabad said.

A key strategy to reduce the consumption of unhealthy foods laden with extra salt, sugar, or fat is by enhancing food flavors with herbs and spices, Dr Khan said, adding that incorporating fresh herbs and spices into meals not only adds flavor but also aids in reducing inflammation and curbing sugar cravings, thereby balancing blood sugar levels.

Moreover, herbs and spices offer a plethora of health benefits without contributing additional calories, salt, sugar, or fat to dishes, he said.

According to him, salt significantly influences our perception of bitterness and sweetness in food. Studies suggest that spicy flavors can amplify the saltiness and sweetness of a dish. Hence, reducing salt and sugar in recipes, while intensifying their flavors with herbs and spices, can still provide a satisfying taste experience.

“Certain spices, such as vanilla, cinnamon, clove, cardamom, and saffron, enhance the sweetness in foods without the need for excessive sugar or fat. Similarly, alternatives to salt, including black pepper, red pepper, green capsicum pepper, oregano, basil, soy, sage, bay leaves, and curry leaves, offer a savory taste without the added salt content,” Dr Khan said.

After breaking the fast, many individuals experience bloating. Utilising specific herbs and spices can aid in digestion, with common options including ginger, cumin, turmeric, ajwain (carom seeds), fennel seeds (aniseed), and peppermint. Furthermore, incorporating vinegar, garlic, onion, ginger, and lemon into meals can enhance flavor profiles.

As part of healthy Ramazan eating practices, individuals are encouraged to include fresh vegetables in their diets alongside homemade dips and sauces, ensuring minimal salt content. Additionally, opting for lower-fat or reduced-fat dairy products, and employing healthier cooking methods such as grilling, baking, poaching, or steaming instead of frying or roasting, can further promote better dietary habits.

Embracing the theme of “Beyond the Table” for this year’s March Nutrition Month advocated by the Pakistan Nutrition and Dietetic Society (PNDS), Dr Khan emphasised the importance of adopting healthy eating and physical activity plans to achieve overall well-being.

“Incorporating these practices during Ramazan aligns with the spirit of the month and fosters healthier lifestyles among individuals observing fasts,” he added.

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