Ramadan, the best time of the year for the Muslim community, is finally here. Muslims around the world are getting ready to take part in the largest collective fast in history as of May 6.
In the Islamic tradition, Ramadan holds special significance because it was in Ramadan, the Quran was first revealed to Prophet Muhammad. Fasting is one of the pillars of Islam and Muslims fast from dawn to dusk during the entire month of Ramadan.
In the next 29 days, starting May 6, Muslims around the world will push the limits of their bodies and learn to be grateful.
For Muslims living in the northern hemisphere, Ramadan in springtime or in the summer can be challenging because the days are longer, which means they will be fasting more than 15 hours a day.
Though challenging, fasting is, in fact, a healthy habit and is often advised by physicians.
The Greek physician Hippocrates had advised fasting for better health, whereas a number of major religions advise fasting for a better psyche.
Although fasting is mostly done as a religious practice, more and more people nowadays are fasting for its apparent health benefits.
Last year, researchers at Georgia State University in Atlanta, U.S. discovered that during fasting and low-carb dieting our body produces a molecule that may have anti-aging effects on our arteries.
But what exactly does fasting do to our bodies?
Commenting on fasting's effect on our body, dietitian Vildan Çelik said: "Our digestive system uses the most amount of energy in our body. While using this energy, it poses as a rival to all the other functioning systems and organs, such as the immune system, the brain and muscles. By fasting for 16 hours, you can put your digestive system to rest, providing other organs with an opportunity to consume more energy," said Çelik.
The basic and complex carbohydrates we take at suhoor, the predawn meal before we start fasting can provide energy for the first eight hours of the day.
After the first eight hours, the proteins we take during suhoor can provide additional 12-hour support. This way, eating smart when fasting or in Ramadan, during even the longest hours will not cause any unwanted health effects.
For iftar, the fast-breaking meal, grains should be your first choice, according to Çelik. "Rice, quinoa and siyez wheat are fasting-friendly grains. Also while breaking fast, one should chew very well and drink a lot of water,"
"You can meet the bodies need for sugar with fresh or dried fruits. You should also eat a lot of vegetables. Eggs are a perfect source of protein so you can prefer to eat it in suhoor," said Çelik.