First of all, I need to disclose that all the ideas stated in this post are based on what Erikar Lebang said on Twitter (@erikarlebang). I only copied, pasted, added (just a bit here and there) or edited, rephrased and/ or translated the ideas into English. Here we go…
Prior to fasting discussion, we’d better recall some basics of human beings’ biological cycle regarding digestion system, usually referred to as ‘circadian cycle’.
In a nutshell, there’re 3 periods in human beings’ biological cycle, namely:
- Intake period (12.00 – 20.00): This is a phase when our body ( the digestion system) is fully ready to welcome foods. Our energy is mainly focused on the digestion system during the period. Other types of bodily activities are still in progress but in a minor state.
- Processing period (20.00-04.00): All of the foods consumed during the intake period are then slowly processed by the system at its best. The body itself does anything to survive, such as regenerating cells, repairing the damaged cells, and so forth. This way another type of energy is lowered at the minor level, which explains why the Almighty designs the body to take a total rest during the processing period.
- Secretion period (04.00-12.00): This is a phase when the body needs to get rid of the waste resulted by the digestion process. The waste could be in the form of vapor, perspiration, urine and / or faeces. The amount of energy to perform this task is a lot, leaving a little for other processes, including digestion system. This is the main reason why we ought to eat easily digested foods at such hour (early in the morning) to prevent disturbance to our digestion system.
Based on the circadian cycle, we’re able to define what it takes to fast in a healthy way. Fasting doesn’t change much the way our body works. The difference lies in the time when foods are consumed on a daily basis.We thus are expected to adapt our food types consumed during Ramadan to the natural cycle of body. Otherwise, various digestion and health problems may arise. Diarrhea, constipation, dehydration are several commonly found ailments during Ramadan.
We need to understand that sahur (or early breakfast/ meal before the daybreak) occurs when the body is at the end of processing period and about to commence secretion period. People need to choose types of food that may assist digestion system over foods that give extra burden to the body.
The core principle of eating healthily for sahur/ early breakfast is to eat as light as one can so as not to disrupt the circadian cycle. But this light meal shouldn’t mean a skimpy one that leaves us dying in hunger before the dusk. The challenge is how we can choose the appropriate foods without torturing the body, because overeating is just as bad as undereating.
These are several steps to take to eat early breakfast healthily:
1. Before munching anything, drink a big glass of fresh water. Yes, Fresh water! That means no syrup, or sweetener, or additives added to it. Give time to yourself around 20-30 minutes before eating something else. In the meantine, you can pray tahajjud or read the Quran.
2. Start eating sweet, high-fiber, juicy fruits like apple, pineapples, oranges, guavas, pears, etc. But leave fruits containing alcohol, e.g. durian, jackfruit, etc. Bananas and other fruits containing lots of carbohydrate requires a little treatment (which I have no idea) before one can eat it.
3. Eat 1-2 kinds of fruit that you consider enough. Wait for another 20-30 minutes and you may eat ‘the main course’.
Eating too much food containing nutrition may not be quite bad but sahur is an exception. It’ll only leave you a series of digestive problems because the time is just NOT right. High protein foods, foods with additives and preservatives, processed foods are definitely NOT foods to eat for sahur. Bread, pasta, noodles are NOT advisable to eat either.