Source: Emily Price
Published in: The National
Given the pre-dawn hour and established eating routines thrown into disarray, the temptation to skip suhoor or to pick up a quick snack with little thought to its nutritional value is completely understandable. Yet experts agree that eating well at suhoor is key to preparing the body for the hours of fasting ahead. Anna Holmes, a qualified nutritionist and personal trainer at Smart Fitness in Dubai, explains: “A well- balanced, nutrient-dense meal will promote cognitive function, keep you as hydrated as possible, provide a sustainable amount of energy throughout the day and make fasting more tolerable for the body.”
Whether we are fasting or not, consuming food that is high in sugar causes a spike in blood sugar and insulin levels – this subsequently leads to an increase in the production of cortisol (the stress hormone). As a result, it causes a short sugar high, quickly followed by a crashing low, which leaves us feeling tired, lethargic and ultimately hungry. These effects are particularly detrimental when fasting. Holmes says that at suhoor the aim should be to eat “a protein – based meal featuring fibre – rich, slow – energy releasing complex carbohydrates [which keep energy levels stable], alongside healthy fats that help you to remain alerted and focused”.
But what does that mean in terms of actual food?
Brown and wild rice, oats, potatoes, lentils, kidney beans and wholegrain bread are good examples of those all-important complex carbs. Meat and fish, meanwhile, are obvious sources of protein, but if it feels too early to eat them, or you’re following a vegetarian diet, eggs, Greek yogurt, chia seeds, cottage cheese, quinoa and tofu are also high in protein.
Omega 3 rich avocados and salmon, coconut oil, nuts and seeds, olives and olive oil are excellent choices when it comes to selecting healthy “good” fats. A combination of these foods, along with plenty of water – Holmes suggests you try to consume 1.5 to 2 litres between iftar and suhoor- will ensure that you are well set up for the day.