By Ghadeer Ghloum
KUWAIT: Many students worry about their academic performance during fasting. Without any food or water consumption all day, students say that they do not have the energy to focus or function well at school. On the other hand, they are not willing to break their fast for believing that is has many spiritual and religious advantages on which they do not want to miss out. To help students mitigate the effect of fasting on their performance at school, Kuwait Times interviewed two diet specialists who shared information on how to manage a healthy diet during the holy month of Ramadan.
US-licensed Clinical Nutritionist Noora Saleh Al-Askar said to Kuwait Times: “What students can do to help them manage their fast is adjusting their lifestyle by limiting their physical exertion. For example: Students should try to avoid exerting a lot of effort at their physical exercise lessons and stay indoors or in the shade.”
Waking up early in the morning and fasting the whole day naturally drains students’ energy. But when students conserve their physical energy during the day, it can help reduce the amount of exhaustion. Another way to help students is having a nutritious suhoor meal. “It is important for students to make good food choices when they have their suhoor. They should eat slow-release food and complex carbs such as: oatmeal, brown rice, whole grains, as well as food that has potassium like bananas and watermelon to reduce the feeling of thirst during fasting,” Askar said.
Complex carbs, said Askar, will keep students’ bodies energized for longer periods. Students should also include foods that are high in vitamin B because it’s known for helping people improve their energy levels and stay focused at school. She further added that it’s necessary to include the proper portions of vegetables and fruits to make sure they have enough of the minerals their body needs. A wholesome suhoor like oatmeal, which has vitamin B and complex carbs, and some nuts is a good option for students.
“These tips will ensure that students will have a healthy Ramadan that will not affect their performance. Managing their meals will significantly improve their performance,” she said. Clinical Dietitian Manal Dashti said that Ramadan can negatively affect students’ concentration levels due to four things: lack of sleep, an unstable diet, low calorie consumption in relation to the body’s needs, lack of water and high caffeine intake. Just like Alaskar, Dashti suggests focusing mainly on the type of food that is eaten during suhoor meal.
“If students are facing lack of concentration, they need to make sure that their suhoor is a source of complex carbohydrates like whole grain food, sour dough that is made of barley or wheat, besides oats and wild rice. In addition to a source of legumes. I also recommend eating yogurt with fruits and nuts as snacks between iftar and suhoor. Liquids have to be taken gradually and not all at once at iftar time. Soups, fruit smoothies, and kefir milk are considered healthy liquids,” said Dashti.
She also advised students to stay away from refined sugars, food that is loaded with preservatives, canned food and processed food because it contains some chemicals that affect the memory and the brain’s functioning. However, Dashti said that sugar taken from its natural sources, like honey, fruits, and original maple syrup, is allowed.
Furthermore, Askar pointed out the “placebo effect” that makes fasting difficult for students. She said: “(There’s a) placebo effect, where students who think that they are going to feel tired during fasting will psychologically feel that but they can mitigate that feeling by optimizing their health and wellness during the iftar period.”