Malaysian dieticians stress the importance of ‘sahur’, warn about dangers of overeating during Ramadan

Arif Zikri
·4-min read
According to Beacon Hospital’s Dietitian, Tan Lu Think, overeating with an empty stomach has its own consequences including making us feel uncomfortable and drowsy. — Picture by Lee Khang Yi
According to Beacon Hospital’s Dietitian, Tan Lu Think, overeating with an empty stomach has its own consequences including making us feel uncomfortable and drowsy. — Picture by Lee Khang Yi

KUALA LUMPUR, April 20 — The tendency to overeat is not easy to overcome especially with an empty stomach.

And with the abundance of choices of food from sweet and tasty kuih to crispy oily snacks which are cheap and can easily be found at any local Ramadan bazaar, overeating tends to slip into the equation easily.

However, there are consequences one has to live with if one overeats too often.

According to Beacon Hospital’s Dietitian, Tan Lu Think, overeating with an empty stomach has its own consequences including making us feel uncomfortable and drowsy. — Picture by Lee Khang Yi
According to Beacon Hospital’s Dietitian, Tan Lu Think, overeating with an empty stomach has its own consequences including making us feel uncomfortable and drowsy. — Picture by Lee Khang Yi

Beacon Hospital dietitian Tan Lu Think said whenever a person fasts for a period of 14 to 16 hours a day, the gastric acid produced in their stomach will be reduced throughout the day.

Consequently, if the person tends to overeat upon breaking their fast, it could over stimulate the production of gastric acid.

“This could cause indigestion, gas and even flatulence in our stomach and for some people it may cause acid reflux which is normally known as heartburn.

“Plus, when you overeat, you’ll also cause the stomach to expand more than its usual normal size.

“This expansion will tend to push the organs surrounding the stomach thus making us feel uncomfortable, tired, drowsy and even sluggish,” Tan told Malay Mail.

Aside from unwanted weight gain which could lead to diabetes, hypertension, or other cardiovascular diseases, for those with diabetes, overeating could also increase their chances of having high blood glucose level or known as hyperglycemia.

Besides that, overeating late at night or during ‘moreh’ can also affect one’s sleep.

“Having a heavy meal late at night will affect our circadian rhythm which also regulates our sleep and hunger hormones and makes it very hard to sleep afterwards as our system is still digesting food.

“So, it’s best to consume light snacks late at night or ‘moreh’. Sandwiches or one or two kuih is enough or fruits with yogurts as well as low fat milk,” Tan said, adding that it was best to have late-night snacks at least an hour before sleeping.

Tan also said that the ‘Suku-Suku Separuh’ diet is the best diet to follow. — Photo courtesy of Facebook/Bahagian Pemakanan, Kementerian Kesihatan Malaysia.
Tan also said that the ‘Suku-Suku Separuh’ diet is the best diet to follow. — Photo courtesy of Facebook/Bahagian Pemakanan, Kementerian Kesihatan Malaysia.

On preventing overeating, Tan said one should only prepare and consume the necessary amount of food and to eat and chew slowly.

“It takes about 30 minutes for your stomach to really signal your brain to say that you’re actually full.

“Digestion really takes time, so do not eat too fast,” Tan said.

Another tip to prevent overeating is by using a much smaller plate as the same amount of food would look more in a smaller plate thus tricking the brain to think it is enough.

For pre-dawn meals or ‘sahur’, Tan advises that the meal should comprise complex carbohydrates like wholemeal grains such as brown rice and oats and proteins such as egg, chicken, or fish.

“Complex carbohydrates like whole grains take about eight hours to completely digest, so it will give enough energy for you to survive throughout the day.

“The structure of protein also helps in slowing down the digestive process,” Tan said, adding that dates were also perfect for a quick source of energy.

Universiti Malaya Specialist Centre’s Head of Dietetic Services, Rozanna M Rosly. — Picture by Rozanna M Rosly
Universiti Malaya Specialist Centre’s Head of Dietetic Services, Rozanna M Rosly. — Picture by Rozanna M Rosly

Universiti Malaya Specialist Centre dietetic services head Rozanna M Rosly said that eating pre-dawn meals or sahur was a vital part of fasting.

“By eating the pre-dawn meal, not only will we be able to maintain our stamina, but we will also be able to avoid being stricken by tiredness easily during the duration of our fast.

“Eating sahur supports healthy metabolism, reduces hunger pangs, improves mental alertness, better brain health, provides energy, rehydrates and improves digestion.”

“It also helps in maintaining lean muscle mass and reduces fatigue in view of the long hours of fasting,” Rozanna said.

Besides that, Rozanna also recommended the public to have their sahur based on at least two to three servings of food groups which provide protein, iron, zinc, magnesium, and B vitamins such as those found in lean cuts of meat and fish.

Rozanna also advised the public to go for a balanced diet and eating in moderation to improve blood sugar control, blood cholesterol profile.

It can also reduce gastric acidity, prevent constipation and other digestive problems.

Besides that, Rozanna also said that the timing of sahur played a vital role in fasting as it was the perfect time to have a meal that could prepare oneself for a day of fasting.

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