Muslims began observing the holy month of Ramadan Monday with the first sighting of the new moon.
For most Muslims, Ramadan is taking place this year from June 6 to July 5. During this period, Muslims are supposed to eat just two meals a day. One is called suhoor, which is the meal before sunrise. The other meal is iftar. That is the meal at sunset.
For countries in the northern half of the world, the longest day of the year falls during Ramadan. As a result, some Muslims will be avoiding meals for up to 17 hours a day during the month.
What is the main advice for the millions of people who have begun this fasting period? Use reason and common sense when eating meals at night.
No feasting while non-fasting
Razeen Mahroof is a medical specialist from the British city of Oxford. He warns against eating too much during the non-fasting hours.
He told the NHS Choices website that “the underlying message behind Ramadan is self-discipline and self-control."
He said the early morning meal should include foods that are filling yet provide energy for many hours. He suggests eating slow-digesting foods, such as pita bread, salad, cereal and toast.
Health experts and health websites urge those who are fasting to avoid foods high in fat and sugar, as well as fried foods, especially during the night-time meal.
Sleep and hydration
Lovely Ranganath works as senior nutritionist at the Dubai World Trade Center. She told Gulf News that sleeping and drinking plenty of fluids at night are also key to staying healthy during Ramadan.
"Waking up for suhoor becomes difficult as the digestion of fried foods interferes with our sleep cycle," Ranganath told Gulf News.
She said a lack of fluids can cause not only dehydration but stomach problems, as well.
There are more than 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim country. More than 196 million Indonesians are Muslim.
More than 3.3 million Muslims live in the United States.
Many Muslims end their fast by eating a date and having a drink of water. The Prophet Muhammad started that tradition nearly 1,400 years ago.
The staff at VOA News wrote this story. Jim Dresbach adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
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Words in This Story
fast – n. a period of time when you do not eat any food
Ramadan – n. the ninth month of the Muslim year, during which strict fasting is observed from sunrise to sunset
digest – v. to change eaten food by a biological process into simpler forms that can be used by the body
fried – adj. cooked in hot oil
dehydration - n. to suffer from the loss of too much water from one's body