Monday, March 7, 2011

How to Manage Your Diet This Lent

It’s the first day of Christian fasting (aka Lent) here in Lebanon, and most people are confused about how this could affect their overall health. So I got a good straight to the point newsletter from Sohi Wa Sarih Clinics and elaborated on it a bit. You can actually check their website and apply to get their healthy weekly newsletter as well.

Now there are mainly 4 types of fasting that can be applied separately or together, depending on your own preference, physical condition, age and/or religious sect:
• Fasting until 12 pm
• Deprivation of food(s) you like
• Abstinence from meat for the whole fasting season
• Deprivation of all types of animal products, including meats, dairy products and eggs

Fasting until 12 pm:
Well, it has no effect on health at all since your body will not reach its starvation mode yet. It may be harder on night workers or people who wake up really early but it’s usually not recommended to exceed a period of 14 hours without food between dinner and breakfast. So keep track of how long you are staying without providing your body with food and fix your diet accordingly!
Giving up chocolate
Deprivation of food you like (could be chocolate, potato chips, soft drinks):
These foods are not necessary, and yes guys, they can be left out of your diet. They will sure not affect your health or physical well-being, on the contraire, they will push you to focus on healthier food options such as fruits and vegetables as snacks! This way you'll cut the junk and increase your intake of vitamins, minerals, fibers and anti-oxidants!
Abstinence from meat:
Some people could also choose to cut down on their meats. Meats contain iron, a mineral essential for the body, found in legumes and vegetables too, but in a different and less effectively absorbed form. So when you give up meats, make sure to have enough legumes (7boub, such as beans, chickpeas, peas and lentils, along with dark green leafy vegetables). Throw a lemon on the side because Vitamin C enhances the absorption of iron whether it's in its meaty or vegetable form! Moreover, make sure to have at least 2 servings of grilled or canned fish (I mean if you haven’t given them up as well) to ensure appropriate amount of proteins and omega 3 in your diet.
All vegan diet
Deprivation of all types of animal products (Vegan Diet):
This type of fasting consists of abstinence from red meat, chicken, fish, eggs, milk, cheese, butter and all animal products whatsoever. This would compromise protein, calcium, zinc and vitamin B 12. Animal foods provide all 9 “essential” amino acids (protein building blocks) needed to make “complete proteins”, whereas plant foods are considered as incomplete, meaning they lack one or more essential amino acids.
Lentils and Rice. Don't forget
the complementary lemon-y salad
on the side!
Now to outsmart this >> Go for “complementary” protein sources, such as grains and legumes consumed together in the same meal, thus providing adequate amounts of all the essential amino acids. For example mix beans with rice (fasolia w rez) or lentils with rice (mjadara or mdardara) along with cabbage salad with lemon juice on the side (remember the Vitamin C effect on iron in legumes) 
As for milk and milk products, calcium should not be a concern if abstinence is limited to the 50 days’ fasting period. Osteoporosis takes much longer than 50 days to develop!  However, keep in mind that dark green vegetables such as broccoli and canned sardines (with bones) provide considerate amounts of calcium in your diet.

Drink at least 8 to 10 cups
of water per day
Last but not least, consume slow-digesting foods having fibers such as vegetables, legumes, whole wheat carbs and fruits more than fast-digesting food like juices, white bread, sweets and sugary drinks because the fast digesting ones make us feel hungry again (low filling effect) after 2 to 3 hours of eating and increase the risk of constipation!
And even if you are fasting till 12 noon (and maybe fasting from drinking water as well) make sure to drink enough water, 30 ml/kg X your weight in kilograms throughout your day!


  1. yih just what i needed 3anjad!

  2. Great post :)
    I'm not much of a "faster" but I am trying to stay away from chips and chocolate this lent :)

  3. An interesting post with good information

  4. I'm glad you were able to benefit from it and @Alien, it's no big deal:P I mean giving up chocolate and chips is always a good idea :)