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Is Ramadan fasting bad for health?

By CNN Correspondent Atika Shubert

Choosing the right food to break fast with is the key to better health.
Choosing the right food to break fast with is the key to better health.

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Fasting
Ramadan

JAKARTA, Indonesia (CNN) -- From dawn till dusk, Muslims during Ramadan do not allow any food or water to pass their lips -- an ancient belief that fasting will heighten your physical and spiritual awareness.

But does the fasting do more harm, at least physically, than good?

During the day, restaurants in Jakarta this draw curtains so as not to tempt fasting Muslims who pass by. But in the evening, it is a different matter.

When it is time to break the fast, there is food galore, particularly calorie-heavy cakes and cholesterol-inducing curries.

And after fasting all day, there is a tendency to pile food onto the plate.

That can make for uncomfortable health problems. Sales of antacids reach an all time high during Ramadan.

So, how are the faithful to avoid the discomforts of fasting?

Nutritionist Andang Gunawan says the key to solving the problem is choosing the right foods.

When she heads home from work to break her fast, her first choice is juice, fruits and vegetables.

Then she waits another hour before prayers and then, finally, a normal size dinner.

Fasting all day only to over-indulge at night, she says, defeats the purpose.

"They're not fasting actually. They don't eat at daytime, but they eat a lot in the evening. So, it's not good, it's not healthy," Andang told CNN.

"And you can see after the Ramadan, people get fat, get sick. But actually, it you do the fasting properly, if you eat proper diet during fasting, it won't happen."

Fasting, she says, is about increasing awareness, savoring the food you eat and appreciating God -- not an excuse to overeat.

"Once you know what is the benefit of fasting is, you can do the fasting properly

"The important thing in fasting is how to be close to God. If you want to be close to someone, you have to build a relationship."

And a healthy relationship with food, she says, is just one way to keep physically and spiritually fit.


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