4 foods to stay away from in the scorching summer heat this Ramazan

Published: May 24, 2019
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Ramazan is the best time to purify your soul and your body. So do consider the long-term effects of anything that you consume.

“It’s summer! The heat is blazing like the fourth of July,
I got the air con on, and it’s blasted on high.
So just grab something cool and jump in your ride,
Pick up everybody, I’ll be waiting outside!”

When your little cousins are out of school and blasting Selena Gomez’s hit song, Summer’s Not Hot, all through the day, you know what’s happening. The summers are finally here and so is the holy month of Ramazan! Now it is time to welcome profuse sweating and never-ending thirst. While the sun looks beautiful glistening in the daylight, any Pakistani will tell you that its presence surely isn’t appreciated all that much, especially when accompanied by long days of fasting.

Arguably, some of the best things about summer and Ramazan being here together are the edibles. But did you know that there are certain food items that you should avoid during the summers, especially while fasting, because of the adverse effects they have on your body? Certain scrumptious foods pose a huge risk to your health when eaten, even in small quantities.

Here is a list of some of the most common food items that you must consider avoiding or even completely banning during this scorching weather, despite them tantalising your taste buds.

1. Barbecued meat

What’s a summer without barbeque parties and juicy, delectable grilled meat? Pakistanis are very particular about their cookouts. We pride ourselves on our traditional foods, and secret family recipes passed down through generations. Many of these recipes involve cooking animal proteins over an open fire.

What most of us are unaware of, however, is just how bad this can be for our bodies. These hard to digest meals should especially be avoided during Ramazan, when your body is being given a chance to detox naturally. The concentrated fats in the food do not only carry the risk of you developing cardiovascular diseases, but the high temperatures of an open fire transforms that nutritious, basted steak marinated in your grandmother’s secret sauce into a cancer-filled bomb.

A Pakistani chef prepares barbequed meats for tourists at the colourful food street in Lahore.

Munch on some crunchy veggies instead

Instead of this hazardous lump of disease, try grilling fresh, crunchy vegetables for an equally yummy, filling meal. Vegetables do not only taste great when grilled on an open fire, but they are also filled to the brim with the nutrients your body needs, especially in this heat. You can also try grilling fish instead to get all that good omega three fats in your system, which will make your skin and hair shine as if you have just been to the spa!

A vendor sells vegetables at a market in Rawalpindi, Pakistan.

2. Powdered or packaged fruit drinks

Who can imagine an iftar spread without some ice-cold Rooh Afza or Tang? A single gulp takes us back to our childhood, but though the wave of nostalgia that hits you may tempt you into buying these, doing so is not really a great idea. If you look at the box they come in, you will notice that a great percentage of the drink is just plain sugar. Now, you wouldn’t be putting seven teaspoons of sugar in your body normally, would you? Then why would you do it when dissolved in water?

A vendor selling Rooh Afza and other cold drinks to the devotees outside Jama Masjid during Ramazan.

Make fresh fruit and vegetable juices your best friends

Does this mean you have nothing to quench your thirst with after a long day of fasting? Of course not! For a healthier, more refreshing option, satisfy your thirst with a chilled fresh fruit or vegetable juice. With the electrolytes that these drinks contain, you do not have to worry about dehydrating yourself while fasting. Not only will these revitalising alternatives keep you energised for longer, but you will also not have to work off the extra calories at the gym for hours and still have that desirable summer body this Eid.

An employee serves fresh juice at a street-bar with fresh local fruits.

3. Pakoras and fried foods

For any Pakistan, pakoras are a must at the iftar table. Everyone knows how bad fried foods can be for your health, but when the kids are home all day in the summers, exhausting themselves from all the playing, you want a quick fix for them to snack on every few hours before they get wild. And with the holy month of Ramazan, you need some tasty titbits for iftar as well. Though frozen foods that only need to be fried may be easy to prepare, are these something you should really be giving to growing children or consuming every day in your iftar meal?

Pakistani bakers fry traditional Pakistani food, pakora for customers in Ramazan.

Bake your way to a healthier tomorrow

A delicious alternative to these fried foods are baked goods. A huge contributor to the hated summer acne is the oil used for frying all these delicious treats. The same ingredients, when baked instead of fried, are way better to your body. Moreover, an iftari meal saturated with fats is bound to make you lethargic and sleepy. Instead of chocolate-covered donuts and cheesy chicken nuggets, try replacing them with baked items such as cakes, freshly baked traditional chocolate chip cookies, heavenly hot cross buns, and classic cinnamon rolls. Your family and their tummies are both bound to love these delectable treats.

Homemade traditional hot cross buns.

4. Fruit cocktails in a tin

Like the case with pre-packaged drinks, these packaged pieces of fruit have very little nutritional value. Eating these can be one of the worst things you can do to your body. Tinned fruit cocktails contain a lot more preservatives than you think. They also contain artificial sweeteners and ‘diet’ sugar which contribute to weight gain. The sweet syrup these pieces of fruit float in may also contain diuretics, which lead to water leaving your body. Now that is something you definitely do not want during long hours of fasting when your water intake is already low!

Branded cans of fruit cocktail sit on a shelf in a grocery store.

Toss out the fake and replace it with the real

Try switching it up by replacing this harmful snack full of carcinogens with real fruit! Fresh fruits are laden with those vitamins and minerals you need to beat the heat of summer. These also contain antioxidants that fight the signs of early aging and keep you looking like an 18-year-old even at 40! These are much more filling than canned fruit and are devoid of those hazardous preservatives and chemicals that are added to tinned fruit cocktails to increase their shelf life.

A Pakistani man buys fruit on a roadside stall in Karachi.

These little changes can improve your health, give you fresher skin and can even let you lose some weight for the perfect Eid look. Summers in most areas of Pakistan are already too tough on the body. So my advice would be to not worsen your ordeal by consuming the wrong type of food and hence getting ill. Ramazan is the best time to purify your soul and your body. So do consider the long-term effects of anything that you consume during your sehri and iftari. Keep it as light as possible. Stay hydrated and healthy.

Ramazan Mubarak!

All photos: Getty

Dania Zehra

Dania Zehra

The author is the co founder of SETalks, a blogger by passion and the mother of two daughters. She loves to break the norms and make things possible. She tweets as @DaniZehra (twitter.com/danizehra).

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.