PETALING JAYA - Fasting helps to improve immunity levels and overcome addiction, in addition to aiding weight loss, says Hospital Tuanku Jaafar Seremban senior dietitian Dr Basmawati Baharom.
She said fasting during the month of Ramadan can help a smoker or someone addicted to sugar quit their bad habits.
"It truly benefits a person. A healthy person would be able to maintain his health and body weight while an obese person could work on overcoming his unhealthy habits and reduce weight.
"The fasting month can be a start for people to quit their addictive habits," she said.
However, she said many Malaysians practise fasting in an inefficient way, leading to problems such heartburn and stomach aches.
"When breaking fast, one must ensure that the body does not go into shock, so start your 'buka puasa' with something natural and sweet, like dates and fruits, and make it a slow and steady intake. Do not take food in a hurry.
"Once you have broken your fast with light food, go for Maghrib prayers - this gap will allow your stomach to prepare to take in more comprehensive food.
"Even then, try and have a balanced meal with plenty of fruits and vegetables prepared with low cooking methods.
"Eating food quickly as a result of your hunger would only irritate your stomach, and from a religious perspective, defeats the purpose of fasting, which is intended to teach us patience and endurance," she said.
Dr Basmawati said those who have gastro-intestinal issues such as gastritis or stomach ulcers should consider consulting their doctors before they fast.
"If you plan to go ahead with it, ensure that you have proper Sahur (meal before sunrise) as it can aid the body system to continue the supply of energy to the organs.
"Breakfast is always important, more so when one decides to fast the entire day," she said.
Muslims observe fasting during the month of Ramadan, which ends with Hari Raya.