Make your Ramadan this year special, fruitful, and life-changing… It is a time to eat less, not more food, help the needy, organize a food or gift drive for poor families, and strengthen family ties.

Fasting promotes healing and rejuvenation of the body, mind, and spirit. In fact, it frees up energy that your body normally spends on digesting food. The liver can break down toxic chemicals circulating in the bloodstream now with a lighter workload.

As long as you do not end your fast with a large feast, you can gain many health benefits: clearer skin, overcoming addictions, improved immunity, mental creativity, better attitude and motivation, weight loss, and lower blood pressure. Follow these steps to get through Ramadan with better health, some weight loss, and an elevated spirit:

Breaking the fast
At the call for maghrib prayer, start with a glass of water to replenish fluids, several dates, and a short prayer. A glass of water before mealtime diminishes your appetite. The sugar in dates will give you a quick boost of energy, which is much needed after a long fast. Dates are easy to digest and rich in B vitamins, fiber, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and iron.

It is difficult to get enough vitamins, anti-oxidants, and fluids during Ramadan. Drink one cup of freshly squeezed orange or grape juice to stimulate digestion. Try a glass of water with the fresh juice of half a lemon and a teaspoon of honey to cleanse the liver and help break down fat. Pineapple juice can promote weight loss and improve digestion. An excellent refreshing cold beverage common in Ramadan is a licorice drink. Licorice is a mild laxative, a remedy for fever, coughs, lung problems, and ulcers, and is low in sugar. Use caution if you have hypertension.

Almost unheard of during Ramadan, they are low in fat and calories and give your fasting body much-needed vitamins, fluids, and fiber. Try tabouleh, a Greek green salad with feta cheese, or a salad of fresh watercress and spinach leaves, olive oil, lemon juice, and crushed garlic, or a garbanzo bean salad.

It is a comforting and healthy mainstay of Ramadan. The famous lentil soup is rich in protein and free of fat and cholesterol. Make this soup that is loaded with anti-cancer and anti-aging beta carotenes with sauteed chopped onions, shredded carrots, or chopped orange pumpkin cubes. Puree in a blender and season as you wish.

Main course
After all those starters, your main course should be very light. Avoid highly spiced foods with a rich sauce and fried foods because they will cause indigestion. A big meal places a heavy load on the stomach and digestive system after a long fast. Steamed rice and sautéed vegetables is ideal. Or you can have baked fish or baked chicken breast with steamed vegetables.

Suhoor should be light
Quick healthy suhoor ideas include grilled cheese and tomato sandwich, yogurt with whole wheat crackers, a glass of milk and a slice of toast with jam or honey, a small vegetarian pizza, hummus with whole wheat bread, and cucumbers, or tuna with lemon juice. I find a boiled egg with toast to be filling without making you feel bloated. Finally, eat your favorite fruit. Avoid salty foods so you will not be thirsty the next day. Try not to get to bed for about two hours after eating suhoor.