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Make this Ramadan your healthiest one yet!

Ramadan is the most spiritual month during the year for every muslim. In order to obtain the maximum spiritual and physical effects from Ramadan, it is essential that you eat well during the non fasting hours. As explained in my previous post, the fast of Ramadan can improve a person’s health but if the correct diet is not followed, it can possibly worsen it! The deciding factor is not the fast itself but rather what is consumed in the non-fasting hours.

Overeating can not only the harm the body but it is also thought to interfere with a person’s spiritual growth during the month. A diet that has less than a normal amount of food, but is sufficiently balanced will keep a person healthy and active during the month of Ramadan.

So what should the ideal ramadan diet look like? The diet should be simple and not differ too much from one’s normal everyday diet. It should contain foods from all the major food groups as shown in the plate model below.

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Many of the foods which are mentioned and encouraged are in the Holy Quran and the Sunnah also correspond to modern guidelines on a healthy diet. These will help to maintain balanced, healthy meals in ramadan.

The most commonly consumed foods by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) were milk, dates, lamb/mutton and oats. Healthy foods mentioned in the Holy Quran are fruit and vegetables like olives, figs, onion, cucumber, dates, grapes as well as pulses such as lentils. Fish is also encouraged as the Islamic law spares fish from any specific slaughter requirements, making it easy to incorporate fish in our diet.

That’s all easier said than done you say! Here are some practical tips and recipes that you can use to make your next Ramadan a more healthful one.

  • For suhoor time, make sure you include some complex carbohydrates which are found in foods like barley,wheat, oats, millets, semolina, beans, lentils, wholemeal flour, basmati rice, etc. Complex Carbohydrates are foods that will help release energy slowly during the long hours of fasting.
  • Fibre-rich foods are also excellent for suhoor time as they are also digested slowly. Examples of fibre rich foods include bran, cereals, whole wheat, grains and seeds, potatoes with the skin, vegetables such as green beans and almost all fruit including apricots, prunes, figs, etc
  • For iftaar time, nothing beats dates to break the fast. Dates provide a refreshing burst of energy and are of course an important tradition of the Prophet (pbuh). Fruit juices and milk drinks (like sherbet/faluda) will also have a similar, revitalising effect and are much more nutritious than sodas and cordials. Fruit salads, low fat yoghurt and ice cream are also ideal snacks. Don’t have to say no to the delicious fried snacks by try not to go crazy on them either. Consider alternate ways of cooking them like baking instead of deep frying. Keep in mind that the meal should remain a meal and not become a feast! (See table below for more tips for Iftar time).

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Table: Courtesy of NHS CIA guide

  • Overeating during iftaar time will leave you sluggish and unable to concentrate in prayers at night.
  • During the night, limit caffeinated drinks like coke which can dehydrate you causing headaches the next day. If you are a regular tea or coffee drinker, having them at suhoor time can prevent withdrawal headaches during the day. Or even better, use this opportunity to un-addict yourself by gradually reducing the number of cups of tea or coffee you have.
  • Lastly, make sure you drink plenty of water to ensure you are adequately hydrated during the day.

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All the best with Ramadan this year!