THE HEALTHY “RAMADANIAN”
Staying healthy this fasting period.
While the spiritual benefits of the upcoming Ramadan fast cannot be disputed (BTW,check out this wonderful video by The Striving Muslimah), the physical health benefits should be emphasized for a wholesome experience.
HOW THE BODY WORKS (SIMPLIFIED)
When you are not fasting, your body glucose, which is stored in the liver and muscles, is the main source of energy for the body.
While fasting, the glucose is used up first, to provide energy for your everyday running around. Later in the fast, once the glucose runs out (about when you start checking the time every hour…), fat becomes the next source of energy for the body.
BENEFITS OF THE BODY USING “FAT” AS A SOURCE OF ENERGY
- Helps with weight loss (that’s a given). Weight loss results in better control of diabetes and reduces blood pressure.
- Preserves the muscles and eventually reduces your cholesterol level (Are you considering fasting EVERYDAY yet?)
- Detoxification: any toxins stored in the body’s fat are dissolved and removed from the body.
- And an added PLUS: After a few days of the fast, higher levels of endorphins (the feel-good hormones) appear in the blood, making you more alert and giving an overall feeling of general mental wellbeing (I AM SOLD).
SO, WHAT TO EAT?
Your food intake should be simple and similar to what you normally eat everyday. Foods from all major classes of food must be well represented in the right proportions, that is:
- bread, cereals and potatoes (carbs)
- meat, fish or alternatives (proteins)
- milk and dairy foods (proteins)
- foods containing fat and sugar (fats)
- fruits and vegetables (vitamins)
- water (minerals)
Complex carbohydrates (aka good carbohydrates) are foods that help release energy slowly. Research shows that these “good carbohydrates” increase energy naturally, induce fat burning and improve long-term health.
During the long hours of fasting, they are the best source of food to be eaten to help release energy slowly through the day. They are found in foods such as sweet and irish potatoes, wheat, oats, millet, semolina, beans, wholemeal flour (pizza),basmati rice, pasta, green veggies, dairy…(the list is exhaustive really).
Fibre-rich foods are also digested slowly and thus provide energy over an extended period of time. They include cereals, whole wheat, grains and seeds, potatoes with the skin on, vegetables such as green beans, and almost all fruits (citrus fruits, watermelon, apples, dry fruits, bananas).
WHAT TO AVOID
Foods to avoid are the fast-burning, heavily processed foods that contain simple carbohydrates (such as pounded yam, fufu, Garri, starch, rice, soft drinks, white bread, white flour, etc), as well as fatty foods (such as deep-fried foods, high-sugar and high-fat foods, cakes, biscuits, chocolates and sweets).
While these foods are listed as “to avoid”, I DO NOT mean that you should not eat them at all rather, they should be consumed in “minimal moderation”.
It is also worth avoiding caffeine drinks such as tea, coffee and cola. Caffeine is a diuretic and stimulates faster water loss through urination. Hence, aiding dehydration (something you definitely don’t want while fasting).
- Do Not Skip Suhoor.(Even The Prophet (SAW) said: Eat suhoor, for in suhoor there is blessing”).
- SUHOOR (Pre-dawn meal):
- should be a wholesome, moderate meal that is filling and provides enough energy for many hours (complex carbs, fibres, PLEASE).
- should be light and include slow digesting food.
- should have some fluids with vitamins, such as fruit juice (natural if possible) or fruits.
- drink water to stay hydrated.
- Start by drinking PLENTY of water, which helps rehydration and reduces the chances of overindulgence.
- Dates will provide a burst of energy.
- Fruit juices will also have a similar, revitalizing effect.
- Healthy alternatives to “avoided” foods
- baked samosas, spring rolls, boiled or steamed dumplings
- baked or grilled meat and chicken
- homemade pastry using just a single layer
- milk-based sweets and puddings (for the sweet tooth among us)
- Boiled plantain or oven grilled plantain.
- Cooking methods to avoid:
- deep frying
- excessive use of oil
- Healthy cooking methods:
- shallow frying (usually there is little difference in taste)
- grilling or baking is healthier and helps retain the taste and original flavour of the food, especially with chicken and fish.
AVOID CARBON MONOXIDE POISONING WHILE COOKING.
Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas that has no smell or taste and which, when breathed in, can make you unwell and can kill. Cooking for LARGE NUMBERS of people using oversized pots on gas stoves has been shown to cause the build-up of carbon monoxide in some homes, particularly those that are not well ventilated.
Therefore, if you are planning to cater for large numbers of people at your home (for example, at a pre-or post-Ramadan gathering), it is important that you do not use oversized pots on your gas stove and do not place foil around the burners.
It’s okay to break the fast if your health is in danger. It’s okay to eat when blood sugar is dangerously low, for example, (OBVIOUSLY because your life is more IMPORTANT).
HAPPY RAMADAN FOLKS. May we gain the benefits of this blessed and holy month in shaa Allah.
RIP to a great boxer and an even greater Muslim brother, Muhammad Ali (1942–2016).
May Allah have mercy on him. AMIN