‘Fasting is the first principle of medicine; fast and see the strength of the spirit reveal itself.’ – Rumi.
In Islam, we are encouraged and taught the importance of pursuing healthy habits spiritually, mentally and physically. Islam’s holistic approach to health includes treating our bodies with respect and nourishing them with, not only faith, but also with lawful and nutritious food.
This body is given to us as a gift. We need to nurture and look after it – it’s the only one we have and will ever get. As you know, we obviously need food to survive and properly function. But, the quality of the food we eat, and most importantly the nutrients it contains, is what determines whether we simply survive, or thrive.
Small consistent changes in habits and improving diet is a journey. It is definitely a step in the right direction for improving and sustaining health.
The food we eat should depend on which meal of the day it is, and the purpose we are trying to achieve by eating that meal. For example:
• SUHOOR (PRE-DAWN MEAL)
Its purpose is to provide us with strength, vitality and sustainability. Hence, this meal should be wholesome and filling. Suhoor is the body’s primary source of energy during the fasting day.
• IFTAR (POST-SUNSET MEAL)
Its purpose is to re-balance and recharge our bodies after the fasting day. Iftar is the time to replenish energy levels and nutrients. Therefore, every effort should be made to eat food from all major food groups.
HOW TO BE ENERGISED THIS RAMADAN
You have the power. At the beginning of every meal, you have a choice to make on how to fuel your body with the best foods. You’ll feel better, more energised and less deprived when you choose food that nourishes you.
Eating whole, nutrient-rich foods is one of the best ways we know to optimise our health and well-being. We must incorporate a diverse diet from all the major food groups into our Suhoor and Iftar meals. The major food groups are as follows:
Protein is a great source of energy and will keep you feeling full throughout the day. Protein will balance your blood sugar levels so you do not feel that ‘dip’. It can also prevent you from craving sweets.
Good sources of protein include:
Animal-based Protein Sources –
• Greek Yogurt
Plant-based Protein Sources –
• Nuts & Seeds
2. COMPLEX CARBOHYDRATES
Complex carbohydrates are unrefined. They contain fibre, vitamins and minerals, and they take longer to digest – which means they have less of an immediate impact on blood sugar, causing it to rise more slowly and steadily.
Complex carbohydrates can be divided into sub-categories:
1. Whole grains; such as: whole wheat flours, whole wheat bread, oats (porridge), quinoa, brown, red and wild rice, bulgur wheat, freekah, whole barley, rye, spelt, and even popcorn (plain).
2. Starchy vegetables; such as: sweet potatoes, carrots, beets, pumpkin and squash.
3. Other vegetables; such as: green leafy vegetables, onions, tomatoes, peppers.
4. Fruit; such as dates, berries, apples, plums, pears and bananas.
3. HEALTHY FATS
A major benefit of healthy fats in the diet is its ability to supply energy.
Good sources of healthy fats include:
• Nuts – walnuts, macadamia nuts, almonds, cashews and hazelnuts)
• Seeds – flax, pumpkin, sunflower, sesame and chia
• Coconut oil
• Olive oil
• Grass-fed butter
• Fatty cold-water fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines
• Greek yoghurt
Adequate hydration is extremely important. This will prevent dehydration and provide your body with essential fluids.
Aim for around 2 litres (6-8 glasses) of liquids per day (this can include decaffeinated herbal teas). Also, consider consuming hydrating vegetables e.g. cucumbers, lettuce, courgettes, celery and watermelon as they are high in fibre and filled with great hydrating properties.
FOODS TO LIMIT
It’s important to have a balanced and moderate approach on what and how much we eat to help us ensure we feel nourished through our mind, body and spirit.
We should try to limit; simple/refined carbohydrates such as; sugars, white bread, croissants, cakes, pastries, sugar-sweetened beverages. They are low in fibre, vitamins and minerals. In addition, refined carbohydrate consumption is associated with health problems like obesity and type 2 diabetes, and they tend to cause major spikes in blood sugar levels, which leads to a subsequent crash that can trigger hunger and cravings for more high-carb foods.
Another type of food we should try to limit are fried foods. Fried foods are often cooked in processed vegetable or seed oils. When heated, these oils can form trans fats, which are associated with an increased risk of many diseases, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity.
Eat a wide variety of colourful vegetables, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats and good quality protein. These are nutrient-dense foods which tend to be more satiating (makes us feel fuller), have more fibre and water. Try to minimise your intake of sugar and other sweeteners, industrial seed oils, and processed and refined food and snacks.
As believers, we need healthy bodies and minds in order to worship Allah in the correct way. To maintain a sound mind, a pure heart and a healthy body, special attention must be paid to health. Everything we do in life should be in moderation and within a balanced approach to achieve real wholeness. Choosing wholesome foods and avoiding unwholesome foods is essential to good health.