Let us make the change in Ramadhaan 1434!
Let This Ramadhaan be different! We know it is a most beautiful and blessed month of restraint, in our thoughts, words, actions and, for a part of our day in our eating………Fasting gives the digestive system a rest, where the energy usually used in food digestion and food metabolism is directed towards body detoxification, tissue repair and system healing. The West recommend fasting as an ideal detox and a brilliant way to supercharge the immune system.
Sadly though, come Iftaar time and our poor stomachs are overwhelmed with large quantities of partially chewed, mostly unhealthy greasy foods. This defeats and destroys all the spiritual and health benefits of the fast in one meal. The Holy Quraan states
" ……And eat and drink but do not waste by extravagance, certainly He(Allah) does not like those who waste by extravagance." (Quraan 7:31)
The solution lies in continuing the spirit of restraint, even at Iftaar time. We should not view Iftaar time as an opportunity for indulgent overeating where we consume foods that are more harmful to our health than beneficial. Our Noble Prophet Muhammed SAW preferred to eat simple food that was easily available at Iftaar and did not require much preparation. We need to simplify and practice moderation in our eating habits as he did. This will be the elixir to better health as outlined by Umar ibn al Khattab:
" Beware of overeating, it ruins the body and causes sickness and laziness in performing prayers. Seek moderation, it is more healthful for the body and more distant from waste. "
I have outlined ten practical ways to assist us in obtaining the full physical benefits of fasting.
· Iftaar should be made with fresh or dried dates and water. Our Beloved Prophet SAW often ate dates with cucumber. He said the heat of the former overcomes the coolness of the latter. We should also combine the two, with the added benefit being cucumbers high water content – 95%. One serving of dates would be 2-3 medium sized dates.
· Fluids-our bodies need to rehydrate between iftaar and bedtime. Other good choices besides water would include:
· Milk drinks such as almond milk or date milkshake. The combination of milk and dates forms a complete meal of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals and fibre. For weight loss, fat-free/skimmed milk should be used. Our Beloved Prophet SAW said of milk this prayer:
" Oh Allah! Bless it for us and grant us more of it, for I do not know of a more complete food or drink than milk."(Tirmidhi)
· Haleem- prepared with wheat, barley, oats and minimal fat. This is very similar to Sawiq a broth consumed by Prophet SAW. Nourishing vegetable soups can also be prepared.
· Freshly squeezed fruit juices with minimal added sugar. Good to get the kids involved before Iftaar time, when time is dragging.
· Fruit smoothies-made with milk/yoghurt, fruit of choice, seed mix and honey.
· Herbal teas such as rooibos, chamomile or green tea which do not have a diuretic effect. Rooibos teas brewed with spices and low fat milk makes a tasty alternative to normal brewed tea. It also prevents unnecessary diuresis associated with normal tea.
· Food of Colour should be your first course. No vitamin or mineral supplement can compete with the nutrients found naturally in fruits and vegetables. They are Allah SWT great gift to us, one we do not do justice to. Let us make it a habit in our homes to serve attractive platters of fruits served with a drizzling of honey and cinnamon, exotic salads served with low fat olive oil and vinegar based dressing, vegetable sticks and low fat dips such as hummus, at the start of every meal. Let us not serve fruit as dessert, a common cultural habit. Eating fruits and vegetables before meals prepares our stomach for more effective digestion, and also aids in quicker satiety due to their high water content. Something we all would welcome for weight loss.
· Smart Savoury preparation. Savoury consumption in Ramadhaan is an innovation of the indian culture, so we have our Indian ancestors to blame for all the hard work involved. As mentioned our Noble Prophet SAW partook of simple food. It would be of great health benefit if we just abandoned this practice of savoury making for Iftaar. However I am aware that this is easier said than done. The bottom line is that all the deep fried, rich, cheese laden savouries produce unnatural fats, called trans fats in the body. Studies have shown these to be ARTERY BLOCKERS! Further, frying of carbohydrates at high temperatures generates a toxic by product called "acrolin", which is believed to have a carcinogenic effect. Above all, the simple fact is : fats make you fat.
Smart savoury preparation entails becoming innovative and creative with savoury recipes and preparation techniques so that less oil and fat are used. Non-fried savouries such as wraps, meat buns, lagans, savoury crumpets, pitas, baked samoosas, patta and kebabs are all great tasting examples. The use of an air fryer can also further assist.
· Eat small amounts, chewing food properly.
Our Beloved Prophet SAW said: " No human fills a vessel worse than his stomach. For a person, few mouthfuls are sufficient to keep his back straight. If he wants to fill his stomach, then should divide his stomach into three parts. One third for his food, one third for his drink and one third for his breath."
If we could just adhere to these sound words of guidance from Allah SWT most Beloved creation-Prophet SAW, during and out of Ramadhaan we would benefit ourselves tremendously both physically and spiritually, InshaAllah.
An easy way to go about doing this would be to drink fluids first, to eat slowly, chew food well before swallowing and to embrace the sunnat practice of eating while sitting on the floor. Poorly chewed food results in more work for the stomach which further results in indigestion and bloatedness.
· Plan an iftaar menu for the week. Ensure every meal is a well -balanced healthy meal with all the food groups and minimal amounts of added fats. This will also result in less time spent in the kitchen and more time for ibaadat. Include the following at every meal
Vegetables and fruit: as outlined above, commence every meal with food of colour.
Carbohydrates: whole grains such as brown rice, barley, whole grain breads, brown roti, whole wheat pasta ,potato with skin
Proteins: allocate at least two days for chicken, fish and lentils and one day each for beef and mutton trimmed of all the fat.
· Consume more of the foods that are mentioned in the Holy Quraan and sunnat.
Grains: barley, whole wheat, lentils
Fruits: dates, grapes, pomegranate, figs, olives, watermelon, quince
Vegetables: cucumber, squashes, pumpkin, marrows, mushroom, chard, garlic, onion
Drinks: water and milk
Other: Honey, olives and olive oil, black seed
· Perform Taraweeh salaat.
It is very clear that the less we eat at Iftaar, the better our performance of Esha and Taraweeh Salaat. Overeating at Iftaar time results in increased blood flow to the digestive tract, with less blood flowing to other vital organs such as the limbs and brain. This leaves one feeling lethargic and weak during salaat time. The importance of performing this ibaadat with concentration and devotion cannot be overemphasized. Furthermore during the performance of a correct salaah, each and every muscle in the body is exercised- Subhanallah.
· Partake of sehri as it is a sunnat.
Our Noble Prophet SAW said there is great blessing in partaking of sehri. If one is unable to eat at that time, a glass of water or milk and a few dates will suffice. For those who are small and weak, a milk drink such as Ensure, Life Gain or Build Up can be consumed.
A healthy sehri meal should include the following:
· Honey water
· Dates and other fresh fruits
· Whole grain, low GI cereals such as oats, barley, taystee wheat, muesli with nuts, seeds and raisins OR
· Whole grain, low GI bread, rolls or roti
· Protein topping such as egg, low fat cheese, peanut butter, chicken filling
· Herbal tea. Avoid normal tea as it causes diuresis which results in unwanted fluid and mineral loss.
· Be positive and inspired to be healthier!
The Most Gracious and Merciful Allah adapted the human body to withstand this difficult yet very beneficial fasting process. The whole purpose of fasting is to have a lighter body in order to free the soul and focus on more spiritual matters. Insha-Allah may we all initiate positive changes this Ramadhaan, and may Allah SWT instill in us the desire to be healthy individuals and protect our health so we may worship him better –Ameen.