Each year we are blessed with the arrival of the holy month of Ramadan. Millions of Muslims around the world use this blessed month to give thanks and rekindle the divine connection with our Maker. This year, Ramadan falls between both spring and summer. With temperatures high during the long days, it’s a bit difficult to get by the day until sundown. With the right nourishment after breaking the fast, fasting will be more tolerable and the thirst less frequent.
It’s a misconception that one must eat as much as they can from iftar until suhoor, feeling overstuffed and close to a food coma so as to not feel the hunger during the day. That is by far one of the worst things to do once you break your fast. Instead it’s best to choose a light meal to break your fast. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), recommended his followers to break their fast with water and three or an odd number of dates, this is what we were taught to follow the Prophet’s way. Dates are high in sugar and carbohydrates, packed with magnesium, potassium and fiber, and thus provide just the right boost of energy needed after a long day of fasting.
Nowadays, large banquet style iftars are set on the table and a wide selection of entrées are served, it would seem that it’s to quench the thirst and satisfy the hunger of the day but the opposite couldn’t be more true.
Fasting has many health benefits such as giving the digestive tract time to rest and detox, allowing the body to tap into an energy source stored in the fat tissue. Maintaining a healthy and very gradual weight loss is what results from tapping into the energy source, and the body will feel more at ease as you perform your daily chores and prayers, taraweeh and taHajud.
Keeping the body hydrated during the day would seem difficult but drinking small quantities of water throughout the evening will be enough. It is difficult, especially for anyone who’s daily chores require staying long periods outdoors under the scorching sun and heat. For those who don’t, it’s best not to perform heavy activities or exercises since fatigue can hit you and hit hard. Drinking water is better than the sugary juices, mix fruits with your water or make a great smoothie by mixing your favorite fruits in one glass. Many need caffeinated drinks after breaking their fast and it’s totally fine, the smell of Arabic coffee is intoxicating as it is anyway. It’s alright to drink up to three cups of coffee during the evening, but don’t over exceed since it can help with the dehydration instead of hydrating.
Iftar should be light, heavy fried foods and sweet sugary sweets will cause an upset stomach because the body is attacked with heavy greasy foods after being deprived of it all day. Start light, concentrate on proteins found in legumes such as lentils, beans, peas and okra. Good sources of protein also include eggs, lean veal, chicken or turkey. Proteins provide the muscles and tissue the much needed maintenance to help feel energized during the daytime. Try to avoid fried chicken, hot dog, liver and organ meats and large quantities of shellfish, for these contain heavy amounts of fat and discourage the body from absorbing proper proteins. Carbs are also recommended for suhoor since they give a sense of fullness throughout the day, they’re a good source of energy as well. Rice, bread and pasta in moderation with a salad or any kind of protein is always a good idea but it’s not to be consumed separately as it can cause more constipation than fullness. Be smart and savvy with your meals, experiment and choose wisely.
Ladies and gentlemen, eating salads all night long will not help you lose weight. Consuming large quantities of greens everyday and ignoring the rest of the food group will cause you to have loose bowels, lose large quantities of water that is important to keep you hydrated, will cause you to feel weak, fatigued and maybe lose consciousness if and when you deprive your body of the proper nourishment while you’re free to eat. Fruits are your sweet best friend in Ramadan, between meals fruits are a great way to get the proper amount of vitamins, minerals and restoring the body’s electrolytes. Soups are the best way to incorporate a great deal of greens and fluids in one dish.
The true essence of the month of Ramadan is not in meals prepped, it’s about the connection with the Maker, reconnecting with family and loved ones and feeling the joy of the month with great company and its ease in your time alone. Ramadan gives a sense of peace, a sense of belonging and is the month of giving. We love food, it’s a Middle Eastern thing, but your body and mind need a bit more special care this month than any other month. Stay cool and healthy.
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