The month of Ramadan is a great opportunity to focus on bringing back a balanced and healthy lifestyle. Through fasting, you learn how to manage your eating habits and improve self-discipline.
This article will help you understand the health issues related to fasting, so that you are able to make more informed choices, minimize complications and maximize the benefits of your fast.
Good And Bad Foods During Ramadan
During Ramadan, you need to put extra effort into including foods from all five food groups to ensure variety and a well-balanced diet.
These foods include:
- Breads, cereals and other grain products
- Fruit and vegetables
- Meat, fish and poultry
- Milk, cheese and yogurt
- Fats and sugars (these contain very little nutrients and are high in calories and therefore their intake should be limited).
The most commonly consumed foods by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) were milk, dates, lamb/mutton and oats. Healthy foods mentioned in the Holy Quran are fruit and vegetables, such as olives, onions, cucumber, figs, dates, grapes as well as pulses such as lentils.
Complex carbohydrates are foods that will help release energy slowly during the long hours of fasting and are found in grains and seeds like barley, wheat, oats, millets, semolina, beans, lentils, whole-meal flour and rice.
Fiber-rich foods are also digested slowly and include cereals, whole wheat, grains and seeds, potatoes with skin, vegetables such as green beans and almost all fruit, including apricots, prunes and figs.
Foods to avoid are the heavily processed and fast-burning foods that contain refined carbohydrates such as sugar and white flour or fatty food like cakes, biscuits, chocolates and sweets. Excess caffeine content in drinks such as tea, coffee and cola should also be avoided (caffeine is a diuretic and stimulates faster water loss through urination).
What Should I Eat At Suhoor And Iftar?
The pre-dawn meal should be a wholesome, moderate meal that is filling and provides enough energy for many hours. It is therefore particularly important to include slowly digesting foods like complex carbohydrates. Drink fluids to keep you hydrated during the day and assist with digestion.
The meal that breaks the day’s fast could include dates, following the Prophetic tradition. Dates will provide a refreshing burst of much-needed energy. Fruit juices will also have a similar, revitalizing effect.
Spirituality And Food
Food has a great significance in Islam. It is associated with one’s relationship with Allah. The Quran 20:81 states:
Eat of the good and wholesome things that we have provided for your sustenance, but indulge in no excess therein.
The physical body is a gift from Allah; it is given to humans as an Amanah (in trust) to take care of for a fixed period. The quantity and choice of food has a direct impact on the physical and spiritual well-being of the person. The food that you consume affects your behavior and personality. Overeating has long been frowned upon in Islam as it is thought to increase worldly appetites and cause laziness, thereby ‘dulling’ the soul, hampering spiritual growth and increasing physical ailments.
The blessed Prophet (PBUH) said:
The children of Adam fill no vessel worse than their stomach. Sufficient for them is a few morsels to keep their backs straight. If they must eat more, then a third should be for food, a third for drink, and a third left for air. (Sunan al-Tirmidhi)
The Quran 07:31:
Eat and drink freely: but waste not by excess, for He does not like the wasters.
Illness And Fasting
Ramadan fasting is obligatory for the healthy adult but when fasting may significantly affect the health of the individual or when one is genuinely sick, Islam exempts them from fasting. The Quran 02:185 says:
Allah intends every facility for you, He does not want to put you into difficulties.
The Quran makes it explicitly clear that people who have an illness or medical condition of any kind that makes fasting injurious to their health are exempt from fasting. To compensate for the missed fasts, they can fast later when they are healthy; if this is not possible due to long-term illness, they may feed the poor. The latter form of compensation is known as Fidyah.
- Eat normal-sized, nutritious meals at Suhoor and Iftar.
- Avoid foods high in fat, salt and sugar.
- Choose a diet rich in fruit, vegetables, beans, lentils, rice and grains.
- Drink plenty of fluids and avoid caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea, energy drinks or cola.
- Break the fast with a healthy snack like dates — a nutritious burst of natural sugar.
- Speak to a health professional before changing medication regimes for Ramadan.
- Avoid excessive exercise during fasting.