by Priya Massand, MPH, MCHES (@healthy.muslims)
Salam brothers and sisters, and Ramadan Kareem!
The most blessed time of the year is here and this year let’s try to make Ramadan a healthy month, one where we understand the meaning of sacrifice for Allah SWT’s sake, and avoid treating it as an opportunity to binge every night. Ironically, during this month of fasting, people who are already sick end up aggravating their condition by indulging in heavy Iftar meals. When thinking about the typical Iftar and dinner, which tend to include lots of rice dishes like biryani, bread-based goodies like pita and parathas, and of course, loads of sweets, there are a few things to keep in mind when breaking your fast.
Instead of thinking of taste and tradition, if we switch gears to consider nutrients and taking care of our bodies in an optimal way, we can ensure a successful and healthy month of Ramadan. When breaking the fast, we don’t want to eat heavy or spicy foods which can irritate the stomach. It’s better to avoid meals with foods that are difficult to digest, as our digestive system has slowed down throughout the day of fasting; rather, we should try to incorporate the foods that will maximize nourishment without depleting energy. Slowly introducing some nutritious foods, rather than binging immediately after sunset, is the best way to break your fast.
Read below to learn what nutritious foods to add to your Iftar meal:
5 Superfoods to Include in Iftar
Watermelon is a great thing to include when breaking your fast. Watermelon has a very high water content, which is perfect for rehydration when you’ve gone without water for more than 12 hours. Watermelon is easily digested and its nutrients are easily absorbed by the digestive system to become readily available to get into your bloodstream. The glucose in watermelons also gives you a boost of energy. It is an excellent way to provide your body with the strength it needs and to add a little sweetness to your taste buds.
Avocado is considered a superfood for many reasons – it is a very nutrient-dense food, and a great source of vitamins and minerals, and one of my favorite additions to any meal. Most other vegetables have a high carbohydrate content, but avocados are mostly made of healthy, mono-unsaturated fats. Avocados contain Vitamins K, B, E and C, Potassium, and Folate. All these nutrients are crucial for our bodies to function well. So mash up some avocado, add a little onion or cilantro, and enjoy the fact that you can have guacamole in the middle of the night!
Fresh-squeezed carrot juice is another excellent thing to have when breaking your fast. Carrots are a very good source of Vitamin A, which is one of the most important vitamins for our body. Juicing the carrots breaks down the nutrients so they are easy on the digestive system. This juice will give your body a buffet of nutrients, including vitamins C, D, E, and K, as well as a good amount of magnesium, potassium and calcium. The beta carotene in carrots is essential for your immune system, and even protects your eyes and skin.
This Sunnah food is another excellent source of nutrition after breaking a fast. The Prophet SAW used to recommend having dates with cucumber according to some narrations. Fun fact – Cucumbers are actually from the same family as melon, and have a very high water content making them good for rehydration. Cucumbers also have loads of health benefits. They are anti-inflammatory, and have high anti-oxidant levels which help to eliminate free radicals in the body, thus reducing the risk of certain cancers. The phytonutrients in cucumbers help to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol as well!
Unsweetened yogurt is one of the most easily digested foods available. When we are fasting, the enzymes in our digestive system get weak or fully stop functioning. The protective mucus lining is also weaker, so the stomach is more sensitive. Soothing foods like yogurt will help restore the good bacteria in the digestive system, while giving your body some protein, calcium and potassium. Yogurt is easy on the stomach, so it is a perfect addition to your iftar meal. Shred some cucumbers, add a pinch of salt and pepper, and add to 2 cups of plain yogurt to make a healthy and tasty dip for your family!
*For those with lactose intolerace, yogurt can be substituted with coconut cream.
Once you have eaten some of these foods, it is good to wait a few minutes before starting your Iftar meal. Give the food some time to do its work and jump-start your digestive system before you head for the plate of Haleem! And remember, the Prophet SAW advised us to only fill 1/3 of our stomachs with food, and to leave 1/3 of the space for water and 1/3 for air. Moderation is key, even during Ramadan.
So stop, think, digest and breathe before you go for that third plate of rice and curry.
Extra Tips for a Healthy Ramadan:
- Eat SLOWLY at first. Chew your food properly and don’t inhale it! Give your digestive system time to reactivate so your body properly receives the nutrients it needs without aggravating your stomach.
- Limit fried and spicy foods. These foods are not easily digested and can increase the acidity in your body, causing heartburn and acid reflux.
- Take a short walk after iftar and dinner, to help your body digest what you just ate. It can just be 5-10 minutes even inside the home or building.
- Limit sugar intake. Breaking your fast with 3 dates is Sunnah, but that does not mean it’s a good idea to throw cakes, cookies and soda into the mix! These things will give you a quick burst of “fake” energy, only to have you crash a few hours later.
Wish you all a blessed and healthy Ramadan!
This post was written by Priya Massand, MPH, MCHES, also known as @healthy.muslims. If you’re on Instagram, be sure to give her a follow! She has some great content on healthy foods and Islamic lifestyle.