Sameea Jonnud, Aldershot, UK
As Ramadhan progresses those fasting will have got into a routine to pass the day from before dawn to night. Proper nutrition is essential to ensure there are no negative effects brought on by fasting, especially in these long days with eighteen hour fasts.
The fast is opened at sunset and this is called iftar; many people will be familiar with this as it is traditional to gather with friends and family to break the fast. For this reason Muslims will often invite their non-Muslim friends to join with them.
Following the tradition of the Holy Prophet of Islam (on whom be peace) dates are eaten to actually break the fast; these can be fresh, semi dried or dried and are in fact a really good way of providing an instant energy boost at the end of a fast. Along with water this is enough to sustain people who are fasting for a short while longer to enable them to perform the evening Maghrib Prayer.
The food eaten after this can be whatever people feel like eating but it is healthier not too eat too heavily as there is little time to digest before sleeping and the pre-dawn breakfast is only a few hours away.
“… eat and drink but exceed not the bounds; surely, He does not love those who exceed the bounds.”
Holy Qur’an 7:32
Plenty of fluids should be drunk to compensate for the whole day and it is also a chance to eat more fresh fruit and vegetables which might otherwise be lacking during the month. Also while deep fried food may seem extremely tempting it is best kept to a minimum so you don’t cancel the health benefits you have gained from fasting.
Sahoor, the pre-dawn breakfast, is the most important meal for Muslims during Ramadhan and even those not fasting are encouraged to join in. It is a good way for children to get a feel of Ramadhan despite being too young to fast.
The Holy Prophet (on whom be peace) said:
“The difference between our observance of the fast and that of the People of the Book is the eating of breakfast”
“Take breakfast before the fast begins. There is blessing in breakfast”
Gardens of the Righteous
It is important that this meal should be nutritious enough to sustain people through the long, often hot days of fasting. Again plenty of fluids should be taken to avoid dehydration; water, milk and yoghurt based drinks are good for this. A small amount of fruit juice provides vitamins but fizzy and sugary drinks may work for a while but can dehydrate and once the ‘sugar rush’ has finished can cause tiredness. While it may be difficult to avoid completely, tea and coffee should be kept to a minimum as they stimulate quicker water loss.
The food eaten at this time ideally should contain slow release carbohydrates – porridge and bananas or berries are excellent sources and eating wholemeal breads are better than refined white. Lentils, rice and sweet potatoes are nutritious as well as filling and eating a few nuts and dates adds to the slow release energy intake.
During Ramadhan alongside spiritual regeneration there is a great opportunity to learn self-discipline and make healthy changes to the diet which should be continued throughout the year. So switch from deep fried to baked food, white to wholemeal flour and resist the temptation to snack unnecessarily throughout the day. After all if you can do it during Ramadhan, you can do it afterwards too.