The holy month of Ramzan has begun and has brought with it a large array of glorious benefits for our spiritual wellbeing.
Along with it, there are a large number of health and nutritional benefits hidden in the philosophy of Ramzan fasting as well as in the various food substances which are preferred in this month. If we were to consider the routine which is followed during this month, starting right from Sehri to Iftaar, we can find so much for our physical health which cannot be achieved after months of dieting and exercise, if the guidelines are followed properly.
Some of the foods preferred especially during the month of Ramzan are loaded with innumerable health and nutritional benefits. Some of the most important constituents of Ramzan meals along with their proper time of intake are mentioned below to stress their importance and to highlight their nutritional value.
Sehri: A healthy and wholesome Sehri should ideally consist of:
- Dates: are a very rich source of glucose, vitamins and minerals. The glucose component acts as brain food and thus will keep us alert and active for a long time. Also, the various micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) will help maintain the ionic balance of the body, prevent from undesirable effects of fasting, keeps deficiency symptoms away.
- Milk: It is considered as the complete food since it contains almost every vital nutrient required by our body for proper functioning. It is the only substance which has value both as a drink and as food and was the most loved drink of our beloved Prophet (SAW) which itself explains its value as a food constituent. It also provides lactose which gets converted into glucose to supply energy to the brain and its water content prevents from dehydration.
- Rice/Wheat/Oatmeal: This food component gives a satiety feeling and keeps hunger away for a long time. Besides, it also supplies fibre which is a must for digestive health.
- Tea: It keeps sleep away and keeps one wakeful. However, it should not be taken in excess of one cup since tea is a diuretic and promotes loss of water from the body which may result in dehydration.
Siwak: Siwak (Miswak) has been used by our beloved Prophet (SAW) after every nap and sleep which stresses its importance in terms of the benefits it provides. It is for the same reason that the use of Siwak has been permitted even during fasting.
Using Siwak is cleansing and soothing for our mouth. It prevents the formation of yellowness (plaque), makes teeth shiny, and prevents inflammation of the mouth. It also helps in healing wounds. Besides, it also kills at least five types of disease-causing germs in the mouth including Streptococcus Bacteria.
Iftaar: Iftaari should be rich in glucose, vitamins, minerals, fibre and anti-oxidants to rejuvenate the body after a long fast and restore the energy, vitamin and mineral levels. This is because after prolonged fasting, our body glucose drops down to the point of non-existence and in late hours of fasting, our body uses alternate sources of nourishment to cope up with body’s energy demands.
This is why a person feels drowsy during the late hours of fasting. This alternate energy source utilization has tremendous benefits especially for obese and overweight persons because it rids the body of extra fats, increases heart health, helps in bringing down cholesterol levels, decreases the chances of brain stroke by controlling blood pressure, decreases the likelihood of developing metabolic disorders like Type II Diabetes.
Some of The Must Have Foods for a ‘Complete’ Iftaar Include
- Dates: These will provide glucose, vitamins and minerals for the proper functioning of the body. The supplied glucose spares oxidized fatty acids and protein amino acids as energy sources since it is readily absorbed by the body. It thus alleviates symptoms of general weakness and restores normal metabolism. The vitamins and minerals are beneficial for the whole body especially the vital organs like liver, heart and kidney.
- Honey: It is an extremely nutritious food since it also provides glucose, vitamins and minerals in abundance. Besides, it also imparts digestive health, prevents stomach pain and has detoxification properties. It also prevents further oxidation of fatty acids and production of ketone bodies besides sparing body proteins.
Honey also has healing power and can act as a mild anti-bacterial remedy. Honey can also be taken with lemon in the form of a drink which provides freshness, acts as an excellent remedy to improve skin health, prevents hair loss and helps in preventing oxidative damage.
- Watermelon: It is an excellent source of water to combat dehydration caused by fasting. Besides, it provides a good amount of sodium to restore normal blood pressure which is usually lowered as a result of prolonged fasting. It is also a rich source of vitamin ‘C’, Sulphur, Chlorine and Phosphates.
- Figs: It is a soft and gentle fruit for the mouth and stomach and contains digestible dietary nutrients in abundance. An infusion of figs is beneficial for respiratory ailments. It is also beneficial in treating infections of mouth, gums and throat. As a nourishing tonic, figs are good for children, pregnant women and people suffering from physical weaknesses such as the one observed during fasting and nervous exhaustion. Figs are also preventive against tumours.
- Fish: It has been said by our beloved Prophet (SAW) that the caudate lobe of the fish liver will be the first food offered to people in paradise. This statement alone testifies its beneficial value. Fish proteins are of high quality and are easily digested. It is an excellent source of vitamin ‘A’ and ‘D’ and some very important essential oils which are good in managing general health. It is also a rich source of iodine which helps in normal thyroid functioning. Fish is good for people who have a weak memory. It also lowers cholesterol and promotes heart health.
- Olive Oil: It is a rich source of anti-oxidants which provides protection against free radicals and free fatty acids generated due to prolonged fasting.
Consuming olive oil also protects against coronary artery disease, high cholesterol levels in the blood, high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. It also protects against some forms of cancer. A diet rich in olive oil decreases a person’s dependence on medicines and also helps against thrombosis. It also promotes skin health and decreases the chances of developing stomach ulcers.
- Milk: It provides all the vital nutrients to our body in optimum concentration to regain our energy. The proteins present in milk are complete proteins, hence are very high in nutritive value. The lactose present in milk is also very important for liver health.
- Barley: It has been said by our beloved Prophet (SAW) that barley cleanses our stomach the way one cleans his face with water. It is a rich source of energy in the form of proteins and vitamins and is also a soothing food for a person who is sick. It is light and easy to digest food.
There are three components in barley which are all good in lowering cholesterol. It also has a rich content of fibre.
(Author is a Research Scholar at Department of Biotechnology, University of Kashmir.)