4 Lessons from Ramadan for a Healthier Lifestyle
At Iftar and Suhoor, we usually think about what we eat. We eat for balance, and we drink enough liquid. But after Ramadan, it’s easy to revert to old ways
Ideally, meals at Iftar and Suhoor ensure the relatively short period in which we can eat and drink is used wisely, giving the body the vital nutrition and liquid it needs. We take extra care to ensure food is healthy and complete every day, to improve the quality of the fast and our own health. After Ramadan, when our routines resume, it’s easy to slip back into eating as we once had. It makes us ask ourselves necessary questions about our everyday diets: are we drinking enough water, are we getting enough protein and fibre, and how do we eat sugars? Ramadan can provide excellent lessons for making changes to how we eat and drink in the long term.
- Keep Topped Up
An incredible 89% of the UK population doesn’t drink enough water, a study has recently shown. As our brains are 73% water, poor hydration can have a negative effect on brain function. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recommends an intake of 2.5 litres of water for men (10 glasses) and 2.0 litres (8 glasses) for women per day via both food and drink of which 70–80% of the intake should come from drinks. During Ramadan, the majority of us experience some mild dehydration, causing headaches, tiredness and reduced concentration. It’s during this time we really realise the importance of water for our bodies. The idea at Iftar is to sip water, so as not to put pressure on the kidneys, and take water to bed, so as to gradually hydrate over a period of time. This is an excellent habit to adopt post-Ramadan to ensure we hit the recommended intake. We can stay better hydrated by a reduction of caffeinated drinks. Soup, popular at Iftar because it hydrates after fasting, is a good way to top up water intake in general. You can get more liquid from water-rich foods like tomatoes and cucumbers in salads. Try substituting watermelon for tomatoes for an extra injection of water. Besides watermelon, strawberries, canataloupe melon, pineapple and oranges have the highest water content of all fruits. Try mixing them in fruit salads.
- Why Abandon Dates?
At Iftar, we try to swap artificial sugars for natural ones. Dates are of course traditional for breaking fast in many countries, providing natural sugars that give us energy. Fibrous dates also provide minerals copper, magnesium and potassium. But many of us tend not to think of dates much after Ramadan. Sprinkle them (and other dried fruits such as raisins and apricots) on breakfast or snack on them instead of chocolate, sweets and biscuits. As well as dried fruits in tagines, for example, there are delicious recipes for medjool dates in more substantial, savory meals, such as with halal lamb chops or halal chicken with olives, capers, and with rice, almonds and saffron.
- Protein really does matter
Meat is an essential component in post-fast meals. It’s essential because protein not only helps us feel fuller for longer but it builds and repair tissues and is used to produce enzymes, hormones and other body chemicals, and acts as a building block for bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood. Meat is a vital source of iron, which carries oxygen from your lungs to transport it throughout your body, and Vitamin B12, which provides energy and keeps nerve and blood cells healthy. Ensuring you get enough halal meat in your diet is essential, from meat snacks to mid-week dinners. Try slow-cooking halal meat to reduce cooking time after work, adding potatoes, pearl barley or lentils for something richer and denser, along with root veg like carrots. Halal lamb kofta makes cooking quick and ideal for sharing piled on top of basmati rice or rice mixed with orzo pasta, green herbs like parsley for Vitamin C, protein-rich yoghurt and water-filled salad items. Add extra nuts to your dishes, like flaked almonds, pistachios and peanuts, to enhance the amount of protein your body receives.
- Don’t forget fibre!
It’s not exactly a pleasant subject, but constipation can become a problem for people during Ramadan, with dramatic changes made to the way we normally eat and drink, but irrespective of fasting, nearly 1 in 10 of the UK overall population suffers with the problem. Adding nuts and seeds, as well as fresh fruit and veg, beans and pulses, will increase your fibre intake, but also switching to wholegrain rice and bread items and eating potatoes with skins will help. Keeping a supply of frozen peas and fibrous veg ensures you won’t find yourself without when you’re about to break your fast. Another way to ensure you are getting enough fibre is to insure that it is part of breakfast too, as we would at Suhoor, serving oats with milk and more dried fruits and liquids. If you do suffer from constipation, going for a walk after lunch and dinner can help alongside a fibrous diet.
Lastly, if you have any learnings from Iftar or Suhoor that you incorporate into a healthy halal diet, we’d love to hear them!