Foods that Harm and Foods that Benefit
The fasts of Ramadan can improve a person's health but - if the correct diet is not followed - can possibly worsen it! The deciding factor is not the fast itself, but rather what is consumed in the non-fasting hours. To fully benefit from fasting a person should spare a great deal of thought to the type and quantity of food they will indulge in through the blessed month. As mentioned in the section on spirituality overeating can not only harm the body but it is thought to also interfere with a person's spiritual growth during the month. A diet that has less than a normal amount of food but is sufficiently balanced will keep a person healthy and active during the month of Ramadan.
The diet should be simple and not differ too much from one's normal everyday diet. It should contain foods from all the major food groups as shown in the model.
Complex Carbohydrates are foods that will help release energy slowly during the long hours of fasting. Complex carbohydrates are found in grains and seeds, like barley, wheat, oats, millets, semolina, beans, lentils, wholemeal flour, basmati rice, etc.
Fibre-rich foods are also digested slowly and include bran, cereals, whole wheat, grains and seeds, potatoes with the skin, vegetables such as green beans and almost all fruit including apricots, prunes, figs, etc.
Foods to avoid are the heavily-processed, fastburning foods that contain refined carbohydrates in the form of sugar, white flour, etc. as well as of course,too much fatty foods (e.g.cakes, biscuits, chocolates and sweets, such as Indian Mithai). It may also be worth avoiding the caffeine content in drinks such as tea, coffee and cola. (Caffeine is a diuretic and stimulates faster water loss through urination).
Suhoor, 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 in the suhoor.
Iftar is the meal which breaks the day's fast. This meal could include dates, following the Prophetic traditions. Dates will provide a refreshing burst of much needed energy. Fruit juices will also have a similar, revitalising effect. The meal should remain a meal and not become a feast! Try to minimise the rich, special dishes that traditionally celebrate the fast and keep to the advice included in the table above.
Many of the foods which are mentioned and encouraged are in the Holy Qur¡¦an and the Sunnah (the Prophetic traditions) also correspond to modern guidelines on a healthy diet and will help to maintain balanced, healthy meals in Ramadan. The most commonly consumed foods by Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) were milk, dates, lamb/mutton and oats. Healthy foods mentioned in the Holy Qur¡¦an are fruit and vegetables such as olives, onions, cucumber, figs, dates, grapes as well as pulses such as lentils. The encouragement of fish can be seen in the fact that Islamic Law spares fish from any specific slaughter requirements, making it easy to incorporate fish in a meal.
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