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Diet During Ramadan

Light Suhoor and Lighter Iftar!
By Mohammad Zafar A. Nomani
A balanced diet is sufficient to keep a person healthy and active during the month of Ramadan

Fasting during the Islamic month of Ramadan can be good for one’s health and personal evelopment. Ramadan fasting is not just about disciplining the body to restrain from eating food and drinking water from predawn until sunset. The eyes, the ears, the tongue, and even the private parts are equally obligated to be restrained if a Muslim wants to gain the total rewards of fasting. Ramadan is also about restraining anger, doing good deeds, exercising personal discipline, and preparing oneself to serve as a good Muslim and a good person during and after Ramadan.

This is why the Messenger of Allah (Pbuh) has been attributed, by Hazrat Abu Hurairah in the Hadith, to say: “He who does not desist from obscene language and acting obscenely (during the period of fasting), Allah has no need that he didn’t eat or drink.” (Bukhari, Muslim). In another Hadith by Hazrat Abu Hurairah, the Prophet (Pbuh) said: “Fasting is not only from food and drink, fasting is to refrain from obscene (acts). If someone verbally abuses you or acts ignorantly toward you, say (to them) ‘I am fasting; I am fasting.”

Ramadan fasting has spiritual, physical, psychological, and social benefits; however, man-made problems may occur, if fasting is not properly practised. First of all, there is no need to consume excess food at iftar (the food eaten immediately after sunset to break fast), dinner or sahur ( the light meal generally eaten about half an hour to one hour before dawn). The body has regulatory mechanisms that activate during fasting. There is efficient utilisation of body fat, basal metabolism slows down during Ramadan fasting and a diet that is less than a normal amount of food intake, but balanced is sufficient enough to keep a person healthy and active during the month of Ramadan. Health problems can emerge as a result of excess food intake.

Here is a Dietary Plan
1. Bread/Cereal/Rice, Biscuits and Cracker Group: 6-11 servings/day; 2. Meat/Beans/ Nut Group: 2-3 servings/day. 3. Milk and Milk Product Group: 2-3 servings/day. 4. Vegetable Group: 3-5 servings/day; 5. Fruit Group: 2-4 servings/day. 6. Added sugar (table sugar, sucrose): sparingly. 7. Added fat, polyunsaturated oil 4-7 table spoons.

Iftar:
Three Dates
Juice- 1 serving (4 oz.)
Vegetable soup- 1 cup
The body’s immediate need at the time of iftar is to get an easily available energy source in the form of glucose for every living cell, particularly the brain and nerve cells. Dates and juices are good sources of sugars. Dates and juice in the above quantity are sufficient to bring low blood glucose levels to normal levels. Juice and soup help maintain water and mineral balance in the body. An unbalanced diet and too many servings of sherbets and sweets with added sugar have been found to be unhealthy.

Dinner:
Consume foods from all the following food groups:
Meat/Bean Group: Chicken, beef, lamb, goat, fish, 1-2 servings (serving size = a slice =1 oz); green pea, chickpea, green gram, black gram, lentil and other beans, 1 serving (half cup). Meat and beans are a good source of protein, minerals, and certain vitamins. Beans are a good source of dietary fibre, as well.

Bread/Cereal Group: Whole wheat bread, 2 servings (serving size = 1 oz) or cooked rice, one cup or combination. This group is a good source of complex carbohydrates, which are a good source of energy and provide some protein, minerals and dietary fibre.

Milk Group: milk or butter-milk (lassi without sugar), yogurt or cottage cheese (one cup). Those who cannot tolerate whole milk must try fermented products such as butter-milk and yogurt. Milk and dairy products are good sources of protein and calcium, which are essential for body tissue maintenance and several physiological functions.

Vegetable Group: Mixed vegetable salad, 1 serving (one cup), (lettuce, carrot, parsley, cucumber, broccoli, coriander leaves, cauliflower or other vegetables as desired.) Add 2 teaspoons of any polyunsaturated oil and 2 spoons of vinegar. Polyunsaturated fat provides the body with essential fatty acids and keto acids. Cooked vegetables such as beans, bhindi, baigan, bottle -gourd , cabbage, spinach, 1 serving (4 oz). Vegetables are a good source of dietary fibre. These are helpful in the prevention of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and many other health problems.

Fruits Group: 1-2 servings of citrus and/or other fruits. Eat fruits as the last item of the dinner or soon after dinner, to facilitate digestion and prevent many gastrointestinal problems. Citrus fruits provide vitamin C. Fruits are a good source of dietary fibre.

Pre-dawn Meal (sahur):
Consume a light sahur. Eat whole wheat or oat cereal or whole wheat bread, 1-2 serving with a cup of milk. Add 2-3 teaspoons of any polyunsaturated fats in a salad or the cereal. Eat 1-2 servings of fruits, as a last item.

During Ramadan increased gastric acidity is often noticed, exhibiting itself with symptoms such as a burning feeling in the stomach, a heaviness in the stomach, and a sour mouth. Whole wheat bread, vegetables, beans, and fruits are an excellent source of dietary fibre which helps reduce gastric acidity and excess bile acids. Peptic ulcer patients should avoid spicy foods and consult a doctor for appropriate medicine and diet. Diabetic people, particularly severe type I (insulin dependent) or type II (non-insulin dependent), must consult their doctor for the type and dosage of medicine, and diet and precautions to be taken during the month. Generally diabetes mellitus, type II, is manageable through proper diet during Ramadan.

• Drink sufficient water between Iftar and sleep to avoid dehydration.
• Consume sufficient vegetables at meals. Eat fruits at the end of the meal.
• Avoid intake of high sugar foods through sweets or other forms.
• Avoid spicy foods.
• Avoid caffeine drinks such as coke or coffee. Caffeine is a diuretic. Three days to five days before Ramadan gradually reduce the intake of these drinks. A sudden decrease in caffeine prompts headaches, mood swings and irritability.
• Smoking is a health risk factor. Avoid smoking cigarettes.
• Do not forget to brush or Miswak. Brush your teeth before sleep and after sahur. .
• Normal or overweight people should not gain weight. For overweight people Ramadan is an excellent opportunity to lose weight.
• It is recommended that everyone engage in some kind of light exercise, such as stretching or walking.

(The writer is Professor of Nutrition, West Virginia University and can be reached at mnomani@wvu.edu).