By Hwaa Irfan
One of the virtues of fasting during the summer months is that the body requires less food, however one might feel this is countered by the longer days spent fasting. For those with physically demanding jobs, there will be some concern how one is going to facilitate this obligatoty act of worship. If one is receptive to one’s eating habits during summer, one will not feel so overwhelmed at the idea of fasting in summer. However, if one has over a period of time accustomed one’s stomach to take more than it needs, then the initial week as opposed to 3 days will feel as if we just cannot do it, regardless of the simple fact that one will live to see another day.
If one is run down, or in a state of undefined state of ill health, summer usually makes one feel worse, yet we negate one of the world’s most ancient healing remedies, fasting. What does one naturally do when one is ill – eat less or not at all! This is how the body tries to fast stimulating the immune system. Also one’s level of growth hormone increases when fasting, thus mobilizing fat as an alternative source of energy. In an Iranian study published in the Annals of Saudi Medicine, Vol 22, Nos 5-6, 2002 Dr, Durdi Qujeq and team found amongst men (57) and women (26) volunteers aged 21 -55, and 20 – 58 respectively that there was a lower level of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, LDL, in mid – end of Ramadhan overall, but moreso for the female candidates. However, there was higher levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol for in mid – end of Ramadhan in comparison to before Ramadhan with the serum of the female candidates being only slightly higher than the male candidates with an overall decrease on weight. This is beneficial for people who have hyperlipidemia. LDL is deemed bad cholesterol because it takes cholesterol from the liver to the bodily tissues, circulating in the blood, and building up in the arterial walls thus narrowing the arteries. The lowering of LDL reduces the risk of coronary heart disease. High-density lipoprotein cholesterol protects against a heart attack, and low levels of HDL, increases the risk of heart disease.
One way of taking one’s mind off one’s bodily consumption, is to get used to eating slow digesting foods (complex carbohydrates) after iftar (break fast), and for suhur (morning meal before fasting) for the long Ramadhan summer days ahead, which last up to 8 hours. Complex carbohydrates include:
- • Whole grain cereals – brown rice (with husk) – whole wheat – barley – oats – millet – buckwheat – rye – corn – bulgur – popcorn – squash – whole wheat pasta.
What these have in common is that if one wants to maintain the spirit of Ramadhan, the all one has to do is go out and buy in bulk for the month. Looking out for good quality (no worms etc.), can ease the hassle of frequent shopping, and hopefully save some money at a time when food prices are getting ridiculously high.
Another form of complex carbohydrates are starchy tubers like yam, cassava, manioc, potatoes, dasheen, taro, which contain other nutrients like protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and vitamin C.
Then we must add soluble fiber to the meal to aid the digestion process and keep the colon healthy. These foods include:
- • Rye – oats – barley – soy – carrots – bananas – beans
And soluble fiber which helps to eliminate waste from the body. This includes:
- • Nuts – skin of fruits – vegetables – seeds – whole grain
Once again, seeds, nuts, and grains can be bought in bulk.
Fat takes the longest for our bodies to digest at a rate of 10 grams of fat per hour varying from person to person depending on state of health.
Then there are legumes, which are difficult to digest by themselves because we do not produce enough of the enzyme amylase. As such, they are best eaten with other legumes, leafy green vegetables, and vegetables in general, and not combine with fatty and starchy foods. Legumes include:
- • All beans – peas – lentils – nuts.
These vegetables combine well with proteins, fats, oils, starches, grains, legumes, vegetables (all types), and fatty fruits:
- • Aubergine (eggplant) – fresh corn – kale – brussel sprouts – cabbage – courgettes (zucchini) – summer squash – okra – broccoli – sweet peppers – green peas – beets.
Easily digested foods include fruits, raw foods: salads, leafy green vegetables, but what about desserts?
Desserts are generally easy to eat, and easy to digest, but they provide a nice treat. However, if you want to ensure colon health, desserts high in fiber include apples (unpeeled), oranges, pears (unpeeled), grapes (unpeeled), which add valuable vitamins and minerals to one’s Ramadhan diet.
If one suffers from slow digestion and/or a low metabolic rate the intake of slow digesting foods should be reduced and balanced out by plenty of vegetables of all types, however at the end of the day we are made of water so drink lots of water!
Don’t let the food you eat rob you of the spiritual aspects of Ramadhan without which Ramadhan would be just another Xmas!
Corbin, A. Food and Healing. Ballatine. 1986.
Morley, J.E. Introduction: Principles of Endocrinology http://merck.com/mmpe/sec12/ch150/ch150a.html
Qujed, D. et al. Effects of Ramadan Fasting on Serum Low-Density and High Density Lipoprotein-Cholesterol Concentrations. http://www.kfshrc.edu.sa/annals/Old/225_226/01-247.pdf
Your Vitamins and Minerals
Ramadan and Healthy Eating
Stopping the Menstrual Flow During Ramadhan
The Ramadhan Reminder: Taking Time Out With God
Allah’s Medicine Chest: Dates (Phoenix dactylifera)
Fasting and Pregnancy
From the Symbolic Ascension to the Ascension of Our Lives
Night Prayer and the Human Body Clock
A Season for Forgiveness