Ramaḍān presents unique opportunities to taste a special closeness with Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) and to achieve multifold ajr with every righteous action. Opportunities we seldom encounter during the remaining months of the year. It is therefore absolutely vital we plan effectively, to maximise the potential of what we can all achieve. The following Qur’anic injunctions and Prophetic statements highlight an important aspect of this preparation:
Before delving into the dos & don’ts of Ramaḍān diet habits, let us first ground ourselves in the different categories of food content we come across.
- Complex carbohydrates: starchy foods which release energy slowly throughout the day, as they take longer to digest and absorb into our bloodstream. This helps to keep us active through the day. These include potatoes, wheats, rice, couscous, grains, oats, cereals, fruits, and many vegetables. Wholemeal or wholegrain variations are the best, as they contain a good amount of fibre too. These foods are a key foundation to a balanced diet.
- Simple sugars: high sugar content foods which rapidly absorb into your bloodstream. They can be used to release instant energy when we are exercising or active. However, when taken in excess they remain mostly unused and are subsequently stored as fats in the body. High amounts of sugar in the blood can cause us to become less sensitive to the insulin our body produces, thus increasing our diabetes risk. Simple sugars are also absorbed by bacteria in the mouth which release substances harmful to teeth. Examples include: sweets (chocolate, Indian sweets), cakes, desserts, concentrated fruit juices, energy drinks, many ‘low-fat’ varieties which compensate on taste by adding plenty of sugar!
- Protein: these form the building blocks of our body, involved with growth and repair. Studies have also linked dietary proteins to increased satiety, keeping hunger at bay Examples include meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, nuts, beans, seeds.
- Fats: in small amounts, they are important to many bodily functions and are a source of energy. An excess of saturated fats however increase harmful cholesterol levels, contributing to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Obesity is also associated with some cancers and diabetes. Examples include: animal fats (oils, red meat, poultry skin), full fat milk, cream, cheese, butter, ghee, cakes. Unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, on the other hand help lower harmful cholesterol when taken in moderation. They include: oily fish, olive oil, vegetable oils, avocados, peanuts.
- Fibre: important in maintaining a healthy digestive system. They add bulk to our food and help us feel less hungry for longer. They are found in vegetables, fruit, wholemeal grains, cereals. Where possible, eat vegetables and fruit with their skin, more fibre to your diet!
- Vitamins and minerals: we need these in small amounts to keep healthy and they serve a huge number of functions in our body. Easily found in a combination of fruits, vegetables and meat/poultry.