Thursday, July 28, 2011

Eating Well & Staying Healthy During Ramadan


The Lebanese Recipes Kitchen (The home of delicious Lebanese Recipes and Middle Eastern food recipes) presents:  Eating Well & Staying Healthy During Ramadan!
  
Ramadan is a blessed month of spiritual fulfillment. We anxiously wait for it and celebrate its return. We are all well versed in the benefits of fasting, so I will not mention them here. What we often times forget is the somewhat depleted state we sometimes find ourselves in during the last ten days of Ramadan. Or are you the type that has a hard time starting, but finish off strong? Either way, I would like to share some practical tips to keep you healthy and enjoying all of Ramadan.

WATER

I can not emphasize this enough, proper hydration is essential. Just because we are fasting does not mean that our regular bodily functions stop requiring water. Headaches, fatigue, fuzzy thinking, irritability and illness are often caused by inadequate hydration. Our bodies are mostly made of water. We need half our body weight each day just to maintain normal bodily function. To determine your
water needs use this formula:

Your body weight in pounds/2 = The amount of water you need to drink in
ounces a day

If you weigh 180lbs/2 = 90oz/day, minimum

REPLACE SUGAR WITH FRUIT, WHEN POSSIBLE

Yes, this is a hard one, so when possible. Sugar robs our bodies of minerals and
vitamins. During a fasting period we want to hold on to as much of our minerals
and vitamins as we can. Also, remember that white rice and white bread act the
same way in our bodies as sugar. Try eating whole wheat bread and brown
rice1. Whole Foods market has wonderful whole grain breads. You can also get
fancy and make your own2. Sweets also make you need more water.

SOUP

Soup is quick, easy and can be made far in advance. Soup is deep nourishment and is easily absorbed by the body. It is also a great way to meet your water needs. After you break your fast, have a wonderful soup for iftar. I love Moroccan harira (a lamb and chickpea soup) and it is a staple at our house during
Ramadan. I love adding strips of kombu seaweed to soups 3. They do not add any flavor and can be removed before serving, but the benefit is that it is like adding a natural multivitamin to your soup. There is nothing as satisfying as a good bowl of soup, so serve some up for your next iftar.

EAT SLOWLY/DON’T OVER DO IT

When we are invited to break our fast away from home, there is a tendency to eat really fast. We have to pray, eat, have sweets and then get up and run to tarawee prayer in time to find parking. This is enough to give someone indigestion. My grandmother used to tell me, “Slow down. No one is going to take it from you.” Take small bites so you can chew well. The longer we chew our food, the less work our digestive track needs to do and we absorb more nurturance. During Ramadan our digestive track goes on vacation, so remember to not overburden it. Also, taking small bites, eating slow and chewing well will help prevent indigestion, bloating and feeling overstuffed. It is a good idea to wait one hour after a meal before having a sweet. This might not happen all the time, but try it at least once a week and take the sweet home with you and see how you feel.

VITAMINS & MINERALS

I take my vitamins during Ramadan because I am not sure if I will be getting all the nutrients my body needs. Unfortunately our food is no longer as nutritious as it once was. Poor soil, lack of crop diversity, improper storage and cooking methods are all reasons for this. So when we fast, we are taking in even less of what our bodies needcompared to past generations. The top nutrients to look at are vitamin C, the B-complex vitamins, zinc, selenium, vitamins E and A. Vitamins C, A, E, selenium and zinc are known as anti-oxidants. They help our bodies repair themselves, remove waste and keep us looking young. They are abundant in fresh fruits and vegetables. The B-complex vitamins help our bodies deal with stress, amongst other things. Even though there is much blessing in fasting, it is still considered a stress on the body. Most American’s are already deficient in the B-complex vitamins due to eating high amounts of refined foods and white bread. Whole grains are a rich source of the B vitamins. Vitamin C is also used when we are under stress, it is the main “fuel” of the adrenal glands and it prevents illness. Rose hip tea and hibiscus tea are easily absorbed source of vitamin C. According to Kristy Karima Burns N.D, traditionally in Egypt, hibiscus tea was drunk after breaking the fast as a restorative tonic. It also hydrates the body.

There are various ways that traditional societies chose to break their fast. There are special foods and beverages that were selected for their regenerative and restorative properties. Many of these traditions are forgotten or became heavily processed store-bought versions that lost all nutrient values. People have strong emotions associated with food, particularly celebration foods. I would advise against starting any eating pattern that makes you feel deprived. That will only lead to binge eating. Enjoy the flavors of your childhood, in moderation and have a blessed Ramadan.

HIBISCUS COOLER

1-2 ounces of hibiscus flowers
12-20 ounces water
Sugar free grape juice to taste

Place the hibiscus flowers in a container and pour cold or room temperature water over it. You can leave it over night or for a few hours. The longer you leave it, the more bitter it will become. Add in grape juice to taste and store in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Get ideas for Ramadan Recipes and cook delicious food items for your dear ones on this festive occasion. 

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