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Healthy Ramadan - Live Well


By Tom Tillman

     Ramadan (in Arabic: رمضان, Ramadān) is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar. During the whole month, faithful observers of Islam fast from sunrise (Sahour) to sunset (Iftar). During the fast, no food or drink is consumed, and thoughts must be kept pure.  Followers of Islam believe that fasting helps the Muslim learn patience, modesty, and spirituality. Meals are served before sunrise and after sunset, and eaten with family or with the local community.
    
As I recently observed this very hold month, I thought I would put some observations together to help plan for next year.
    
The elderly, sick, and mentally ill are exempt from the fasting. Also exempt are pregnant women, women during the period of their menstruation, and women nursing their newborns. In some Muslim communities, people who miss the fasting portion of Ramadan are expected to compensate by feeding the poor and unfortunate during the suhoor and iftar meals.
    
Ramadan is held for 30 days and is based on the Muslim calendar. Holiday begins on the sunset of the previous day. The fast is strictly observed, even in higher latitudes. Muslims living in Northern Europe or Canada have to fast longer than Muslims living in the Middle East due to daylight hours being longer.
    
During Ramadan, two main meals are served; the suhoor, which is served before dawn, and the iftar, which is served after sunset. Since the suhoor is intended to last one throughout the day, it tends to be a heavy and hearty meal. Suhoor ends when the sun rises and the fajr, or morning prayer, begins. At the end of the day, when the sun sets, the maghrib prayer starts, and the day’s fast is broken with the iftar meal. Many Muslims break their fast by eating dates before beginning the iftar meal. Muslims can continue eating and drinking throughout the night until the next day’s suhoor. At the end of the Ramadan month, Muslims celebrate the Festival of the Breaking of the Fast, called Eid al-Fitr.
    
Both of the suhoor and iftar meals contain fresh fruit, vegetables, halal meats, breads, cheeses, and sweets. Remember that the Muslim world is large and is not constrained to the Middle East; there are Muslims worldwide in Europe, North America, Asia, Africa, and Australia. The types of food served vary by region. The meals are served either at home with family, or in the community mosques, or other designated places within the Muslim community.

DIET DURING RAMADAN

    
According to Sunna (the practices of Prophet Muhammad, Pbuh) and research findings referred in this report, a dietary plan is given:
1. Bread/Cereal/Rice, Pasta, 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.

Breakfast, iftar:

Dates
Juice, 1 serving (4 oz.)
Vegetable soup with some pasta or graham crackers, 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, lima bean 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 fiber, 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 fiber.
    
Milk Group: milk or butter-milk (less or without sugar), yogurt or cottage cheese (one cup). Those who can not 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 olive oil or any polyunsaturated oil and 2 spoons of vinegar. Polyunsaturated fat provides the body with essential fatty acids and keto acids. Cooked vegetables such as guar beans, French beans, okra (bhindi), eggplant (baigan), bottle gourd (loki), cabbage, spinach, 1 serving (4 oz). Vegetables are a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin A, carotene, lycopenes, and other phytochemicals, which are antioxidants. 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 fiber.
    
Fruits and mixed nuts may be eaten as a snack after dinner or tarawiaha or before sleep.

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

So file this away for next year. Prepare ahead.

 
 
 
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