Tips for healthy eating habits
by Khaleej Times
As the UAE unites with the rest of the Muslim world in celebrating Ramadan, eating habits of people, typically undergo a drastic change to accommodate fasting during the holy month. Therefore, it becomes a challenge to maintain energy and alertness levels at work and other activities.
To help the public maintain their health and energy in optimal condition during the holy month, Saudi German Hospital-Dubai(SGH-Dubai) has offered some advice regarding nutritional intake.
Dr Maha Aledan, CEO of SGH-Dubai explained: “It is perfectly possible to observe fasting during Ramadan while maintaining a healthy balance in your performance levels, both physically and mentally. However, the public should be well aware about when, why and how to adjust their eating habits. Furthermore, we should not automatically assume that if we experience a lack of energy, it is because of the fasting. It could be due to undiagnosed issues like low blood sugar – if accompanied by other symptoms and confirmed by tests.”
The body needs to adjust to the increased acid levels of the empty stomach during fasting, thus it is advisable to avoid (or at least minimize) foods that aggravate the acid levels, such as extra spicy meals and those high in caffeine. People with peptic ulcers, gastritis and similar conditions are advised to consult their doctors to formulate a healthy dietary plan.
The consensus is that high fiber foods should be incorporated into the diet to prevent constipation. High consumption of water or fruit juice is also recommended between iftar and bedtime. However, consuming too much tea at suhoor (meal consumed early in the morning before fasting) is discouraged, as the body may discharge valuable mineral salts needed during the day.
Fluid intake is particularly crucial to prevent kidney stones, dehydration, digestive irregularity and other conditions. For those experiencing muscle cramps, the remedy is to increase the intake of foods rich in magnesium, calcium and potassium.
From a medical perspective, the best foods for Ramadan are those that digest slowly, like grains and legumes. The rationale is that, such foods keep energy high and appetite low during fasting, taking up to 8 hours to completely digest – whereas fast digesting foods only last 3-4 hours.
According to Dr Maha if people go to the other extreme of over-consumption to tackle hunger, the results could be the exact opposite of what they intended: “Over-consumption of food at suhoor could result in the individual feeling even hungrier or weaker during the day, as the body accelerates its metabolism to cope with the increased intake. Another common mistake is to avoid exercise or physical activity during Ramadan, as some fear that they don’t have the energy to sustain it. But on the contrary, light exercise like walking and cycling actually helps you to stay fitter and more alert for the long evening prayer or taraweeh. Also, it goes without saying that we should maintain a healthy balance of vital nutrient groups.”
O Mankind! Partake of what is lawful and wholesome on earth and do not follow the footsteps of Shaitân, for he is to you an avowed enemy.” (2:168)
In days gone by, people lived off the land; they grew their own crops and slaughtered their own animals. People prepared their own foods and used ingredients from the garden. However, this has changed over a period of time, we now no longer live off the land but live off the supermarket shelves. We have moved from eating organically produced fresh foods, to processed foods, frozen foods, fast foods and to genetically modified foods.
The canning, freezing and dehydrating techniques used to process food destroys much of its natural flavours, texture, smell and taste. To make up for this loss in processed foods the industry now uses flavours, aromas, additives, sweeteners and fats that are either manufactured chemically or extracted from plants or animals, to create a particular taste, smell or to provide for longer shelf life. One single flavour may contain about 150-200 chemical ingredients. Today, nearly six thousand additives and chemicals are used by food companies to process our food. Many of them can have a devastating effect on our health. The trouble is not just what is added to our foods, but also with what is taken away. Processed foods are often stripped of nutrients designed by nature to protect your heart, such as soluble fibre, antioxidants, and “good” fats.
In a world that is becoming increasingly borderless, raw materials are used by food manufacturers from all over the globe, processed and packaged in various locations and then distributed into global markets. “A recent study in the USA found that a burger on sale in a fast food chain has ingredients that come from 54 different countries.” (World Halal Forum)
As the horse meat scandal rages in Europe, top local researchers have found “fraudulent meat products” across South Africa. The study found that anything from soya, donkey, goat and water buffalo was found in up to 68 percent of the minced meats, burger patties, deli meats, sausages and dried meats that were tested. “Our study confirms that the mislabelling of processed meats is commonplace in South Africa and not only violates food labelling regulations but also poses economic, religious, ethical and health impacts,” said Prof. Louw Hoffman of the Department of Animal Sciences.
There are three potential sources of risks to the food we eat:
1. Hygiene: The risks associated with handling, processing and preparing food.
2. Fraud: The mislabelling of food ingredients
3. Chemicals: The ever growing use of chemicals in processed foods
You are what you eat
We have all heard the old adage ‘you are what you eat’, but have you ever stopped to think exactly how true that is? The food that we eat has a bearing on our state of mind and health. Food affects every aspect of our being: our mood, energy levels, food cravings, thinking capacity, sleeping habits and general health.
“Eat and drink, but avoid excess.” (20:81)
Eating excessively causes harm to our system. Many ailments are related to uncontrolled eating habits such as, diabetes, vascular diseases, stroke, heart attack etc. Over indulgence and wasting of food are further dissuaded in the Hadith of the Messenger of Allâh Sallallâhu ‘alayhi wasallam: ‘”No human being has ever filled a container worse than his own stomach. The son of Âdam needs no more than a few morsels of food to keep up his strength, doing so he should consider that a third of his stomach is for food, a third for drink and a third for breathing.” (Ibn Mâjah)
Halâl and Tayyib
“O Mankind! Partake of what is lawful and wholesome on earth and do not follow the footsteps of Shaitân, for he is to you an avowed enemy.” (2:168)
Lawful is defined as food that is permissible according to Islamic law. Wholesome means food that is pure, nutritious and safe. We are commanded not only to eat what is lawful and wholesome but also prohibited from following the footsteps of Shaitân. Following the footsteps of Shaitân in the context of food includes eating the prohibited, the impure, the unhealthy, the injurious as well as eating excessively, greedily and extravagantly. This verse not only relates to the preservation of a human being’s physical well- being, but also to his spiritual health.
Why is it that despite the most advanced medical technology, the fact that we have more doctors, therapists, nutritionists, diet experts and diet books than ever before, we are seeing an alarming escalation in disease! Could it be related to the type of food we eat, our eating habits and the amount of food we consume?
May Allâh bless us with an inclination to all that is pure and wholesome and the aversion for all that is foul and impure. Âmî