Rabbi Zidnee Ilman
”My Lord! Increase me in knowledge.”
This year Ramadan will fall in the peak of summer season for a large majority of people around the globe. It will be a great challenge to stay fresh and energetic all day without food and water. Besides work, prayers will also suffer if you do not manage your eating habits well enough. Suhoor and iftaar are the most important meals of Ramadan and the best way to benefit from them is to incorporate energetic and healthy foods into our menus. In Ramadan, people over eat processed food which has a very low energy value. The result? Everybody is annoyed at their work and school by mid-day. Their energy levels have depleted, their bellies are grumbling, and their moods are frustrated. By iftaar time everybody has become either an Angry Bird or The Incredible Hulk. Fortunately, Alhamdulillah, we have some natural super foods that can boost your energy and keep you fresh to survive not just Ramadan, but any day in life. And you won’t need those manipulative energy bars, or energy drinks, that contain concentrated quantities of chemicals like taurine which artificially; and temporarily, boost the nerves.
1. Fresh Fruits
Solemnly swear to incorporate fresh fruits in your menus. A common practice among Indian and Pakistani cultures is to binge on sweets made from refined all-purpose flour, tons of sugars, and heaps of ghee for suhoor and iftaar. Folks from other cultures are found chomping down chocolates, candies, baklavas, and cakes overloaded with sugar. Please know that processed ingredients give you an incredibly quick energy rush and your body switches into hyper gear to break them down. By the time it’s mid-day everything has been digested, the energy has dissipated, and you still have six or seven hours of fasting remaining. Not to forget the acid reflux that is triggered by processed sugars.
Fresh fruits are the best way to get natural sugar in your system. It is essential to choose the right fruit though. Some fruits like the mango are a truckload of sugar. Apples and bananas are high in fiber and good carbs which provide energy, strawberries are high in vitamin C which turns fat to energy, blueberries are energizing and help you focus, and more tropical options like pineapple controls the speed of how quickly your body burns up energy. There are the citrus fruits, oranges and grapefruits, which add an instant zest to your mind and body.
Dates top the list because they are a favorite of Prophet Muhammad sal Allahu aleyhi wasallam. It is a Sunnah to have dates.
Anas ibn Malik narrated in Sunan Abi Dawud: Kitab Al-Siyam that Prophet Muhammad sallallahu alaihi wasallam used to break his fast before praying with some fresh dates, but if there were no fresh dats, he had a few dry dates. Considering their energy value, they are super high in carbohydrates and fiber. They have the best natural glucose (sugar), brilliant antioxidants, and high energy value. Avoid eating too many though.
Remember, if you’re going to have canned fruits, or one of those fruits-in-a-cup things off the shelves of a superstore, you’re not being a hundred percent natural. Try picking up your fruit salad from a store that packages it fresh. Chopped fruit is more expensive though. Also, if you are still going to pick it up off the shelves, do not get the ones dipped in sweetened syrup. Go for the 100% natural and unsweetened.
Certain nuts like cashews, almonds, and hazelnuts contain magnesium which converts sugar to energy. So fruit and nuts can be a great super food combination! There is lots of fiber in them to level out blood sugar, and great proteins to suppress your hunger.
3. Dark Chocolate
I am guessing everybody was waiting for this option? Yes! Dark chocolate is a natural energy boost. Remember though that when I say dark chocolate I mean the organic, least processed one. The more processed and more sugary the chocolate, the more unhealthy it is. So we’re talking about a Ghirardelli 86% intense dark chocolate square, a block of Godiva 72% dark chocolate with almond, or even some dark chocolate hot cocoa. This gives me an energy rush right away, not to forget the freshening up of the dulled senses. You can always have a bit at suhoor or iftaar.
An ideal meal is incomplete without some fortifying meat serving. Having a good chunk of lean meat (chicken or fish) can give you a long-sustaining amount of energy from its protein content. Muscular function, nervous activity, and defense mechanism of your immune system need that protein to function well. Protein not only fills you up but it lasts pretty long so you don’t get hungry too soon. It is like a reservoir of energy that keeps generating energy in small chunks all day long.
5. Whole Grain
There is a secret formula. If you combine the protein from the meats and the carbohydrates from the whole grains found in breads and cereals, your energy store will last super long insha’Allah. I love whole wheat for its simplicity, but a multigrain toast is brilliant in fiber, carbohydrates, and proteins to keep you going.
So a best Ramadan meal plan can incorporate these super foods and not go boring throughout the thirty days. You can make all sorts of exciting combinations with these options, and adding some more healthy options. To start you off, you can make a wholesome, scrumptious chicken sandwich with whole wheat bread. Fruit and nuts can be combined with yogurt for a nourishing morning eye-opener, or an evening fast-breaker. And then there is dark chocolate, eat it raw or dissolve it in a hearty, warm glass of milk – it is bound to keep you happy.
Here’s wishing everybody a healthy, happy Ramadan, ameen.