Ramadan: Toning the Soul and Body

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Plates of dates and glasses of milk line the table. Bowls of salad and soup grace the edges while a giant platter of chicken sits majestically in the center. A delectable dessert is cooling on the stove or chilling in the fridge, and everyone is waiting for the call of Maghrib so they can dive into eating after a 16-hour fast. Unfortunately, Ramadan is a time when many people lose their resolve to watch their calories and count their carbs in front of the treats cooked, especially in this holy month. The trick to preventing temptation is to have a well-balanced suhoor, and an equally healthy, yet filling, iftar.

Suhoor, or the meal before sunrise, should consist of all the nutrients that you need and would normally intake throughout the day. Grains, fruits, vegetables, and dairy products are what you need to get through the day. A bowl of cereal, with a cup of fruits and a container of yogurt are simple yet healthy foods to help you kick start your spiritual day. Dislike eating solid foods very early in the morning? Drinking a fruit and veggies smoothie, complete with chia seeds, is an excellent way to maintain a high energy level throughout the long day.

Food is not the only important thing. It is also vital to stay hydrated between fasts especially since Ramadan takes place in the summer. It may be a challenge to drink several glasses of water in a 45 minute time frame, but juice can also be a reasonable substitute for fluid intake. Try to limit your caffeine intake; coffee and tea remove fluid from your body, and leave you even more dehydrated. A method that I have tried for the past few years is to limit my coffee intake to a single cup for a few weeks leading up to Ramadan, then beginning the first day of fasting without a single cup. Gradually limiting your caffeine dose is more effective than quitting cold turkey, and the overall benefit is that you will drink more fluids that will help sustain you until iftar.

The trick to preventing temptation is to have a well-balanced suhoor, and an equally healthy, yet filling, iftar.

After a strenuous day of work or school, and all the activities and errands that occur in between, it’s finally time for the evening meal at sunset, iftar. Before you start to stuff yourself with all the forbidden treats, take a minute to follow the Sunnah (the Prophet’s way). Eat seven dates, drink a glass of milk, and pray the Maghrib prayer. This will help you regain some energy and the prayer movements will aid your digestive system in getting back to order after being empty for most of the day. After the prayer, eat some salad or a bowl of soup, before consuming the main meal, which is usually fish, poultry or some type of meat. Eating the greens and/or soup will help you avoid the unnecessary calories and carbohydrates that sit temptingly on the table. Also, when preparing the iftar meal, try to avoid fried and overly dense foods. Baked, broiled or grilled  meals are healthier alternatives, and you won’t feel bloated while praying Taraweeh at the masjid. Love your dessert? If you ate a well balanced iftar, then you just won’t have enough room to eat an entire tray of baklava. Having a small piece will satisfy your needs and your sweet tooth.

Fasting in Ramadan is one of the greatest gifts that Allah has bestowed upon us, and can help tone both your soul and body. Not only does abstaining from food, drink, backbiting and all other sins allow us to strengthen our belief in our religion, but the act of fasting itself cleanses the impurities from our organs and refreshes our mental status. Eating healthy is an integral part of the fasting regime, and can actually lead you to maintain your weight loss goals. And just in time to fit into that Eid outfit, too!


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