June 08, 2017

 

If you are doing Ramadan right, your intake of food will be reduced, but that does not mean that you need to be ill nourished. I’ll be sharing 10 nutrient dense foods and herbs with you that will help deliver the nutrients and support your body needs. Including these super foods will help reduce the discomforts of Ramadan fasting and help you adapt, keeping your immune and digestive systems running smoothly.

Ramadan is also a time when your body is cleaning shop because it now has the time and extra enzymes to cleanse and regenerate. Detoxification pathways and the liver will be hard at work clearing all the metabolic waste that has built up during the year, but unlike other processes in the body, if the detoxification system does not have the nutrients it needs, it just won’t function. This is why it is important to keep the nutrients it needs on your plate during Ramadan.

I will share with you how to add these foods and herbs to your regular cooking routine and give you a few recipe ideas to try out.

1. Hibiscus

Easy to come by, Hibiscus is a popular tea throughout the Middle East and the world. Found as pre-packaged tea bags or a loose leaf herb, hibiscus is easy to found in these forms. Rich in vitamin C, it is an immune system super food and is no surprise that traditionally Egyptians served it as a post-iftar drink.

Vitamin C is easily destroyed by light and heat, so when we cook foods rich in vitamin C, we are destroying the very nutrient we need to be healthy. This is one reason why eating a variety of foods prepared in a variety of ways, is healthful. Cooking has a huge role to play in our eating habits and is necessary in many instances to make a food more nutritious and in some cases, safe to eat. Spinach, when eaten raw, has a natural thyroid inhibitor, cooking removes it.

Vitamin C is also a water-soluble nutrient, which means it does not store in our bodies; we do not keep a stockpile of it for use during times of shortage like we do with the fat soluble vitamin D. What this means is that your body requires a regular intake of vitamin C.

Sipping on a cup of hibiscus cooler after a long day of fasting is just the thing to ensure you get the vitamin C your body needs.

Hibiscus Cooler

  • 16 oz water
  • 1 hibiscus tea bag or .5 ounce of loose dried hibiscus flowers (3 or 4)
  • 4-8 ounces of white grape juice

Method:

Place the hibiscus flowers in a container and pour cold or room temperature water over it. You can leave it overnight or for a few hours. The longer the tea bad remains will increase the bitterness of the drink. Add in grape juice to taste and store in the refrigerator for up to three days.

2. Yoghurt

So good for you and so good, the health benefits of yoghurt are well known. We all know the health benefits of yoghurt, but not all yoghurts are created equal. Make sure to purchase yoghurts with active yoghurt cultures to receive the health benefits to your digestive track and immune system.

Extremely versatile, yoghurt can be used as a condiment, in salads, main dishes and as a desert. Yoghurt layered with fruit make an easy velvety dessert that is good enough to serve to guests and easy enough for a family dinner.

3. Pickles

Just like yoghurt, this fermented food is a superfood, but only if it prepared the traditional way using salt and water, not vinegar. One way to know you are getting the real thing is you will find them in the refrigerator section of the supermarket.

What makes picked food, not just cucumbers, so nutritious, is that during the fermentation process, the little microbes are predigesting and making absorption of vitamin and minerals. An interesting fact, fermented food often times will produce new nutrients that did not originally exist in the food before the fermentation process. An example of this is cabbage and the German food sauerkraut. Prior to fermentation, (no alcohol is produced), cabbage is not a food rich in the B vitamins, but after, sauerkraut is abundant in B vitamins.


Work Cited:

  1. Murray, Michael, Total Body Tune Up.Batam Books (2003)
  2. Abeytia, Anisa, “Natural Detoxification, OnIslam (July 13, 2014)
  3. Katz, Sandor, Wild Fermentation. Chelsea Green Publishing (2003)
  4. Fallon, Sally, Nourishing Traditions. Newtrends Publishing, Inc (2003)

 


4. Coconut Oil

High-quality fat is just about the best investment you can make health wise. Our brains, nervous and reproductive systems are all made up of fat. Each of our cells is covered in fat. We need fat to use fat soluble vitamins like Vitamins D and A. Fats are an important part of a healthy body. Fats also help us feel full longer and help regulate blood sugar levels. There is much misinformation out there regarding what a healthy fat is and how to use them in your everyday cooking.

There are oils that are safe for cooking with, coconut, butter, ghee, animal fat and palm oil. Then there are oils that are safe to use “raw,” olive, avocado, sunflower, safflower, sesame seed and peanut oils. Most vegetable oils are not safe to cook with, meaning they should not be heated. When you heat these oils, they become rancid, rotten and will flood your body with free radicals. Oils like corn and canola, unless you are making them yourself, should not be consumed at all. They are highly volatile.

When selecting an oil, make sure it is organic and free from chemicals like solvents. Select oils that are in dark containers as oils will react to light and cause them to become rancid.

5. Water

We don’t often think of water as a super food, but it is. It is so important that we cannot live long without it. During Ramadan, it is easy to become dehydrated. An added concern is if the body is denied water over a long period of time (longer than a month, it will not happen because you fasted the month of Ramadan), your thirst mechanism will shut off. This means that your body is thirsty, but it just will not signal the brain anymore. 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.

So, how do you know if you are getting enough water? Here is a simple calculation you can do using your weight. Take your weight and multiply that by two.

Find your water balance

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

This is just to run normal body function. This does not include perspiration, lactation, menstruation, intake of meat, sugar, tea or cigarette smoking. All of these activities tax your body’s water needs and require an additional intake of water.

6. Brown Rice

All over Asia, rice is a staple food whose importance cannot be overstated. Many nutritional deficiencies occur when white rice is consumed, the most notable is a thiamine (B1 deficiency) which can result in Beri or a niacin (B3 deficiency) also known as Pellagra (Fallon, Sally Nourishing Traditions, 38). The B vitamins are essential for maintaining good health, and B3 is important in maintaining heart health. Interestingly, both Beri and Pellagra were unknown conditions before the introduction of white rice. Both these conditions are not a disease, but the result of nutrient deficiency.

Recipe

  • 4 cups brown rice
  • 6 cups water
  • 1strip kombu
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 onion diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pinch saffron
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • Salt

Method

In a stock pot, heat butter and add in onions. Fry for 1-2 minutes. Add in garlic and fry for 1-2 minutes. Add a pinch of salt. Pour in the water and add the kombu, 1 tablespoon butter and enough salt to taste. Bring to a boil. Add in turmeric and saffron and rice. Cover (leave a space for the steam to escape) and let boil for 15-20 minutes. Keep an eye on it and add water in need be. Reduce heat to medium and let cook for

15 minutes. Reduce heat to a simmer and let cook for another 15 minutes. Remove room heat and let sit until absolutely tender.


  1. Fife, Bruce, Dr. C.N., N.D, Coconut Cures. Piccadilly Books, Limited (March 1, 2005)
  2. Teicholz, Nina,  The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat & Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet.  Simon & Schuster (2014). http://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/the-big-fat-surprise-toxic-heated-oils/
  3. Batmanghelid, J, Dr. MD, Your Body’s Many Cries for Water . Global Health Solutions, Inc.; Third Edition edition (November 1, 2008)
  4. Carpenter, Kenneth J. ,” white rice, and vitamin B: a disease, a cause, and a cure.” Choice November 2000 38:38-1592
  5. Fallon, Sally, Nourishing Traditions. Newtrends Publishing, Inc (2003)

 

7. Astragalus

This a Chinese herb that looks like a popsicle (ice lolly) stick that is slightly sweet. The root is used and is dried to produce the herb that is very popular in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Astragalus is categorised in herbalism as a herb, meaning it aids in the adapting. This could be adapting to change in climate, life situation or in preventing and overcoming jetlag. As an adaptogenic, this herb is considered safe for everyone and for everyday use.

Ramadan can be a stressful time. The body is under physical stress for sure and adding in a herb like an astragalus can provide your body with the boost it needs to adapt to the changes and can help prevent you from becoming ill.The easiest way to introduce this herb into your eating habit in by simply sucking on the herb. Another way is to add it to anything that included boiling water. Add it to your tea, soup and while you cook rice or stew. It does not add any flavour that might alter the taste of the dish, but it will turn what you are cooking into a pot of stress-busting goodness.

The easiest way to introduce this herb into your eating habit in by simply sucking on the herb. Another way is to add it to anything that included boiling water. Add it to your tea, soup and while you cook rice or stew. It does not add any flavour that might alter the taste of the dish, but it will turn what you are cooking into a pot of stress-busting goodness.

8. Coconut Water

Rich in electrolytes and full of nutrients, makes Coconut water just about the most perfect drink to quench your post-fast thirst.   Fresh is always best, but it is not easy to find. Seek out coconut waters that have no added sugars or preservatives.

9. Seaweed

Many people avoid them because of the fishy smell and taste associated with them. There are many types of seaweeds and not all have a strong taste or odour. Two such seaweeds are Kombu and Kelp Flakes. These two versatile seaweeds are easy to use and have no adverse after flavour.

What’s the big deal about seaweed and why are they so important? Trace minerals and iodine, seaweed and other sea “vegetables” are rich in both. Yes, iodine is added to salt, but the name of the game is absorption, sea “vegetables” provide a very easy to absorb type of iodine. Your body can not use what it cannot absorb.

Kelp flakes can be sprinkled on your food like a condiment. Kombu is a very firm seaweed that does not easily dissolve into food when it is cooking. Add an inch (10 cm) piece of kombu to cooking water to extract the nutrients found in it.

Make sure you purchase seaweed that is ethically and sustainably harvested. Also, look for seaweeds that are tested for heavy metals. You also might want to avoid seaweeds from locations where there were oil spills or where there might be a change of radioactive contamination from. Water is the universal solvent and seaweed is in the sea. If you have hypertension or hyperthyroidism, please consult your health care practitioner before adding it to your diet.

10. Cocoa Nibs (Raw Chocolate)

This unsweetened, raw form of chocolate has the highest content of magnesium of any food. Magnesium is used in over 200 processes in the body and is half of the magnesium/calcium pump that keeps your heart beating. Magnesium is also called upon when your body is under stress. Boost your magnesium intake by having a few bits of raw chocolate nibs. Your body will thank you.

Ramadan is a great time to add these foods into your diet to stay healthy and well-nourished all month long and beyond. May your Ramadan be blessed and I hope you and your family enjoy these new flavours and foods!


Work Cited

  1. Fife, Bruce, Dr. C.N., N.D, Coconut Cures. Piccadilly Books, Limited (March 1, 2005)
  2. The World’s Healthiest Foods http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=135
  3. Abeytia, Anisa, “Chocolate: Good and Good for You.” OnIslam (November 25, 2010)

 

 

By 
ANISA ABEYTIA

https://themuslimvibe.com/western-muslim-culture/food/10-super-foods-to-keep-you-well-nourished-this-ramadan-part-1


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