Karimah’s Guide to a Healthier Ramadan
For the very first time, I am not only thrilled to introduce our newest guest contributor to Jeddah Blog, but also totally in awe of her life story. Karimah bint Dawoud is the author of Amazon best-selling cookbook Heavenly Bites, the Best of Muslim Home Cooking and is winner of the Gourmand award Paris, France for the best Arab Cookbook of 2013. Karimah is a Muslim Chaplain and Clinical Nutritionist who converted to Islam almost 14 years ago in her search for the truth. She was a fashion model and makeup artist in London, Paris, Munich and Zurich.
Karimah is a recently qualified clinical nutritionist, and is studying for her Master’s degree in Islamic Studies in the UK. She is a mother and a grandmother, and strongly believes that we can grow old gracefully by giving our body its rights, which includes healthy food and gentle regular exercise.
“I was surprised and honoured that Jeddah Blog liked my cook book post and would like to make links with my sisters across the desert sands”, says Karimah. “I love Saudi Arabia and the lovely friendly people mashallah. I went there to do my umrah, and inshallah I will come again to do health workshops and consult with individuals and companies on optimum nutrition.”
In this blog post, Karimah takes nutrition during Ramadan to the next level, and leads us through an optimum nutrition schedule during this month of fasting.
Alhamdulillah, all praise is due to Allah, the Creator of the heaven and earth and everything in between. As the month of Ramadan is moving backwards through solar calendar once again, Ramadan begins in the heat of summer, longer days and shorter nights. And this year, inshallah, God willing, the days are going to be even longer. It’s the perfect time to take our deen, our Islamic lifestyle to another level, that includes nutrition.
SAY FAREWELL TO FRIED FOOD
It’s time to say good bye to junk foods, toxins and bad habits. Fried foods are essentially junk food in comparison to an Islamic “halal and tayyib” diet.I know that some cultures think they wouldn’t be able to live without fried pakoras or samosas, especially at iftar time, however these fried foods do nothing for you except indulge your taste buds.
We need to think about quality a bit more and embrace a more global healthy diet. Food studies reveal that fried foods damage your body and brain in many ways. They clog arteries and lead to strokes, Alzheimer’s disease, inflamed joints, heart attacks, aneurysms and blood pressure. This is no surprise when most corn oil and rape seed oil(canola)is GMO, contain pesticides and more toxic than soya oil.
PURIFY THE BODY, ILLUMINATE THE SOUL
Islam is a complete religion for the mind body and soul. We have been gifted with an amazing body. Alhamdulilah, praise God.
Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith (volume 7.book of wedlock, hadith 127).
Narrated `Abdullah bin `Amr bin Al−`As: Allah’s Apostle( Muhammad) said, “O `Abdullah! Have I not been formed that you fast all the day and stand in prayer all night?” I said, “Yes, O Allah’s Apostle!” He said, “Do not do that! Observe the fast sometimes and also leave them (the fast) at other times; stand up for the prayer at night and also sleep at night. Your body has a right over you, your eyes have a right over you and your wife has a right over you.”
It is clear from the above hadith, that our body has rights over us.
The body needs the right fuel, to run at optimum performance. Food that provides long, slow release energy as well as vital vitamins and minerals.
SACRED FOODS – NINE HOUR WINDOW
All foods mentioned in the Quran and Sunnah are beneficial for our health. They are “halal and tayib” meaning they are lawful and pure, whole meal, quality foods that complement the body.
They are fresh foods, full of sun-fired vitality. However the wrong combinations of healthy foods can be unhealthy. There is a difference of opinion about Food Combining theory between qualified nutritionists and vegan raw foodies whose business often depends on them justifying mixing fruits and nuts and vegetables, and scientists who are usually paid by Big Pharma and the processed food industry.
Islamically, we are allowed to eat meat. Meat is part of the food combining equation. With a little skill and know-how we can eat from all food groups. This year we are going to try something that seems radical. This is going to take a real shift for some of us .I know many Arabs eat through the night till fajr. That’s not new, however I am going to introduce good nutrition and food combining into this 9 hour window in which we can eat. This 9 hour, healthy banquet is a long meal. Starting with fluid and more fluid, soups, starters and salad and then the main course at suhour. What, no dessert? No dessert! Let’s save that for Eid insha’allah.
BREAKING THE FAST
First and most important is water. Hydration is going to be the key factor in this year’s Ramadhan nutrition. We are going to have to monitor and regulate and force ourselves to drink. It is essential during this 9 hour window that we drink at least 2 litres/ 3 ½ pints of water .It can be broken down like this:
- Iftar 500 ml water and dates, personally I will be adding a spoon of honey to my iftar water, not just for the energy but also for the healing anti-bacterial ,anti-fungal properties as well as much more.
- Every hour after that 300ml/10oz water including suhour.
There is a wisdom in why we eat dates. They are sun-fired packages of high energy, multivitamin and minerals, mashallah. Educate yourself to love them, they are a super food.
Watery drinks do not include tea or coffee as these will deplete your body of essential vitamins and minerals like magnesium. Magnesium helps the brain make the right connection. Coffee and tea also dehydrate you. If you must drink these things, then have an additional mug of water, and make sure you take a vegan multivitamin and mineral supplement.
There is a wisdom in why we eat dates. They are sun-fired packages of high energy, multivitamin and minerals. Educate yourself to love them, they are a super food.
Even if you must eat fried foods or soup at iftar, please make sure you eat Fruit First. Fruits are so special that they will be in paradise. The Holy Quran mentions fruits “ fakihah” as a generic term, in Arabic 14 times.
1. And for them there is fruit, and for them there is what they ask for. [36:57]
2. Therein they will recline; therein they will call for fruit in abundance and drinks. [38:51]
3. Therein for you will be fruit in plenty, of which you will eat (as you desire). [43:73].
Banana, dates, grapes, figs and pomegranate are individually mentioned in other surahs (chapters).
Fruits are sun-fired foods that have a high water content as well as essential vitamins and minerals. Fruits digest quicker than vegetables, opening the digestive canal, providing energy, vitamins and minerals to the organs. Some people are more thirsty than hungry at iftar, so have water melon smoothie; agua fresca, with honey and lemon then have another type of fruits smoothie. Melons are the quickest of fruits to digest, taking 20 minutes. Water melon can be blended or juiced including the skin and seeds which contains the minerals; magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, zinc, iron, potassium and copper. Essential!
Eat some sort of fruit salad, fruit juice or smoothie after breaking fast with water and dates. If time is not on your side, buy pressed fruit juice with bits, not smooth and not concentrate. If you are making it at home, smoothies are better than juices because they contain soluble and insoluble fibre. Fibre is good to combat constipation, encouraging elimination of toxins. It’s good for the digestion and the circulation systems of the body.
Keep the smoothies just fruits – no nuts, no dairy, no veggies.
Then pray Maghreb prayer. This will give your digestive tract time to open up, absorb these essential sugars, vitamins and minerals, and give you energy for the rest of the evening Insha’Allah. Sensible humans eat fruit salad for starter not dessert.
Remember to drink more water while you are preparing this next part of the meal.
Surat Az-Zumar Chapter 39, Verse 21
“Seest thou not that Allah sends down water from the clouds, then makes it go down into the earth in springs, then brings forth therewith herbage of various hues; then it withers so that thou seest it turn yellow, then He makes it chaff? Surely there is a reminder in this for men of understanding.”
After maghrib prayer, eat something veggie, healthy and tasty. Have high fibre salads with an amazing dressing and/or soup. Raw vegetables also have high water mineral and vitamin content. This is where you can also eat your starchy carbs. We can have vegetable curry and rice, whole meal pasta with zucchini and tomato sauce, rice flour pancakes (substitute soaked flax seeds for egg to bind), Mediterranean rice salad with scrumptious asparagus and artichokes. Check out some vegan recipes.
There is so much choice BUT no protein at his point. Look at this list of amazing veggies from Allah’s Bounty Store.
- Bean sprouts
- Brussels sprouts
- Summer squash
PLUS STARCHY CARBS
A wonderful Saudi recipe is mahshay djajj but a combination of meat and carbohydrates is unhealthy. Yes, I know you have survived this long as a race but just think how much more fantastic you would be if we took this to another level. All the fantastic spices and nuts and raisins in mahshay but a veggie version, stuffed sweet bell peepers and save the chicken for suhour time. This is where you get to eat your starchy carbs; black, brown, red rice , whole meal bread ,whole meal barley, oats and pasta. White flour white sugar, white rice are all refined processed foods and should be avoided for optimum nutrition.
The Prophet Muhammad, salah la alaihi wa salem never ate white flour even though it was available. In this day and age every intelligent person should know whole meal grains are best.
Narrated Abu Hazim: I asked Sahl bin Sad, “Did Allah’s Apostle ever eat white flour?” Sahl said, “Allah’s Apostle never saw white flour since Allah sent him as an Apostle till He took him unto Him.” I asked, “Did the people have (use) sieves during the lifetime of Allah’s Apostle?” Sahl said, “Allah’s Apostle never saw (used) a sieve since Allah sent him as an Apostle until He took him unto Him,” I said, “How could you eat barley unsifted?” he said, “We used to grind it and then blow off its husk, and after the husk flew away, we used to prepare the dough (bake) and eat it.” Sahih Bukhari and Tirmidhi .
This is the best time for your healthy oils. Olive oil is sacred oil, once again mentioned in the Quran. Use olive oil for cooking or salad dressings. Healthy oils are essential for good mental health, helping the brain make the right connection, joint mobility, lubrication of internal mucous membranes ,everything internal, even the cell walls need oil.
Keep drinking water, maybe add a little honey. Date nabeez is a wonderful energizing drink to have during breaks in taraweeh. If you are going to sleep for a few hours, please drink water beforehand. Allow the previous food consumption at least 2-3 hours to digest before eating again but still drink water.
SUHOUR MORNING MEAL
This meal needs to be animal protein and vegetables but not starchy carbs like rice, pasta or bread for optimum nutrition. You could eat your mahshay chicken here but without the rice chicken with bamia or spinach would be great. Or you could have maqluba and once again eat the rice with veggies at iftar and the meat with veggie at suhour. I told you this was going to be a paradigm shift for us all.
Test show for the same calorific value, protein gives the most sustained energy. Meat takes 16 hours to digest. Animal protein is best at this time. In accordance with the Quran and Sunnah it’s best if the meat is halal and free range, free from growth hormones and antibiotics.
Animal protein contains a special iron called heme iron which is 15% more absorbent than non-heme (plant) iron. Heme iron actually helps the absorption of non-heme iron; therefore, it is a good idea to combine foods from the plant and animal kingdoms for the best balance and benefit. 
Iron is essential for the blood and transportation of oxygen round the body. Suggested meals are vegetable omelet and salad, Thai fish veggie soup, kofta in sauce and cooked spinach, grilled chicken and garlic beans, mince lamb and okra salad or lamb tagine with loads of cooked veg. These can be prepared earlier. I know it’s really tempting to eat starchy carbs like bread or rice with these meals, it’s a habit, a tradition, and it’s a pattern we need to break.
Starchy carbs need an alkaline stomach environment to enable the produce enzyme “amylase” to work. The gastric enzyme “pepsin” is used to break down proteins; it cannot do so in an alkaline environment, the conflicting chemicals needed to breakdown these different food groups are disabled by the presence of the other, causing fermentation of the foods in the digestive tracts. The knock on effect of this is bloating, heart burn, indigestion and wind. Worst of all, the optimum absorption of all the nutrients of the consumed food is inferior. Date nabeez is also good to drink at this time , providing pure sun-fired energy for the day ahead.
Please use the food combining chart, illustrating food groups combinations for optimum nutrition and digestion. Optimum nutrition means optimum ibada, (worship).
And remember, “He who fails to plan, plans to fail”. May Allah make this Ramadan easy for us and a benefit to us all in this life and in Jannah, ameen.
 http://www.creationsmagazine.com/articles/C126/Horowitz.html[onl;ine 13 th June 2014]
 http://muttaqun.com/files/PDF/sahih-bukhari.pdf [online 13th march 2014]
 0xford dictionary.http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/herbage[online 13th june 2014]
Karimah Burns. http://www.islamawareness.net/Nature/existence.html