you are what you eat
Healthy eating during Ramadan can be challenging for many reasons, and ‘treating’ oneself at Iftaar is one of them. While munching on a piece of chocolate, or a slice of cake on the weekends is expected, consuming too many unhealthy options can be problematic.
For a healthy immune system adopt a healthy lifestyle through the year. Every system in your body will function better when protected from environmental and unhealthy assaults. Some healthy living strategies to a healthy immune system are:
– Dont smoke
– Consume a diet high in fruit, vegetables, whole grains and low in saturated fat
– Exercise regularly
– Maintain a healthy body weight
– Control your blood pressure and cutting down on salt intake
– Get adequate sleep
– Frequent and Good Hand washing together with cooking meat properly to avoid infections
Healthy eating equals a healthy body and a healthy mind. And once eating is more unhealthy than healthy, several systems in the body (which all contribute to a healthy immune system) will suffer.
The gastrointestinal tract: Did you know that one of the first line of defence your body has against infections is your gastrointestinal tract? Therefore cutting out fibre and other nutrients could mean you are harming your immune system. During Ramadan it is so easy to cut out on a vegetable dish and consume more high fat savoury options. To keep your gut healthy include a portion of fermented milk or low fat yoghurt to your Iftaar and Suhoor. These products contain micro-organisms called probiotics and they help to keep the gut healthy, and also contribute to the healthy bacteria living in the gut. There are many other nutrients which ensure a healthy gut, and these can be added in the diet by increasing the variety of foods that are consumed. Nutrients such as selenium, vitamin A; B2; B6; C; D; E and Zinc. Including fruits and vegetables to your Suhoor and Iftaar will ensure an adequate intake of fermentable fibres, which give so many healthy benefits to the body. Overeating can also affect the immune system- so keep your meals small and light, low fat and lightly spiced, which will also keep indigestion and bloating at bay!
The urinary tract: Drinking an adequate amount of fluid between Iftaar and Suhoor will help to ensure you are infection free this Ramadan. Include fruit infused waters, herbal teas, low sugar drinks and lite iced teas to keep adequately hydrated. Remember to start topping up your fluid intake as soon as you can when you break your fast, and drink at regular intervals thereafter.
A healthy mind: As the temperature drops or heats up in your part of the world, we make less Vitamin D by spending less time in the sun. Our bodies make Vitamin D through UV exposure on the skin. As we get less exposure to the sun, our bodies also produce less serotonin- a drop in Serotonin levels can mean depression, food cravings and mood swings. While keeping hydrated during Ramadan is so important, and spending too much time in the sun can cause dehydration, Vitamin D intake can be supplemented by using an oral supplement. It is so important for Hijabi’s and Ladies who cover up to keep an eye on the vitamin D intake, as less such exposure means soft bones, an increased risk of fractures as they get older. If you don’t mind taking your prayers outside into the sun 10- 15 minutes (if you are light skinned, if you are dark skinned you will need a longer duration in the sun) of sun exposure preferably when the sun is not at its peak. Sun creams block the UV light so don’t apply any sun cream if you are going out for this purpose.
Include Vitamin D rich foods in your diet to make sure you get enough. Foods such as eggs, meat, oily fish (sardines, salmon, mackerel) and milk which is naturally high in calcium. Try to include one of these foods at each meal during Ramadan to ensure you are getting in enough nutrients for healthy bones and minds! Serotonin levels can be boosted with healthy carbs, whole grains such as brown rice, bulgar wheat, lentils (high in folate and helps to boost serotonin levels) and other starchy vegetables such as including a portion of sweet potatoes (with the skin), pumpkin, root vegetables, or squash.
Bananas are a must in many households during Ramadan. They help to fill us up at Suhoor but also contain Tryptophan, an amino acid that can lift your mood by increasing Serotonin levels. Bananas are similar to lentils as they are a source of potassium, fibre and vitamin B6- all of which help to absorb and metabolise tryptophan.
The Immune system: A healthy immune system can help ward off the germs that cause colds and flus. Ensuring a healthy immune system does mean eating a wide variety of foods, but there are certain nutrients you can get through your diet ( or a supplement- a last resort) to help boost your bodies ability to ward off the flu.
– increase you intake of fruits and vegetable that are high vitamin C: Citrus fruits, broccoli, pumpkin, sweet potato and spinach. How to do this:
– A baby spinach salad with orange segments and steamed broccoli. Swop the cauliflower for broccoli intros recipe:
– A main meal of cinnamon spiced pumpkin, bulgar wheat salad and ginger and orange fish.
– To help fight off infection increase your intake of foods rich in Zinc: fish, lot fat poultry, eggs, milk, unprocessed grains and cereals. How to do this:
– Whole wheat toast and scrambled eggs with salmon ribbons for Suhoor
– A glass of milk after Taraweeh prayers
– Bulgar wheat salad with a lightly spiced chicken stew. The recipe can be found here:
-To ensure a healthy gut include a fermented dairy product:
– A berry smoothie at Suhoor. The recipe can be found here: https://faaizahsnutritionlab.wordpress.com/2014/07/01/mixed-berry-smoothie/
– Try a Mediterranean style Iftaar with whole wheat breads, vegetable sticks and yoghurt to dip.
– Keep hydrated:
– Start your Iftaar with a vegetable based soups that are low in fat and salt
– Sugar free drinks and herbal teas.
While there is no magic cure for a cold or flu, these simple nutrition steps will give your body the best chance of fighting off those winter bugs and help you have a blessed and Ibaadat filled month.