It’s Ramadan 2018 and I’m scrolling on a Muslim blog when I come across the title “How to make eating dates bearable”. I was confused – had dates become some repulsive cultural cuisine that had to be made tolerable for the sake of tradition? I began to take notice when I went to break my fast around others, either at people’s homes or in the mosques; when the athan [call to prayer] began, the humble dates and fruits were left behind, abandoned, with no chance of competing against the deep fried koesisters, pies, sweets and fizzy drinks.
As a nutritionist and herbalist, I spend my days contemplating and studying the deep importance of nourishing and nurturing the body with wholesome foods, so naturally when I embraced Islam I wanted to know what the Islamic perspective was on healthy eating. Allah, the most high, tells us in the Holy Quran “Eat of the good things which We have provided for you.” (2:173). And “Eat of what is lawful and wholesome/pure on the earth.” (2:168). According to a Hadith the Prophet (peace be upon him (pubh)) is known to have said “Don’t indulge in over-eating because it would quench the light of faith within your hearts”. This all made sense, due to the holistic nature of Islam that encompasses all aspects of our lives as Muslims, and all planes of our existence – both physical and immaterial. Yet when one looks at the Muslim world something isn’t quite right – rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease are sky rocketing in Muslim countries and iftar [the meal Muslims break with in Ramadan] tables are a smorgasbord of processed, refined and high sugar foods and drinks.
Our bodies are a gift from Allah, a sacred vessel on loan that we have been entrusted with. One of the ultimate ways to show gratitude to our Creator for this gift is by keeping these physical vessels healthy and energetic so that we can truly be able to worship Allah to the best of our abilities. A wholesome diet is one that is balanced with macronutrients (protein, healthy fats, carbohydrates and fibre) and micronutrients (minerals and vitamins). Balanced diets filled with whole foods such as vibrant vegetables, grains and moderate amounts of quality animal products not only provide an array of nutrients needed for all physiological processes, but also keep blood glucose levels balanced. While a diet rich in processed and highly refined foods is a burden on the physiological systems of the body, due to their effect on inflammatory pathways, blood glucose levels, toxic load/detoxification and more, all of which can promote disease, and physical symptoms, such as fatigue and reduced mental clarity.
Blood glucose balance is one of the key factors involved in a majority of current health issues and should be an important focus during Ramadan to make the fasting experience and extra acts of Ibadah easier and more enjoyable, since abrupt rises and falls in blood glucose can result in side effects such as extreme fatigue, mood swings, food cravings, headaches, muscle weakness and more – which many of our Muslim sisters and brothers struggle with during Ramadan. Once again we can take wisdom from Allah, since balance is a common theme in Islam – the Quran says “He enforces the balance. That you exceed not the bounds; but observe the balance strictly; and fall not short thereof.” (55:7-9).
Although Ramadan will never be without its physical and spiritual challenges, it does not need to be as physically taxing as some may experience. Together my dear sister in Islam, Pardis Jafari and I have developed a healthy and nutritious Ramadan recipe book called A Healing Month of Ramadan because we understand that Ramadan is a time when many of us in the Ummah struggle with healthy and wholesome eating as it can be particularly easy to gravitate towards unhealthy choices or over indulgence after a day of fasting.
The recipes are specially put together to offer an abundance of energy, nutrients, and inspiration, while also taking into account batch cooking and freezer friendly recipes to save time. It also includes tips to optimise your fasting experience through blood sugar balance, hydration and herbalism. The recipe e-book is available for purchase here:
A healthy Ramadan doesn’t have to be revoked of sweet treats, so please enjoy this dessert recipe from the e-book which is gluten, refined sugar free and relies on natural sweetness from fruit and coconut blossom sugar:
Sticky Ginger, Berry and Apple Oatie crumble
Makes 5-6 servings
2 cups of oat flour*
1.5 cups of oats
1/2 teaspoon Himalayan/sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2/3 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup coconut blossom sugar*
4-5 apples, peeled
2 cups of frozen berries of choice
1 heaped tablespoon ground ginger
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 teaspoon coconut blossom sugar
Coconut cream or yoghurt for serving.
*Oat flour can either be purchased or made by blending rolled oats in a food processor/blender until finely ground and coconut blossom sugar is widely available at most grocery and health stores
- Preheat the oven to 180 C.
- Peel the apples and chop them into small cubes. If the berries of your choice are large, those can be chopped smaller too.
- Place the chopped apples, berries, ginger, juice of 1/2 a lemon and the coconut sugar in a shallow oven proof dish and toss together.
- Place it in the oven for 15 minutes to start to cook and soften the fruit.
- While it is cooking, make the crumble – in a large bowl, combine all the ingredients, except the coconut oil, until well incorporated.
- Then add the coconut oil and use your hands to bring everything together to form the crumble mixture.
- Remove the dish from the oven with an oven glove/cloth.
- Sprinkle the crumble evenly over the top of the fruit, and place it back in the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the crumble is golden brown and the fruit inside is sticky and soft.
Serve warm with a drizzle of coconut cream or sugar free live culture yoghurt. Bismillah!