Originally posted in July 2014.
By Noor Hani Salem
With Ramadan in the midst of summer this year, we need nothing more than hydration and good eating habits to keep us going. However, Ramadan is not only about omitting food and drink from sunrise to sunset. It’s not about sleeping all day and waking up an hour before sunset to prepare a meal. It’s not about indulging all night and sleeping all day. No, Ramadan is a spiritual car wash for our souls. It’s a time to check in on ourselves, omitting desires, and focusing on what we were initially created for: worshipping Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He).
While we focus on our spiritual upbringing, we also need to focus on our physical well-being. Instead of praying Maghrib and rushing to eat, set your intention to eat to nourish your body so that you can stand and pray. In this case, you make eating an act of worship and get rewarded for it, Allah (swt) willing. Set your intention to eat suhoor (the meal before sunrise) to worship and have energy all day. Set your intention to eat iftar (the meal after sunset) to worship and pray during the night. Now, let me share a few tips on what to eat to stay hydrated, energized, and motivated all day long.
1) Eat dates.
- I personally don’t question any food that was eaten by the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ (peace be upon him) or recommended by him.
- Anas Ibn Malik radi Allahu `anhu (may God be pleased with him) narrated: “The messenger of Allah ﷺ used to break his fast before praying with some fresh dates, but if there were no fresh dates, he had a few dry dates, and if there were no dry dates, he took some mouthfuls of water.” [Sunan Abu Dawud]
- Fasting all day means facing difficulties reaching the required daily value for many essential vitamins and nutrients. Dates are known to provide many of these nutrients with just a few pieces:
- Dates have immense health benefits, including high fiber, potassium, magnesium, copper, and B vitamins.
- Dates are known to regulate blood sugar, weight loss, blood pressure, cancer, and arthritis. Dates also aid in facilitating oxygen to the brain and the formation of healthy skin.
- Tip: Eat three or more dates at suhoor to give you energy all day. Break your fast on dates and pray Maghrib. This regulates your blood sugar and causes you to not overeat at iftar.
2) DON’T skip out on suhoor.
- Yes, it’s 4 a.m. and yes it’s going to be difficult, but my number one piece of advice is don’t skip out on suhoor. The Prophet ﷺ advised us to eat suhoor and promised barakah (blessings) in it. Abu Hurairah (ra) narrated: “The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: ‘Eat suhoor, for in suhoor there is blessing.’” [Sunan Al- Nasa’i]
- Eating a meal before sunrise will give you energy to keep going during the long day ahead of you.
- If you skip out on suhoor, you are putting your body in starvation mode and actually only going to cause yourself to overindulge at iftar.
- So, EAT SUHOOR!
- Tip: Eat a light but nutritious, breakfast-like meal:
- Try a zatar or cheese pie with some cucumbers. Tomatoes and a cup of fresh-squeezed orange juice are also excellent sources of vitamins and nutrients.
- Have nutrient-dense whole-grain toast with almond butter, cashew butter, or all-natural peanut butter. Top with berries or banana slices.
- Try some quinoa with almond milk, raisins, cinnamon, raw honey, and bananas. It will definitely give you fuel for the day.
- A bowl of steel cut oats or whole grain cereal and organic milk/almond milk are also great.
- Don’t forget the dates. 😉
3) Eat hydrating foods like watermelon, cucumbers, citrus fruit, and tomatoes.
- It’s not only summer time, but we are fasting 17+ hours. Many of us have work and others are taking summer courses. We are going to lack energy and need as much nutrients as we can get from the food we eat. Hydrating ourselves with water-dense foods will keep our bodies from dehydrating in the heat.
- Tip: Other foods with high water content include: lettuce, pineapple, berries, citrus fruit, and spinach.
4) Drink plenty of water between iftar and suhoor
- Water is the most purifying drink; it cleans out toxins from your body and prevents you from getting headaches (especially when you’re not drinking or eating all day).
- Tip: Skip the soda! Drinking soda with your iftar will only make you thirstier, and dehydrate your body more than it already is. Drink water with your meal and keep it at hand throughout the night. Break your coffee and tea addiction.
- If possible, regulate your body to get rid of your caffeine addiction before Ramadan starts. If you are drinking 3-4 cups of coffee daily, and on the first day of Ramadan you don’t drink any, you may get headaches and lack energy.
- Tip: If you really need energy, opt for dates instead. Coffee and tea are known to dehydrate the body even more.
I hope that you find these eating tips helpful! I assure you that making these small changes in your Ramadan and even regular diet, will substantially improve your overall health and fitness.