Right now, we are in the Islamic lunar month of Rajab, and that means Ramadan is just around the corner!
Ramadan is during the long, hot days of summer this year, and here in the Southern United States, that means fasting 16 to 17 hours days in heat and humidity.
For obvious reasons, fasting during the summer is concerning even with the knowledge of the blessings and ease that Allah SWT (God) bestows during this Holy Month. Fortunately, Allah SWT has also given us another blessing that can make the physical act of fasting a lot easier: seasonal nutrition.
Eating fruits and vegetables that are produced during the summer season gives you an edge over the dehydration and fatigue that can set in while fasting in the heat.
Many Muslim focus on hydrating themselves by drinking a lot of water and juices for Suhoor (pre-dawn meal) and Iftaar (break-fast meal). The problem becomes that after fasting all day long, our stomach shrinks and cannot handle the volume of liquid AND process the food you eat before the next day of fasting.
We need a more efficient way to nourish ourselves, because drinking our hydration alone is not going to be sufficient.
First we need to understand that hydration is not just water-in, water-out. In order to get water into our body's cells, we need minerals to transport and regulate the water.Magnesium, Potassium, Sodium and Calcium are the key minerals that regulate your body's water management.
What is wonderful is that Allah SWT has already packaged water with the necessary ratio of minerals to facilitate its absorption. These beautiful little ready-to-eat packages are called fruit!
Notice how watery and flavorful summertime fruit is: watermelon, peaches, plums, blueberries, zucchini, yellow squash, tomatoes, cucumbers. These delicious foods are perfect hydrating packages that we should make use of at every opportunity while they are in season...especially when we are fasting.
However, there is another side. Many well-meaning Muslims will eat fruits and veggies during Ramadan, but they will also nearly negate the benefits of doing so by eat foods that leech water and minerals OUT of their body:
Don't get me wrong! I am definitely NOT telling you to stop eating grains, breads and meat. Just know that when you eat these foods, it is effecting the balance of water and minerals in your body, and so choose food pairings to balance out the effects.
Here are some suggestions:
-Eat red meat with salad and plenty of water laden produce like summer squash, zucchini.
-Eat more chicken and fish; these sources of animal proteins are more cooling to the body than red meat. (animals are seasonal, too!)
-Eat grains with plenty of watery produce as well.
-Avoid pairing grains or breads with meat in excess.
-Avoid drinking sugary beverages, ESPECIALLY if they also contain caffeine. Smoothies and fresh juices are a more delicious and wholesome way to get that sweet-drink fix!
-Try drinking green tea during taraweeh instead of black tea or coffee. It has some caffeine, but not nearly as much as black tea or coffee. In my experience, it is less of a diuretic, and it aids digestion and even freshens your breath.
-Use honey in place of sugar.
And most importantly, eat with moderation! Your body is managing a lot of different things in Ramadan, so be patient with it and give it time to digest! Absorbing all of a little bit of nutritious food is better than not digesting a lot of food.
InshaAllah (God-willing), using your knowledge of hydration and nutrition, you can minimize fatigue and dehydration, benefit from wholesome energy and take advantage of this Ramadan!
InshaAllah, I will be posting a Summer Ramadan Recipe series. In it I will share my family's favorite summer salads, smoothies and meal recipes to inspire you to eat seasonally and feel the benefits this coming Ramadan.
To your holistic health!