Ramadan is a month that’s meant to refresh the body, mind and soul. Choosing the right food for your iftar or sahur keeps you energetic, hydrated, and much happier during the day and throughout the month. However, in our hunger we usually end up eating lots of fried foods or highly processed foods, which can not only have you put on a few extra kilos during the month , but also often will leave you bloated, thirsty, cranky and feeling unhealthy throughout the day.
In order to prepare for a happier Ramadan month, we’ve put together a healthy shopping guide that helps you shop and plan your meal. So, here’s our selection of the top 10 food items to have in your shopping list. Happy Ramadan!
Dates are an integral part of this month; luckily for us, the dates found in the Middle East are among the best. They are a good source of vitamins, minerals, energy, sugar, and fibre. It’s customary to break fast with a date and it is advised to eat them at sahur. Dates might be tiny in size but pack a punch as it is able to keep you satiated for longer than you would expect and they’re also a good option for satisfying your sweet tooth. Among the many varieties of dates, Ajwa - dubbed as “dates from paradise” - found mostly in Saudi Arabia, is good for protection against heart ailments and an excellent option for both sahur and breaking your fast.
Brown rice is a nutritional rock star in the rice family. It contains the group of vitamin B’s that is necessary for your energy production and is a good source of fibre. It is also high in minerals, especially selenium, magnesium and manganese; most importantly, it is a whole grain that is low in glycaemic index (GI value = 55) , which means it won’t cause your blood sugar level to fluctuate. Because of all these factors, brown rice keeps you full and sustains your energy level throughout the day.
A bottle of Good Oil (Olive oil or Coconut oil)
Eating the appropriate amounts of good fat during Ramadan is important, as fatty acid is one of the essential nutrients in building our body cell structure. It also nourishes our body and skin (your skin won’t feel dry and will look good) and definitely keeps your energy going. You can choose a bottle of cold pressed olive oil for your salad dressing, or a cold pressed coconut oil for cooking and as dressing as well. One of the great things about coconut oil is, it can help relieve constipation if one tablespoon is ingested daily. This might come in handy to those who get constipated because of the change in eating habits and / or diet during Ramadan.
Staying hydrated is a major concern amongst those practicing the month long fast. It might not seem like a big deal, but choosing the right salt can make a huge difference in how hydrated you remain during the day. Regular table salt (sodium chloride) typically mined from underground salt deposits, are heavily processed and almost drained of all nutrients except sodium. And too much sodium means you get dehydrated easily and your thirst levels increase during the day.
Sea salt is notably different from table salt. It is made up of 82 essential trace nutrients from the mineral treasure trove present in sea water. These natural minerals are valuable to a healthy functioning body. The nutritional wealth of sea salt includes vital minerals like sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, bromide, chloride, iron, copper, and zinc among other beneficial elements. And one of the great things of having a variety of minerals is that it helps in maintaining a healthy electrolyte balance in the body, which is necessary for maintaining optimal body function such as increased muscular strength and improved brain function.
The best sea salt that I can recommend is Himalayan Salt (beautiful translucent pink) and ancient celtic sea salt (grayish in colour). Both are produced using conventional harvesting methods that are able to preserve the high mineral content, without adding any harmful chemicals and additives.
This simple dip is made out of chickpeas, olive oil, lemon juice and salt, but for some added ‘omph’ it can also be mixed with avocado, sweet potato, garlic etc. You can buy it ready-made in supermarkets but make sure you read the label to see what’s inside. Alternatively, you can make your own; we have an awesome healthy Hummus recipe here. This savoury dip is delicious and irresistible, and is easy to eat; it goes well with your wholemeal bread, vegetable sticks etc. It is packed with plant protein and good fat and dense with nutrients to help you to get through your Ramadan period easily.
Just because it’s Ramadan, doesn’t mean that you stop eating your greens. They’re packed with vitamins, minerals and plenty of fibre. Leafy greens are also very refreshing and calming for your stomach after a long day of fasting. Be creative so you don’t feel like eating a salad is a chore.
Roots are some of the most nutrient-dense vegetables in the world. While each root contains its own set of health benefits, they share many of the same characteristics. Yams, beets, parsnips, turnips, rutabagas, carrots, yuca, kohlrabi, onions, garlic, celery root (or celeriac), horseradish, daikon, turmeric, jicama, Jerusalem artichokes, radishes, and ginger are all considered roots.
Because root vegetables grow underground, they absorb a great amount of nutrients from the soil. They are packed with a high concentration of antioxidants, Vitamins C, B, A, and iron, helping to cleanse your system. They are also filled with slow-burning carbohydrates and fibre, which make you feel full, and help regulate your blood sugar and digestive system. It is great to use root vegetables for soup. Warm soup is something nice to break fast with; it warms the digestive system, and makes you feel grounded and settled.
Deep sea fish
Fish is among the healthiest foods you can eat. It's filled with good fats and protein, and has been shown to fight heart disease, boost brain health, and more. Especially deep sea fish such as salmon, trout, cod and sardines that are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which are excellent for the brain, the heart and various other parts of the body.
High fibre fruits
Fruits are a universal healthy food, it is high in fibre and enzyme, it keeps you hydrated, helps in digestion, prevents constipation and it is also very refreshing for your body. But be careful with the selection as some fruit are high in fructose, and may not be a good thing if overly consumed during Ramadan. So go for low fructose and high fibre fruits such as: apples, pears, pineapples, green guavas, berries, papayas, dragon fruits, watermelons, and coconuts. Avoid high sugar fruits such as mangos, grapes, lychees, and durians.
Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds such as almonds, walnuts, pistachios, pecans, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and peanuts all contain a host of healthful nutrients. Just a handful packs a powerful punch of vitamins, minerals and fats, all of which work together to affect your heart, your brain and your waistline. Just one ounce a day can diminish inflammation and provide satiating fibre, protein and immune-boosting minerals.
Consume a variety of nuts and seeds, as it gives you different flavours that can satisfy your taste buds. The good thing about nuts and seeds is you can use them in many ways; add texture to smoothies or pureed soups, or add ground flaxseeds directly to your meal, or soak other nuts and seeds until they soften and blend it with your food. Or make your own flavoured nuts and seeds for snacks by adding spices. Alternatively, use nuts and seeds as a topping for casseroles, hot or cold cereals, soups, salads or in wraps or sandwiches.
We hope that this list will help you have a healthy and energised Ramadan.