Ramadan filled with nutrition

JEDDAH. July 10. KAZINFORM Ramadan is the month in which Muslims fast in order to empathize with the less fortunate, who do not have the means to eat a proper meal. It is a time to seek spiritual rewards and strengthen one's bonds with the Almighty.

Unfortunately, however, many people have forgotten about the main purpose of Ramadan. Many people continue to fast during the holy month, but after sunset, they overcompensate with food, indulging in all sorts of fried, saturated and sugary foods.

Ramadan should be about changing our food habits and finding a healthier lifestyle. We spoke to nutritionist Jihan Abdulatif who shared with us tips on how to lose weight during Ramadan and ways to maintain a balanced diet.

"With long hours of fasting, you crave all sorts of food and your brain begins to send signals with different food urges. You can control these impulsive cravings," Abdulatif says. "Think twice before you begin to prepare your iftar meal. Make sure your meal is nutritious and contains vegetables and fruit servings to keep you sustained throughout your fasting hours," she adds.

Dates, fresh juice and soup are ideal for breaking the fast. "Soups are the best kind of comfort food because they are warm and fulfilling. They conserve much more of their natural nutrients, vitamins and general essence than frying or stewing vegetables and meats," explains Abdulatif. "Soups are also great for those who want to shed weight. Make sure your soup is rich with protein, carbohydrate, minerals and vitamins that exist in vegetables, meats or beans," she adds. It is sunnah (the way of life prescribed as normative for Muslims based on the teachings and practices of the prophet Muhammad peace be upon him) to break your fast with three or seven dates and there is a healthy reason behind it. One is that dates are rich in vitamins and minerals and they are free from cholesterol and are low in fat.
"They are a rich source of fiber, vitamin and protein. Dates also enhance the digestive system as they contain amino acids," said Abdulatif. "In addition, they are a great source of energy as they include natural sugar. You can eat them alone or add milk and make a smoothie drink that I guarantee would keep you satisfied and energetic for a long time," she added.

Abdulatif recommends drinking plenty of fluids and water between iftar (sunset time when Muslims break their fast) and suhoor (snack before sunrise) to prevent dehydration. "Liquids such as fresh juice and water will help you preserve the fluids and maintain the balance in your body and substitute whatever was lost during your fast," she says. "Water plays a major role in weight loss because it helps detoxify the body and makes you feel full. I recommend you always keep a bottle of water handy to drink all the time," she adds.

Abdulatif recommends you to drink more than eight glasses of water a day especially if you are sweating. She also recommends staying away from spicy and salty dishes as they make you feel thirsty.

Abdulatif shares with our readers a healthy soup recipe for Ramadan.
1 tps olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 celery sticks, chopped
2 tsp ground cumin
600ml hot vegetable stock
400g can of chopped plum tomatoes with garlic
400g can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
100g frozen broad beans
Zest and juice of half a lemon
Large handful coriander or parsley and flat-bread to serve

1. Heats the oil in large saucepan, then fry the onion and celery gently for 10 minutes until softened, stirring frequently. Tip in the cumin and fry for another min.
2. Turn up the heat, then add the stock, tomatoes, chickpeas and a good grind of black pepper. Simmer for 8 minutes. Throw in broad beans and lemon juice, cook for a further 2 minutes. Season to taste, then top with a sprinkling of lemon zest and chopped herbs and serve with flat-bread.

You can spice the soup with a spoonful of harissa paste. Curry lovers can swap the cumin for 1 tsp of garam marsala or for a more hearty dish, fry four sliced chorizo sausages along with the onions and celery.
"Seha w Hana" as Arabs say or in other words enjoy your meal.



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