Ramadan filled with nutrition

Updated 10 July 2013

Ramadan filled with nutrition

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.

[email protected]

Take a healthy approach to the issue of nutritional supplements

Updated 21 April 2018

Take a healthy approach to the issue of nutritional supplements

JEDDAH: There is a growing need for dietary supplements in Saudi Arabia, given the increasing popularity of junk food and the effective role supplements can play in treating diseases caused by mineral and vitamin deficiencies.

A recent study found that 22 percent of Saudi people take nutritional supplements. It is no surprise, then, that many Saudi businesses have forged partnerships with international dietary-supplement companies.

Dr. Rowaidah Idriss, a Saudi dietitian with a Ph.D. in nutrition, said dietary supplements can be defined as substances that provide the human body with a nutrient missing from a person’s regular diet. However, she stressed that they are not intended to replace healthy eating.

She also warned against taking them without first talking to a doctor or dietitian, as some products can have side effects, especially if taken before surgery or with other medicines. 

“They can also cause problems if someone has a history of certain health issues,” she added.

A blood test can determine which nutrients we are not getting enough of in our diet, and therefore which supplements might be beneficial. Nutritional supplements are also used to help treat certain health conditions. 

“Vitamin C, for example, is often used to reduce cold symptoms,” said Idriss. “Fish oil is taken to lower elevated blood triglycerides.”

She suggested four daily essentials that can bridge nutritional gaps in our diet: a multivitamin, vitamin D, calcium and omega-3 fatty acids. 

“I routinely recommend a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement to my clients after consulting with their doctors,” she said. 

“For menstruating women, who require 18 milligrams of iron each day, a daily supplement helps boost iron intake.”

She said people over the age of 50 are advised to take a multivitamin to ensure they are getting enough B12, which plays a key role in the functioning of the nervous system and the development of red blood cells. 

“Older adults are more vulnerable to B12 deficiency because they are more likely to have decreased production of stomach acid, which is needed to release B12 from the proteins in food.” said Idriss. 

“It is also a good idea to take a daily multivitamin if one is following a low-calorie diet.”

She also pointed out that a high intake of DHA and EPA, the two omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil, are linked with a lower risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. A deficiency of DHA might also increase the risk of Alzheimer’s. 

“A daily intake of 1,000 milligrams of both DHA and EPA is equivalent to eating 12 ounces of salmon a week,” said Idriss.

The dietitian believes that the Saudis who take food supplements often do so more to benefit their appearance than their health. 

“Saudi women consume more dietary supplements than other people in Saudi Arabia,” she said. 

“They do so either to lose weight or to care for their hair and nails. Bodybuilders also take large amounts of supplements.”

However, both groups, according to Idriss, tend to take supplements on the recommendation of friends and trainers, not doctors. 

She warned that commercials and social-media rumors can persuade people to buy supplements online that may not be approved as safe by the Saudi Food and Drug Authority, and advised people to get as much of their daily nutrient needs as possible from healthy eating.

Dr. Rowaidah Idriss

“Along with vitamins and minerals, a healthy diet provides fiber and hundreds of protective phytochemicals, something a supplement cannot do,” she said, adding that the body absorbs natural food more effectively than supplements.

In addition, combining supplements with medications can have dangerous, even life-threatening, effects. 

“Drugs for heart disease and depression, treatments for organ transplants, and birth-control pills are less effective when taken with herbal supplements,” she said.

“Taking an anticoagulant, aspirin, and a vitamin E supplement together may increase the potential for internal bleeding or even stroke.”


Natural sources

With the spread of fast-food restaurants and their alluring ads, the long-term health of the Saudi people is in danger, as children and young people snub natural sources of nutrients, such as fruit and vegetables. 

“This can lead to many deficiency diseases. Moreover, vegetarians can develop similar illnesses due to the absence of meat in their diet,” she said.
Dr. Ashraf Ameer, a family-medicine consultant, said the importance of nutritional supplements lies in treating mineral and vitamin deficiency, especially for pregnant women, growing children, diabetics, people with chronic diseases, and the elderly. 

“However, these products should come from reliable companies and meet Saudi food and drug requirements,”he added.

Mohammed Yaseen, who has a food supplements business, said his company works with a leading British health-care company to provide the Saudi market with high quality products.

“With this we hope we can contribute to the national transformation program by raising private-sector spending in health care from 25 percent to 35 percent, which in turn would lead to the sector’s financial sustainability and boost economic and social development in the Kingdom,” Yaseen said.


Vitamin Terms

DHA stands for docosahexaenoic acid. EPA stands for eicosapentaenoic acid.  Phytochemical is a biologically active compound found in plants.