Today Registered Dietitian Nazima Qureshi, from Nutrition by Nazima, shares seven things you may not know about food during Ramadan, from fasting to eating before sunrise, as well as her delicious stuffed date recipe.
Ramadan is a religious practice that Muslims around the world take part in every year, consisting of fasting from sunrise to sunset for 30 days. You may have a neighbour or co-worker fasting during the month of Ramadan. Here are seven things you probably didn’t know about Ramadan.
1 — Muslims wake up in the middle of the night to eat
The morning meal before sunrise is called Suhoor. I’ve learned over the years that there are three types of people when it comes to having Suhoor:
- those that eat breakfast items (usually cereal)
- those that have a full-on dinner, and
- those that just sleep right through the opportunity to eat.
Many families that don’t have time to eat breakfast together throughout the year gather around the table as early as 4:30 to 5:00 a.m. to share a meal and get ready for their fast for the day.
2 — Every year, the month of Ramadan falls on different dates
The lunar calendar is used to determine the exact start and end dates of Ramadan each year. Every year, Ramadan starts a few days earlier than the year before. This also affects the length of the fast and will mean a lot shorter fasts when Ramadan falls in the winter months.
3 — Yes, that means no water either
While most foodies may be shocked to hear that Muslims are able to get through a 17-hour fast with absolutely no food, the common misunderstanding is that “at least you can drink water.” Nope. No food AND water for the full duration of the fast.
4 — Not all Muslims have to fast
Children and those that are ill, elderly or pregnant are exempt from fasting. Instead, they either make up the fasts at a later time or donate a meal per day they miss to those less fortunate. Children sometimes partake in mock half-day fasts and join in on the delicious meals. Ramadan is a time for spiritual reflection and isn’t meant to inflict hardship on those unable to fast. Muslims will often tell you that they look forward to this time of year; in fact, children can’t wait until they can join in on the fasting fun!
5 — No, it isn't a 30-day diet plan
There's also the assumption that after the month of Ramadan is completed, those fasting will lose a considerable amount of weight. While some people do lose a bit of weight, most people stay about the same weight. It may also be shocking to know that some people actually gain weight after a month of fasting! This is usually due to consuming large portions of food once the fast is broken on a daily basis. Some cultures enjoy fried foods such as samosas and spring rolls after opening their fast, making it easy to overeat!
6 — Fasts are opened with dates
At the exact moment of sunset, dates are the traditional choice to open the fast, followed by a spread of foods that often varies by culture. This meal is called Iftar. While some plain Medjool dates are perfectly fine on most days, those hosting Iftar parties may want to get creative with the presentation of their dates. I created a recipe for Gourmet Stuffed Dates, which features a luscious mixture of mascarpone cheese and whipping cream. Share these with your fellow fasters, and I guarantee you'll be invited to an epic Iftar party!
7 — The month of Ramadan concludes with a celebration called Eid
After 30 days of fasting, Muslims from around the world celebrate Eid. The day starts off with morning prayers and the celebration continues with friends, family and lots of food. Traditional foods vary by culture on Eid, but usually always include a delectable dessert.
Nazima Qureshi, RD, MPH is a Registered Dietitian and food blogger at Nutrition by Nazima dedicated to helping Muslim women live healthier and happier lives. She uses a non-diet approach, which always includes dessert! She loves creating new recipes with her own South Asian flair and healthy twist. You can connect with Nazima on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.