By Jamila Cassim
Nutrition or nourishment according to Wikipedia, is the provision to cells and the organism of the materials necessary (in the form of food) to support life (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nutrition). A healthy diet is essential in preventing many diseases. It is important to know what constitutes a healthy diet or a balanced diet. There are 5 basic food groups, which when eaten in correct proportions, constitutes a healthy diet:
- Bread and cereals (breads, cereals, rice and pasta provide important nutrients such as CHO and vitamin B )
- Fats and Oils (margarine, oils, mayonnaise and salad dressing provide essential fatty acids and vitamins A,D, and E)
- Meat and meat alternatives (Meat, chicken, fish, eggs, soya and legumes provide protein, iron and vitamin B)
- Fruit and vegetables (these provide vitamins and minerals A and C and fibre¹.
The individual needs protein, fats, carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins and water to survive. As mentioned earlier, a non-healthy diet can cause diseases .Diseases caused by incorrect eating habits include hypertension, heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis and high cholesterol. Let us examine what foods lead to the diseases mentioned above:
Foods that are rich in sodium (salt) can lead to hypertension. Many experts claim that little or no salt is the most beneficial in all our diets. Only a teaspoon of salt in the preparation of food is sufficient for an individual’s daily intake.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death and illness in the world. The root cause for heart attacks is the accumulation of “plague” or crud (cholesterol, fatty deposits and other substances) on the lining of the artery walls. These build-ups narrows arteries until they become so clogged that blood cannot flow through. This can result in death or damage to part of the heart muscle, thus causing a heart attack². Foods which are high in saturated fats, which contain hydrogenated fats or trans-fats, can cause cholesterol. A lot of biscuits and milk chocolates contain these elements. Most red meats, although rich in protein, have a very high cholesterol component-high levels of LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) is present in red meat (meats like beef and lamb). Lean red meat however, is low in saturated fats. Avoid fried and fatty meats. Eat meats that are low in saturated fats. Processed meats should also be avoided. Foods that should be included to fight the bad LDL levels in the blood should be foods rich in omega 3 and 6.These include raw nuts, avocados, olive oils, flax seed and fish oils. The key to healthy eating is to read all labels before consumption.
Cancer tumours develop, in part, by feeding on sugar in the bloodstream. If you eat a lot of sugary snacks loaded with simple carbs you risk loading your body with chemical energy desirable for cancer cells (and tumours) to proliferate. Additives in foods and chemicals used to enhance foods can be carcinogenic. Thus, one needs to establish which additives are harmful when it is consumed continuously. According to Mike Adams, editor of natural news; one should eat low-glycaemic diets- i.e.no refined sugars and grains (example, white flour and white sugar). This will also keep your weight in check and prevent type 2 diabetes.
What to avoid on labels: high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, sugar, white pasta, white breads and other white foods³
Diseases like osteoporosis are caused by a lack of calcium in a diet and a lack of exercise. Bones become brittle and as one gets older, it becomes more difficult to heal. It is recommended that a dietician should be consulted if one has a disease caused by incorrect eating. These experts can provide an eating plan for a healthier lifestyle.
Islam: Encouraging a Healthier Lifestyle
A balanced diet is the key to healthy living. Islam encourages people not to be extravagant when eating. It teaches us that a holistic approach to health includes treating our bodies with respect and nourishing them with not only faith, but lawful, nutritious food. A major part of living correctly, according to the Quran, is implementing a suitable diet. Choosing wholesome food and avoiding the unwholesome is essential to good health⁴. As stated in the Holy Quran: “Eat of the good things we have provided for you” (2:173).
Man’s growth should be a balance between the physical and the spiritual. If he becomes obsessed with food, not only is he distracted from serving his creator, but the diet may make him physically weak. On the other hand, if he concentrates exclusively on spiritual matters and neglects his body’s proper nourishment, the same result may result (weakness and illness will prevent him from carrying out his obligations towards his creator). The Quran guides mankind to strike a wholesome balance between the two extremes and advises him on how to create this balance ⁵. The idea of “moderation” permeates the basic premise of Islam.
Most foods that are wholesome are permitted in Islam, except meat that is not slaughtered in the name of Allah. Foods that are recommended by Islam for their nutritional benefits include meat, fish, honey (cited in the Quran for its healing abilities) and milk. Prohibited in Islam is the consumption of blood, pig, carrion and alcohol, foods that are harmful to the mind and body.
- The Quran mentions a few fruits which are beneficial to mankind. These include: The pomegranate for its anti-oxidant properties.
- The fig for its detoxification properties
- The quince for its ability to strengthen the brain system, to remove depression and sorrow and its instrumental ability to properly shape the features of an unborn child in the mother’s womb.
- The sweet melon, for its ability to remove fear and anxiety from the heart and instilling courage.
- Our beloved Nabi (SAW) has been recorded as having eaten pumpkin frequently (Tirmidhi). According to modern science the useful parts of the pumpkin are its flesh and seed. Pumpkin has high amounts of vitamin A and removes toxins and is effective in preventing weight loss. Pumpkin activates memory cells and is also effective in keeping the lungs and liver in order⁶.
In view of the above, fruits and various kinds of permitted foods are indeed Allah’s great blessing that guarantees not only bodily health, but ensures psychological order and strengthens the soul and spirit⁶.
While sweets and junk food are not explicitly forbidden in Islam, they must be eaten sparingly as part of a balanced diet, designed to maintain optimum health. The traditions of our Nabi (SAW) praise moderation as a way of maintaining good health and the Quran stresses the need to strike a balance between any extremes. Our Beloved Nabi (SAW) is recorded as having said:
“Nothing is worse than a person who fills his stomach. It should be enough for the son of Adam to have a few bites to satisfy his hunger. If he wishes more, it should be: one-third for his food, one-third for his liquids, and one-third for his breath.” (Tarmazi, ibn Majah and Hakim)
True believers need healthy bodies and minds in order to worship Allah in the correct way. To maintain a sound mind, a pure heart and a healthy body special attention must be paid to one’s health. The heart and mind are nourished by the remembrance of Allah, and worship performed in a lawful way. The body is nourished by partaking of the good and lawful food Allah has provided. Therefore attention to diet and nutrition is part of the holistic health system inherent in Islam⁷.
1 (http://Islamic-world.net/sister/h23.htm , accessed March 2013)
2 (http://www.fourch.purdue.edu/foods : accessed March 2013)
3 (https://www.naturenews.com : accessed March 2013)
4 (http://www.islamiclife.com/health/2013/nuyrition_in_islam.php : accessed March 2013)
5 (http://www.nmnonline.net/articles/food.htm : accessed March 2013)
6 (http://www.rohama.org/en/content/print/568 : accessed March 2013)
7 (http://www.islamreligion.com/articles/1892/ : accessed March 2013)