In the holy month of Ramzan dates are much in demand. Believed to be the first food that the Prophet had with water when he broke his fast, Muslims all over the world eat this Middle Eastern fruit religiously when they break their day-long fast. Is it just another ritual followed blindly? Look closely and you will find much wisdom hidden in the traditional practice.
Eating a few dates to break a very physically-demanding fast is not without its share of wisdom. Dates are one of the healthiest fruits. Plucked from date palms, they’re eaten fresh as well as dried. Drying the dates helps get rid of the excess moisture and condense the nutrients making it a power-packed food. It’s also very cooling for the body and sits comfortably on an empty stomach. What’s more? Dates are packed with many essential nutrients.
Here are five health benefits that make breaking the Ramzan fast with dates a brilliant idea.
1. Power-packed to energise the body
In Ayurveda, dates are considered Ojas or energy-giving food. They are packed with carbohydrates and sugar, excellent energy sources. No explanation is needed to understand the importance of having energy-giving food when you open a fast. Dates are the healthiest pick-me-up and can power your body for hours. It gives instant energy and keeps you going.
An article published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition titled ‘The fruit of the date palm: its possible use as the best food for the future?’ mentions that the fruits of the date palm (Phoenix dactylifera L.) contain a high percentage of carbohydrate, good fat, 15 essential salts and minerals, protein vitamins and dietary fibre. Dates contain at least six vitamins including B1, B2, C and A. With high carbohydrate content and plenty of micronutrients, they’re the perfect first food to bite into after long fasting.
2. Gut-friendly and keeps digestive problems at bay
A month-long demanding fast can play havoc on a digestive system used to scheduled eating. It’s a no-brainer that indiscriminate eating when you break the fast can drive it into a tizzy. That’s the reason why Muslims pick food wisely during Ramzan.
Dates, when taken in the right amount (not more than two or three a day) is the best way to set the digestive system right. It’s rich in soluble fibre, which helps in cleansing the digestive system and improving colon performance.
3. Alkaline in nature, it works on stomach acidity
While intermittent fasting can be beneficial for the GI tract, long hours of fasting can create a whole lot of stomach problems like acidity till the body gets used to the routine. So it is important that the diet after fasting be full of alkaline foods that can counter the increased stomach acidity.
Look no further than dates to do the job efficiently. “Dates are alkaline. It’s best to start the day with alkaline food when one’s stomach is empty,” says Bengaluru-based nutritionist Shalini Manglani. While too many dates is not a good idea, the right amount will help the stomach ease into the new routine.
4. Fibre-rich, it keeps you feeling full for longer
During long hours of fasting, what the body needs is foods that keep you feeling full for longer. The last thing you want to deal with at these times is a growling stomach that doesn’t leave you in peace. Dates are rich in unsaturated fatty acids and proteins.
Proteins take time to digest, one of the reasons why protein-rich foods are preferred during fasting. Dates stay in the stomach for longer, slowly releasing the energy to plough through the day, at the same time keeping the stomach satiated for hours.
5. Fast heats the body, dates cool it down
A 12-15 hour fast (depending on which part of the world you live in) increases body heat. Dates are a cooling food. Dates are highly regarded in Ayurveda as a sattvic food with virya (property of cooling).
Fresh dates which are soft and succulent are full of moisture that works perfectly well to cool the body down. Some cooling fruits and vegetables like apple, watermelon and cucumber after your share of dates and your body is good to go.