Ramadan returns in few days time to be embraced by believers who long for their Lord’s Mercy and closeness.

Some of our blessed youth will be choosing to fast the long summer days of the month while revising and setting their GCSE or Al-Level exams. And some may also be striving to memorise Quran in their endeavour to make the most out of this honoured month.

For those noble youth, may Allah’s mercy and love be with you. Indeed, the prophet peace be upon him tells us that Allah says about the fasting person:

‘He has left his food, drink and desires for My sake. The fast is for Me. So I will reward (the fasting person) for it and the reward of a good deed is multiplied ten times.”

[Bukhari: 30:2]

No doubt, one who sets off on such an aspiration must be well equipped and part of this preparation is healthy eating that is particularly nutritious for the brain.

Below are excerpts from a TES article with some recommendations for essential food intake that by the will of Allah will boost brain cognitive function and reduce anxiety:

1. Fuel for the Brain

‘Firstly, let’s understand the fuel that the brain needs. “The fuel that the brain uses is glucose, which is blood sugar,” explains Kevin Shore, a nutritionist who has worked with schools to hone lunch menus.

“Complex carbohydrate sources are best for this energy, as they take longer for the body to process and produce a slower release of energy. They don’t raise the blood sugar too quickly, so you avoid creating spikes that leave you lethargic when the sugar level drops.”

Complex carbohydrates include wholemeal pasta, wholegrain bread, wholegrain cereals, brown rice, oats, bananas, beans, chickpeas, sweet potato, nuts and sweetcorn.’

2. Food for reducing Anxiety

‘Dark-green leafy veg, such as spinach and kale, contain magnesium, which calms us by regulating the levels of adrenal gland-created cortisol in our body. Turkey and sesame seeds boost serotonin (our body’s own self-made anti-depressant) thanks to their high level of an amino acid called tryptophan. Foods such as beans, citrus fruits and chicken can also help, owing to their high levels of B vitamins: B1 helps to control blood sugar, while B3 also helps to create serotonin.’

3. Food for Boosting Cognitive Function

‘Leafy greens are prominent here, too. They contain vitamin K, which research has shown boosts brain cell growth. But Vitamin C is another key brain nutrient. Not only does it boost your immune system (so you’re not ill on the exam day) but it has also been shown to improve mental agility by strengthening neurotransmitters. Blackcurrants, cranberries, pineapples, broccoli, tomatoes and peas are some of the most vitamin C rich foods. As are blueberries, which Tufts University, in Massachusetts, famously suggested can even improve short-term memory.’

Based on the above recommendations, here is an adapted menu with suggestions for Suhour and Iftar

Suhour

  • Greek yogurt/live natural yogurt with unsweetened muesli or ground flaxseed
  • Scrambled eggs and tomato with rice cakes or wholegrain bread
  • Porridge oats with berries sprinkled with mixed seeds or chopped nuts.

NB Avoid fruit juice at breakfast, owing to the fast-releasing sugar.

Iftar

  • Wholegrain sandwiches with avocado, cold cuts of turkey or chicken, hummus and salad
  • Mixed-bean salad with brown rice, tomato, onion, tofu, sweetcorn, parsley and crushed garlic
  • Egg-and-potato salad with watercress or rocket
  • Home-made soup (flask for lunch): potato, leek, pumpkin and spinach with lentils or beans

Between Suhour and Iftar

  • Half an avocado, celery and grapes
  • A medium glass of vegetable juice and four Brazil or other nuts
  • Two oat/rice cakes spread with almond/cashew nut butter.

 


References

Menu is by Joanne Jackson, BSc Nutritional Medicine Nutritional Therapist. For more information, visit her website:  www.whole-nutrition.co.uk

Nutritional information adapted from Tes Article ‘Offer your Students some food for thought‘, by Dave Jenkins, 18 March 2016