What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar. During this holy month, Muslims fast and abstain from food and water during sunlight hours. We do this every day for 30 days.
Fasting helps to cleanse the soul, teach self-discipline and empathy for those less fortunate, and encourage acts of generosity. There’s so much more on this topic online. And I can provide more amazing resources if anyone’s interested. I want to focus on the health aspects and Ramadan recipes today.
What are the health benefits of fasting?
There are amazing mental benefits that come from this month-long ritual of sacrifice and self-discipline. But here are some common physiological benefits as well:
- Lose weight. By skipping lunch and not eating until the sunset, you will most likely consume less calories and less fat throughout the month. This may result in weight loss. I usually lose 5 pounds and keep it off for at least a few months.
- Lower blood sugar. One of the immediate effects of fasting is lowered blood sugar. And that can also result in lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure. All that means better cardiovascular health!
- Detoxify your body. Not eating or drinking during the day is a method of detoxing your body naturally. It gives your digestive system a chance to cleanse itself.
- Reduce appetite. I’m always surprised by how little food I actually need to feel full when I break my fast. During the month, many people notice an appetite reduction.That’s so important because it can help you restructure your relationship with food, and limit overindulgence.
- Improve metabolism. By skipping meals during the day, your metabolism may become more efficient. We’re giving our digestive system a break. That makes it more efficient. And that means it can better process the nutrients in the food we eat.
How do you stay healthy during Ramadan?
- Wake up for ‘Suhoor.’ This is the meal eaten before dawn. It can help you get more nutrients in your body.
- Have well-balanced meals. Make sure each of the two meals includes complex carbs, high fiber food and protein rich foods. These well-balanced meals will help you replenish energy.
- Drink plenty of fluids. You can also do this by eating water-dense fruits or soups. The goal is to consume the equivalent of 8 cups of water to avoid dehydration. I know it’s hard, but try to limit the caffeine, which can stimulate water loss.
- Cut down on processed foods and those with refined carbs such as sugar and white flour. They don’t have much nutrients and will not give you the energy and nutrition your body is craving.
- Break your fast with dates and water. An average serving of dates has 31 grams of carbs. That will give you the right amount of energy after a long day of fasting. They have high levels of fiber for digestion, and are packed with potassium, magnesium and Vitamin B.
My top 15 healthy Ramadan recipes
One of my favorite Ramadan recipes is one that my mom literally makes every single day during the month. It’s a Fattoush Salad that is made with simple fresh vegetables and toasted Pita bread and tossed in a zesty sumac Mediterranean dressing!
This authentic Lebanese Fattoush Salad is made with simple fresh vegetables and fried pita bread all tossed in a zesty sumac Mediterranean dressing!
Another very popular salad is this traditional Lebanese Tabbouleh Salad. It’s a fresh Mediterranean appetizer made with bulgur, parsley, mint and very finely chopped vegetables. Because it doesn’t include lettuce, you can make a large batch and enjoy for 2-3 days without the salad wilting.
For a salad that acts as a whole meal, try this Chicken Shawarma Salad. It is loaded with Lebanese ingredients traditionally found in a shawarma sandwich, (minus the pita) – grilled chicken smothered in shawarma spices, lettuce, tabbouleh, onions, tomatoes, green peppers, turnips, banana peppers and hummus – it’s low-carb, high protein and the perfect meal!
The most popular soup recipe during Ramadan is this Crushed Lentil Soup. It is actually one of my all-time favorite soup recipes and I love to make it all year long. It’s made with red lentils, short-grain rice, onions, carrots, and cumin and topped with the tangy taste of freshly squeezed lemon juice – comforting, delicious and healthy!
Another popular soup during Ramadan is Easy Chicken Noodle Soup. It’s a classic soup recipe that’s easy to make with simple ingredients and stocked with nutrients for the cold season or the hungry fasting soul!
And finally this Vegetarian Lemon Rice Soup recipe is a warm comforting but also nutrition-rich meal you’ll love. It’s loaded with vegetables like onions, carrots, celery and zucchini with a small serving of short grain rice and a fresh lemony taste! It uses simple everyday ingredients and it’s an easy recipe you can make anytime.
Appetizers & Side Dishes
Stuffed grape leaves (warak arish) are a Mediterranean classic recipe made with short grain rice, parsley, tomatoes and onions – my favorite appetizer and very popular to eat during Ramadan. This is the vegetarian version. But I’ve also shared the meat stuffed grape leaves recipe which is made with a spiced ground beef and rice mixture.
And you can never go wrong with hummus! It’s always great to include during Ramadan meals. I feel confident to say the Best Hummus Recipe – it’s simple and classic with the right balance of flavors. In this post I share my 4 tips for making smooth, creamy and ultra rich hummus. I also have Hummus with Ground Beef which is topped with ground beef, pine nuts, and parsley!
This Zaatar Spring Rolls (Sambousek) recipe is a Lebanese inspired appetizer that’s savory, crunchy and incredibly easy to make! It’s easily one of my favorite Ramadan recipes! They are oven-baked and have a similar texture and flavor to Middle Eastern cheese sambousek. Sambousek are small cheese-filled pastries that are traditionally fried. This is my modern twist on a recipe I grew with!
If you’re looking for a breakfast for dinner type of option, you can’t go wrong with Zaatar Manakeesh. It’s a Mediterranean flatbread that’s made with dough and zaatar spice. It’s an easy recipe to make from scratch using very few ingredients and we often serve it with cheese and fresh vegetables.
Halloumi Fries is my Lebanese take on mozzarella sticks, using halloumi cheese instead! These halloumi fries are made by rolling the cheese in flour, panko breadcrumbs and sesame seeds. Then, instead of frying them, I baked them in the oven until golden and crispy. I paired them with a simple and bright marinara sauce for dipping – a fun Mediterranean appetizer!
This authentic Chicken Fatteh is an amazing combo of flavors made with yogurt, spiced shredded chicken, chickpeas, toasted pine nuts & pita bread! It is a traditional recipe that I learned from my parents. You can customize it to omit items or add/decrease others. It’s high in protein and low in effort!
For a hearty meal the whole family will enjoy, try my Tomato Beef Stew. It’s a nutritious Arabic recipe with robust flavors of cilantro, garlic and sauteed onions. It’s a staple in house. I make a variation of this stew every 7 to 10 days!
For a great vegan entree, try this Mujadara recipe. It’s a traditional Middle Eastern recipe that’s made with three ingredients: lentils, rice and onions. It’s inexpensive to make, delicious and nutritious.
But if you do want the meat, you should try this Beef Kafta recipe. It’s pretty much a Lebanese style meatball recipe that’s made with ground beef, parsley, onions and a blend of Middle Eastern spices – an easy yummy grilled recipe. And you can serve it with my Lebanese Rice for a complete meal.
Another great dinner option is Shish Tawook, which is a popular Lebanese grilled chicken skewers recipe. It’s tender juicy chicken marinated in yogurt, lemon and garlic and served with pita bread. I also have a Lebanese garlic sauce that is the perfect accompaniment to the tawook!
Sfouf is a Middle Eastern semolina turmeric cake, made with simple ingredients, no eggs and no butter. It’s vegan-friendly, light and simply delightful! It’s also very delightful to have with coffee after you’ve had dinner.
This Almond Milk Rice Pudding is an easy Middle-Eastern dessert recipe that is dairy-free, egg-free and gluten-free. It’s a healthy take on a recipe that I grew up eating! The best part is you can enjoy this hot or cold, eat it for breakfast or for dessert and add to it any toppings you’d like!
And you know how important dates are during Ramadan, so why not find more ways to eat them? These Mediterranean inspired buttery date cookies are sweet, nutty, chewy and completely irresistible – perfect for after breaking our fast with some coffee!
And when you need an energy-boost for suhoor or at iftar, try my recipe for Golden Milk Turmeric Latte! It’s a cozy delicious alternative to plain coffee or lattes, that is packed with all kinds of health benefits. It’s one of my favorite Ramadan recipes. Why? It’s loaded with anti-oxidants and has anti-inflammatory and anti-depressant benefits. Basically, it’s like drinking liquid sunshine!
There are strong health benefits associated with fasting for Ramadan if done right. Hope this post gave you some insight into how to honor this month, stay energized, and cook some healthy Ramadan recipes this year.
Ramadan Mubarek and hope you enjoy these Ramadan recipes 🙂