Good food is fuel for health – the better the fuel, the healthier you will be. Similarly, a well-balanced, healthy diet is essential for a sound mind, body, and soul. Physical health in Islam is a top priority since health is a gift from Allah and it is our duty to safeguard it. Food in the light of Holy Quran has always been chosen for its benefit for humans, hence healthy eating habits in Islam are a core of the religion by default. There are also numerous benefits of eating less in Islam which has been further authenticated by modern science. Ramadan is the perfect opportunity to put it into practice for reaping the benefits of healthy eating habits in Islam. Moreover, a balanced diet should be followed to ensure the body receives an ample amount of nutrients from food groups as well as vitamins and minerals.
Significance of Healthy Eating Habits in Islam
Islam has always encouraged its believers to follow a proper diet and avoid indulgence. Modern science has contributed overeating to be the major cause of numerous diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular problems, obesity and many more. Improper nutrition, overeating, and binging on a specific food group is always detrimental to health. Following Islamic tips for good health from Sunnah and the Holy Quran is the easiest way to ensure good health. They have been verified over time through scientific research and are hence safe for integrating into daily life. Take the following verses from the Holy Quran and hadith as examples:
“Eat and drink, but avoid excess.” (20:81).
Overeating compromises the stomach’s ability to properly digest food. It is unable to churn it around and maintain the proper concentration of digestive enzymes and acidity for optimum digestion. This in turn significantly reduces its ability to break down complex nutrients into simpler ones. As a result, the villi in the intestines are unable to absorb them and the food is wasted in the body. In short, eating in excess is useless for the body. Not only does it cause stomach ache, bloating and other issues, but there is no real absorption of nutrients from the food. Physical health in Islam is directly linked with food and exercise, and overeating is discouraged at numerous occasions in the Holy Quran and hadith.
“No human being has ever filled a container worse than his own stomach. The son of Adam needs no more than a few morsels of food to keep up his strength, doing so he should consider that a third of his stomach is for food, a third for drink and a third for breathing” (Ibn Maja).
This hadith sheds light on healthy eating habits in Islam and how they are beneficial for the human body. Food in the light of Holy Quran is essential for health, but only when eaten properly and in the form of a balanced diet. Hunger should always be controlled but never should it be allowed to control you. Giving in to the most basic of instincts is synonymous to becoming animals. Overeating strips us of our humanity and leaves no difference between us and animals.
The second part of the hadith emphasizes on the importance of eating 1/3rd food, 1/3rd water and leaving 1/3rd of the stomach empty. The food and water are essential for nutrients and digestion while the empty space facilitates proper digestion. The water is essential for maintaining proper pH levels and the secretion of enzymes. Not only is the food digested efficiently, but the intestines are able to absorb more nutrients through the villi.
“And He enforced the balance. That you exceed not the bounds; but observe the balance strictly, and fall not short thereof.” (55:7-9)
This verse of the Holy Quran strongly establishes the importance of a balanced diet and moderation. Eating excess of any macronutrient (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) can damage the body. Hence, it is advised to consume everything in moderation and in their respective boundaries. Nature is bountiful with whole vegetables, fruits, and livestock being the source of the best foods humans know of. Even modern science has been unable to replicate them, and our food sources so far are almost completely reliant on them.
“Eat of the good things which We have provided for you. (2:173) Eat of what is lawful and wholesome on the earth.” (2:168)
Allah promotes the consumption of wholesome and healthy food in the light of Holy Quran in this verse. The bounties of nature are numerous and we should stick with a wholesome, natural diet. Modernization has brought packaged and processed food which is high in saturated fats, simple carbohydrates, and salt. These are bad for health and should be avoided whenever necessary. Simple sugars are easily absorbed and stored as fat in the body. Excessive salt raises blood pressure and saturated fats contribute towards cholesterol, which increases the chances of cardiovascular diseases.
Genetically modified food has become commonplace nowadays. While selective breeding and certain GMOs are actually good for health, others should be chosen with care. They are often bad for health and lack nutrients to support the body. Healthy eating habits in Islam promote eating whole foods in raw form or cooked minimally. This keeps its nutritional value intact and supplements the body with maximum nutrients.