O ye who believe! Eat of the good things That we have provided for you And be grateful to Allah, If it is Him ye worship. (Surah Al Baqarah: 172)
Modern science is finally catching up to what Muslims have known since the time of the Prophet (SAW) – that certain foods are truly blessed. They are delicious, fun to eat, nutritious, and promote health and wellbeing: they are Superfoods!
Four of the “Superfoods” mentioned in the Qur’an and Hadith-the date, olive, pomegranate, and fig-are some of the earliest cultivated foods dating back thousands of years. They have played a pivotal role in the lives of many peoples and hold special significance in many cultures and traditions. Read on to discover these incredible foods and some of their unique qualities.
“There is a tree among the trees which is similar to a Muslim (in goodness), and that is the date palm tree.” (Sahih Bukhari)
For many, the month of Ramadan is the only time of the year dates are consumed. This is a real shame because dates are packed with nutrients and have numerous potential health benefits, including protecting against certain cancers and other serious diseases. They can be eaten fresh, dry, ripe, or unripe. The Prophet (SAW) is reported to have eaten dates with butter, cucumbers, bread, and on their own.
Dates are mainly carbohydrate (70- 80%), most of which is the type of sugar that is easily absorbed by the human body. An average portion of 100 g of dates (approximately 6 to 7) provides about 11 to 15 percent of the total daily energy requirement for adults.
Dates also are low in sodium and fat, and rich in fibre, minerals, and antioxidants. Dates contain at least 6 vitamins (including several B vitamins), several organic acids, and a higher amount of protein than other fruits. Dates also are high in potassium, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus, and are a good source of iron, copper, and manganese.
Dietary fibre in dates (and other foods) is extremely important for several reasons. It helps with the treatment of diabetes and obesity, and is believed to protect against hypertension, coronary heart disease, cholesterol, colorectal and prostate cancers, and intestinal disorders. Fibre also helps with weight control and the functioning of the large intestine. It acts like a sponge by soaking up water and swelling in size, which makes you feel full. The Prophet (?) is reported to have said that “A family which has dates will not be hungry.” (Sahih Muslim). Fibre also helps to speed material through the large intestine, thus reducing constipation. Consuming only 6 or 7 dates each day provides the average adult with 50-100 percent of the recommended daily amount of fibre. No wonder some researchers have described dates as “an almost ideal food”!
The olive tree, with its grayish-green foliage and distinctively gnarled and twisting branches, is truly remarkable.
It has an exceptionally long life expectancy of 500 years and is extremely tenacious. It can grow back and flourish even if pruned to the ground.
Olive oil contains the so-called “good” fat or monounsaturated fat which lowers the risk of heart disease by reducing the “bad” (LDL) cholesterol levels in the blood. Beyond reducing LDL cholesterol levels, olive oil consumption also beneficially affects other risk factors for heart disease including lipoprotein metabolism, oxidative damage, inflammation, endothelial dysfunction, blood pressure, thrombosis, and carbohydrate metabolism.
According to experts, consuming only 2 tablespoons of olive oil each day may reduce the risk of heart disease.
In addition, studies have shown that in countries where virgin olive oil is the principal source of fat, the cancer rates are lower than in countries where it is not. There are several components of olive oil that may have an anti-cancer effect, including vitamin E.
Extra-virgin or virgin olive oil should be used as they are the least processed and contain the highest levels of antioxidants. It is best to substitute olive oil for unhealthy fats, like saturated and trans fats, rather than just adding olive oil to your diet.
In them (two Gardens) will be Fruits, And dates and pomegranates.” (Surah Ar-Rahman: 68)
The pomegranate is a deliciously unique fruit mentioned three times in the Qur’an. In one hadith pertaining to the Last Hour, Allah (SWT) commands the earth to bring forth its fruit and restore its blessing. The pomegranate is the only plant specifically mentioned. (Sahih Muslim)
The pomegranate is a spherical, orange-sized fruit with a tough, leathery rind. Inside are hundreds of seeds surrounded by a translucent red, pink, or whitish sac full of juice. The juice comprises about 30 percent of the fruit’s weight. There are about 63-78 calories in 100 g (3.5 oz) of the fresh juice sacs. The juice is high in antioxidants and potassium, as well as a good source of vitamin C, pyridoxine (vitamin B-6), and pantothenic acid (vitamin B-5). It is also low in sodium and has no fat or cholesterol. Notably, pomegranate juice has more antioxidant activity than green tea.
Only one surah in the Qur’an is named after a plant and that is “The Fig” (“Al Tin” in Arabic).
The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) is reported to have said when presented with a fig: “If I were to say that any fruit descended from Paradise, I should say these. For the fruit of Paradise has no stones. So eat from them.” (Abu al-Darda)
The fig is unique as it is a flower blossoming inside itself. The seeds are what we eat. Interestingly, the Chinese character for fig means “fruit without a flower.”
Figs are often eaten whole and raw but can be peeled. While they are less well-known in the West than the other Super Foods of the Sunnah, figs are becoming more popular, especially as an ingredient in health food snacks. Figs are similar to dates in their nutritional and beneficial health effects. They are low in sodium, fat and cholesterol- free, and an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, including calcium, potassium, iron, thiamin (B-1), and riboflavin (B-2). Figs also are extremely high in fibre and antioxidants, potentially helping to protect against many cancers. Like pomegranates, figs have higher antioxidant activity than green tea.
Enjoy the flavour (and health benefits) of olives in this classic Italian dish.
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 400g tins chopped tomatoes
2 tbs capers, drained and rinsed
large handful green olives, pitted and sliced large pinch dried chilli flakes
400g pasta, penne is ideal
large bunch parsley, chopped
Heat 1tbs olive oil in a pan. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Then tip all the ingredients into the pan except for the pasta and parsley. Cook for 10 minutes until thickened slightly. In the meantime, cook the pasta according to the instructions on the pack. When ready (soft with a little bite – al dente), drain well and toss with the sauce and chopped parsley and serve.
Healthy fig dessert
Enjoy figs with the sweetness of honey and the tang of Greek yoghurt in this light, refreshing dessert. Almonds add crunch as well as goodness.
6 tbs Greek yoghurt
2 tbs flaked toasted almonds runny honey
a few pinches of cinnamon
Cut the figs in half and arrange on two plates. Dollop the yoghurt over them and sprinkle with the almonds and cinnamon. Drizzle with the honey and serve.
The addition of oats in this wonderful smoothie may seem odd at first but it gives it a lovely, creamy texture and a great slow-release energy boost. Perfect for suhoor or a rushed breakfast.
1 banana, chopped
1 handful dates, chopped 100ml milk/ yoghurt
1 handful oats
honey to taste
Put all ingredients (except honey) in a blender and whiz until smooth. Drizzle with honey to taste.
Kate Hepburn takes an in-depth look at the differences between the food we eat today and what was eaten in the time of the Prophet (SAW).