Top 3 Foods to Eat in Ramadan: Suhoor

The Muslim month of Ramadan is finally here and the preparations have been made. Most people would probably think that with a solid 18 hours without food or water, Muslims everywhere must just be dropping mad weight. Not so, my friends. While the idea is to humble yourself and understand your fellow man who might come from more modest means, the reality is that in most predominantly Muslim countries, Ramadan tends to resemble a 30-day festival with inconvenient dry periods. Fatty, deep-fried foods fare heavily on the fast-breaking menu—and sometimes, the same could be said about the morning meal. For those not of the faith, here’s a quick background:

The Islamic practice of fasting during the month of Ramadan is one of the five essential pillars of the religion. Believers rise about an hour or two before sunrise in order to prepare and eat the morning meal. The term varies by language, but in Arabic, this meal is known as suhoor. When dawn breaks, all eating, drinking (and sex!) is brought to a close. From then on until sunset, there is no eating, drinking (not even water), sexual relations, smokin, etc. At sunset, the fast is broken and participants are free to partake in the above (Author’s Note: Smoking is seriously bad for you and your wallet though. If you’ve been looking to quit, Ramadan can be a great time to start!). The cycle continues for 30 days, after which it is culminated by day of feasting.

SalamCenter.org offers a great summary on what Muslims hope to achieve with this ritual:

Some of the main benefits of Ramadan are an increased compassion for those in need of the necessities of life, a sense of self-purification and reflection and a renewed focus on spirituality. Muslims also appreciate the feeling of togetherness shared by family and friends throughout the month. Perhaps the greatest practical benefit is the yearly lesson in self-restraint and discipline that can carry forward to other aspects of a Muslim’s life such as work and education.

So, back to the food.

A Los Angeles Times article talks about the problem in Egypt, but it is a problem everywhere—particularly in Western countries where rich, calorie-laden food is so readily available.

In the spirit of Ramadan and to help out any of my brothers and sisters in faith that are trying to remain healthy and practicing self-discipline, here are the Top 3 foods to eat for suhoor:

1: Complex Carbohydrates

Dr. Farouk Haffejee of the Islamic Medical Association of South Africa (Durban) recommends food that lasts longer. Jennifer Andrews, of Livestrong.com explains:

Carbs are the primary source of fuel used by the body and brain to perform its necessary physical and mental functions. Insufficient carbs in the diet lead to lethargy, weakness, and difficulty concentrating and thinking, as well as low moods and irritability. Complex carbs […] release energy to the body over a longer period of time, keeping energy levels stabilized.

Examples of complex carbs include whole grains, fruit, vegetables and legumes. Even pickles (which are made from cucumbers), soy products and dairy products are on the list.

2: Water!

Always remember to stay hydrated! Drink enough water throughout the evening and during suhoor to keep your body running at its best. 18 hours without hydration is no joke. Plan for it. We lose about a quart and a half of water a day just by breathing, and ultimately lose over three quarts a day.

Pro Tip

If you need to, get your water through things other than water. As much as I hate recommending things like coffee (ugh) or cola (even worse!), they are not diuretics, as previously believed. Diuretics cause you to urinate more frequently after ingesting them, however, Mayo Clinic nutritionist Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D., says that

new research shows […] caffeine has a diuretic effect only if you consume large amounts of it—more than 500-600 mlligrams.

3: Dates

Muslims have a special place in their hearts for dates due to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) extolling the virtues of the little fruit. Here’s a more scientific recommendation (among many) from OrganicFacts.net:

Dates have high levels of soluble fiber, which is essential in promoting healthy bowel movements and the comfortable passage of food through the intestinal tract, which can relieve symptoms of constipation.

What can I say? You gotta take care of your plumbing. =P

Conclusion

In it’s simplest terms, it boils down to what Dr. Haffejee said:

Our diet should not differ very much from our normal diet and should be as simple as possible.

Those are some great words to take with you outside the times of fasting, as well.

Ramadan Mubarak, everyone!

 

References
SalamCenter.org: Frequently Asked Questions
Many Muslims Gain Weight During Ramadan Fasting
Food Habit Tips During Ramadan
The Health Benefits of Comlex carbohydrates and Diet
Why Is Hydration Important?
Health Benefits of Dates
What Your Poo Is Trying to Tell You
Best foods to eat at Suhoor this Ramadan
Mayo Clinic nutrition and healthy eating question

2800 Year Old Lake Life Survives in Complete Isolation

Scientists have discovered thriving bacteria living in Lake Vida in East Antarctica, a lake that is seven times as salty as the sea, pitch black, and 13 degrees below freezing.  Most interestingly, it has been buried for over 2800 years under 20 meters of ice.

The scientists believe that the bacteria, shut off from sunlight for 1000’s of years, evolved to be able to  survive by metabolising hydrogen and oxides of nitrogen that Vida’s salty, oxygen-free water has been found to contain.

The team hopes this will reveal information about potential life living under and within ice on other planets and moons.

Peter Doran of the University of Illinois, Chicago explains that:

Lake Vida is a model of what happens when you try to freeze a lake solid, and this is the same fate that any lakes on Mars would have gone through as the planet turned colder from a watery past.  Any Martian water bodies that did form would have gone through this Vida stage before freezing solid, entombing the evidence of the past ecosystem.

The team’s next expedition, which started on November 25th, will be drilling into Lake Ellsworth, also situated in Antarctica.  It is 3 km deep. If they do find living bacteria in Ellsworth too, I think it’s safe to begin preparing for the Martian greeting ceremony.

Life is everywhere!

 

Sources:

New Scientist: Lake life survives in total isolation for 3000 years

Lake Ellsworth Antarctica

https://wondergressive.com/2012/08/17/life-its-all-over-the-place/

Water Droplets Now Used as Computers

 

Researchers from Aalto University have discovered that water droplets can be used as tiny bits of digital information.  When water droplets are placed on highly water repellent surfaces and collide, they bounce off of each other like billiard balls.  These collisions and bounces can be controlled and turned into computational logic.

Using superhydrophobic surfaces with tracks for guiding the droplets, the foundation for computing is created with the simple addition of water.  Researchers are claiming this new form of computation will pave a way for non-electronic computers in the near future.

The Big Bang Wasn’t the Beginning

A team of physicists are now hypothesizing that the big bang may not have been the beginning of the universe.  They believe that the big bang is instead the start of a phase change, like liquid water suddenly cooling to form solid ice.

The theory gets really interesting as the physicists discuss potential cracks in the universe like the cracks that form in actual ice.  One of the researchers, Quach, explained that the universe can be thought of “as being like a liquid, then as the universe cools, it ‘crystallises’ into the three spatial and one time dimension that we see today. Theorized this way, as the universe cools, we would expect that cracks should form, similar to the way cracks are formed when water freezes into ice.” 

The theory postulates that space and time are emerging properties of the universe that did not always exist.  The theory’s  math holds up, but even if the physicists do find the ‘cracks’ only time will tell whether the theory is even partially correct.  A whole lot of time.  And by that time a wholly other set of properties may emerge making the notion of time moot.

As for now, it’s certainly fun to consider.

Isn’t mystery just awesome?

Titan’s Atmosphere Can Make DNA

 

According to a recent study the atmosphere on Saturn’s moon Titan “could be creating the molecules that make up DNA without the help of water – an ingredient widely thought to be necessary for the molecules formation.”

The DNA within all life on Earth is only one potential set of nucleic acids that could have been chosen to create life on our planet.

Paul Davies, a leading astrobiologist states that “to the best of our knowledge, the original chemicals chosen by known life on Earth do not constitute a unique set; other choices could have been made, and maybe were made if life started elsewhere many times.”

This also leads to the concept that Earth’s atmosphere may have played a vital role in piecing together the foundations of life.

The Cassini research team performed experiments replicating the conditions of Titan’s atmosphere and found that “it appears to be less important that water is present to form these molecules than it is for some form of oxygen to be present in the mix of ingredients.”

This is yet another study that forces us to redefine what we think of as necessities, requirements, and definitions of life. The best part is that it’s right here in our star system!

Compost Water Heating

water heat compost

youtube.com

 

Did you know you can heat your water using a compost pile?  Me neither. Compost water heating is fortunately becoming much more well known.  Paul Wheaton explains how he used compost to heat water for his shower.

Cornell University discusses the physics of compost heating and explains:

Compost heat is produced as a by-product of the microbial breakdown of organic material. The heat production depends on the size of the pile, its moisture content, aeration, and C/N ratio

A single compost pile can be used to make steaming hot water for over 500 showers!

 

Sources:

Cornell: Compost Physics

Youtube: 500 Showers heated from compost pile tutorial

Rich Soil: Paul Wheaton