Flat-lay Photography of Vegetable Salad on Plate

Guidelines to Healthy Living

As the saying goes, a healthy body is linked to a healthy mind. We are not to overexert ourselves even in acts of worship if it denies the right that our body has over us, i.e. self-care is important! With the advent of technology, fast-foods, and the modern ease of getting more done in less time; people today are making poorer lifestyle choices than ever before. Canned conveniences have taken over the shelves at supermarkets, leaving less room for fresh produce. Diet and physical activity -the two greatest factors that influence our health- have relinquished their roles as top priorities.

Our immune system is responsible for fighting infectious disease-causing micro-organisms. Therefore, a strong immune system is vital in order to resist various illnesses. Factors that influence the efficiency of the immune system include diet, age, physical activity, and chronic stress. Observing good health and hygiene is important if we want to buffer ourselves against the various flus that make their rounds. The importance of maintaining good health and cleanliness is highlighted in both the Qur’an as well as the Sunnah.

Islam recognizes health as an important human right, and it comes as no surprise that good eating habits is a topic that is covered. Overeating is proven to have negative effects on our physical and mental wellbeing, as it contributes to unhealthy weight gain and can escalate self-esteem issues. Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) encouraged moderation in both food and drink, condemning over-eating and wastefulness.

The Messenger (S.A.W) says: “No human ever filled a vessel worse than the stomach. Sufficient for any son of Adam are some morsels to keep his back straight. But if it must be, then one third for his food, one third for his drink and one third for his breath.” [Ibn Majah, 3349]

It is drummed into us from an early age to wash our hands before meals and to brush our teeth at least three times a day (with a toothbrush or miswak). Not only is the act of brushing teeth recommended in the Sunnah, so counts as following in the practices of our beloved Messenger, but doing so regularly reduces plaque, acidity levels, and rids the mouth of harmful streptococci bacteria.

The lure of fast-paced social networking sites has us glued to our phones and computers, often adding to our reluctance to stand up and exercise. Studies have found that in terms of mental health, a wholly sedentary lifestyle contributes to anxiety, listlessness, and depression. Exercising regularly helps in maintaining a healthy weight, controlling blood pressure, and combating stress- a known factor that can also negatively influence the immune system. The Sunnah encourages physical activity such as running, archery, and swimming. Additionally, the benefits of performing salah are numerous and can influence more than our spiritual wellbeing; prayer expiates sins, increases spirituality, and in a sense exercises various joints and muscles. 

The dangers of intoxicants are not unaddressed in Islam. As such, we should abstain and avoid any exposure to these, for our spiritual as well as physical wellbeing. It is a fact that high levels of cholesterol clog up the arteries, hindering the flow of oxygen to the heart. As a result, cardiovascular diseases such as high blood pressure has become a common lifestyle ailment. Yet more often than not, we find that foods saturated in sugar, salt and fats tend to be favored over the bland-in-comparison yet nutritious appeal of fruits and veg.

A healthy nutritious diet consists of fresh produce, low saturated fat, and whole grains. Supplements and multivitamins may help to a degree, however, observing a healthy diet is more effective and long-lasting. We should aspire to eat foods rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin A, Vitamin D and Iron, as they are some of the most important vitamins and minerals that boost our health. These can be found in high antioxidant produce such as cranberries, raisins, oranges, red grapes, tomatoes, and spinach, to name a few. These are low in calories yet highly beneficial in terms of vitamin intake. Vitamin C is present in oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit. Citrus fruits are known for bolstering the immune system and preventing inflammation. Furthermore, the grapefruit in particular was also praised by the Prophet (SAW).

Dates contain antioxidants and fibres, are low in fat, serves as a source of energy, and is naturally sweet, thus appealing to the palette. Dates facilitate healthy digestion, and its value is strongly recurrent in the Sunnah. Honey is anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and highly nutritional. It is commonly used for treating colds and flu as it reduces throat irritation and phlegm. Pomegranates, grapes, mushrooms, melons, barley, and coriander are also amongst the foods that are mentioned in hadith due to their beneficial properties.

Sufficient portions of meat, chicken and fish are key in a healthy diet. They are the source of energy we rely on during the course of the day. Fish is especially beneficial due to the omega 3 fatty acids which improve brain functioning, as well as eye and skin health. Water flushes out toxins and purifies the kidneys. It is important to stay hydrated by drinking at least 8 glasses of water a day. An interesting point to note is that in various narrations we can see that the Prophet (S.A.W) had a strong liking for milk. One’s diet should include milk, as it is a source of calcium and magnesium, important for maintaining strong bones. Amongst the beneficial nutrients, milk also contains protein, which serves as an energy source, as well as potassium which maintains a healthy blood pressure.

Observing the abovementioned practices and ensuring that your diet contains these nutritious fruits and vegetables would improve the immune system significantly. Our health is closely tied to our daily lifestyle. The severity of lifestyle-related illnesses is real. Allah (SWT) is the ultimate grantor of shifa (healing), but it is our job to take the steps necessary to look after the body we have been blessed with. Exercising, good hygiene, and eating balanced meals will only serve to make us healthier and happier, insha Allah!

Tips for better living

  • Fruits are friends. Eat more fruit and veg.
  • Stay hydrated; keep a water bottle nearby.
  • Avoid foods with high sugar, salt, and cholesterol content.
  • Abstain from overeating or comfort eating.
  • Lessen your caffeine intake.
  • Check your priorities, make a to-do list, find balance.
  • Stand up. Look away from your phone/TV/computer if you have been sitting for too long.
  • If daily is too much, exercise at least 3 to 5 times a week (stretches, jogging, swimming…the options are endless!)

Eat smart, be active, and find healthier stress relievers. Don’t despair if you can’t do a 180-degree switch overnight. Every attempt counts, so pour your efforts into learning more and implementing what you can until it eventually becomes a part of your lifestyle.

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