Your diet in the light of the Quran
We are told on an almost daily basis by doctors, nutritionist and health experts to eat healthily, but what does eating healthily mean in the context of the Qur’an and Sunnah and why should we be concerned with this? Our bodies are entrusted to us an amanah (trust) from our Lord. The Qur’an was sent to us an instruction manual and the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ as our guide.
As our creator, Allah Most High knows what is best for our bodies- you wouldn’t ignore a car manufacturer’s instructions to not use petrol in a diesel engine vehicle, yet we are surrounded by many who ignore Allah’s instructions in foods that are most beneficial to us.
Allah says in the Qur’an: “Therefore eat of what Allah has given you, lawful and good (things), and give thanks for Allah’s favour if Him do you serve.” (16:114)
Lawful, as we know, applies to those foods permitted in the Qur’an, or those that are halal. We tend to focus on these foods but what about those that are good?
There are several foods mentioned in the Qur’an, amongst them are olives, herbs, fish, grapes, garlic, onion, ginger, pomegranates, dates, bananas, cucumbers, figs, honey and many more.
Whilst these foods were mentioned by Allah over 1400 years ago, in recent years science has discovered many benefits to our health and wellbeing from these foods. Looking at these benefits in more detail we are able to understand why we have been instructed to partake of them.
Olives and olive oil are mentioned in several places in the Qur’an (95:1, 80:29, 23:20, 16:11). In Surah Al Mu’minoon (23:20) Allah says: “And [We brought forth] a tree issuing from Mount Sinai which produces oil and food for those who eat.”
So what benefits are to be found from olives? Recent studies looking at different varieties of olives, how they are processed and the changes that take place in their nutrients has shown that Greek-style black olives, Spanish-style green olives, Kalamata-style olives, and many different methods of olive preparation provide us with valuable amounts of many different antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients. Hydroxytyrosol, a phytonutrient, found in olives, has long been linked to cancer prevention, and it is now regarded as having the potential to help us prevent bone loss as well.
Olives are also known to be a high fat food, however the fats they contain are monosaturated fats, which are considered “good” fats. A diet high in monosaturated fats but low in saturated fats can lead to a decrease in cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease.
The many benefits of olives are too numerous to list and can be researched for further detail, however we can see from this that eating olives and olive oil regularly can lead to overall health benefits.
Of fish, Allah says in the Surah An Nahl (16:40), “And it is He who subjected the sea for you to eat from it tender meat and to extract from it ornaments which you wear. And you see the ships ploughing through it, and [He subjected it] that you may seek of His bounty; and perhaps you will be grateful.”
Fish is one of the healthiest foods on the planet and is full of nutrients that are important for our health, such as protein and Vitamin D. It is also the best source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are incredibly important for your body and brain.
Generally speaking, all types of fish are good for you. They are high in many nutrients that most people aren’t getting enough of. This includes high-quality protein, iodine and various vitamins and minerals. However, some fish are better than others, and the fatty types of fish such as salmon, trout, sardines, tuna and mackerel are considered the healthiest as they are higher in fat-based nutrients such as the fat-soluble vitamin D, a nutrient that most people are deficient in. It functions like a steroid hormone in the body.
Fatty fish are also much higher in omega-3 fatty acids which are crucial for your body and brain to function optimally, and are strongly linked to reduced risk of many diseases. To meet your omega-3 requirements, eating fatty fish at least once or twice a week is recommended.
Fish is largely considered to be among the best foods you can eat for a healthy heart. Researchers believe that the fatty types of fish are even more beneficial for heart health, because of their high amount of omega-3 fatty acids. Again the benefits of fish are considerable and are an important part of any healthy balanced diet.
Lastly, honey is beneficial not only as a food but also for healing. Allah says in Surah An Nahl (16:69), “Then eat from all the fruits and follow the ways of your Lord laid down [for you]. From their bellies comes out a drink of various colours in which there is cure for people. Surely, in that there is a sign for a people who ponder.”
Possible health benefits of consuming honey have been documented in early Greek, Roman, Vedic, as well as Islamic texts. Modern science is finding that many of the historical claims that honey can be used in medicine may indeed be true.
Honey also possesses antiseptic and antibacterial properties. In modern science, useful applications of honey in chronic wound management have been found in honey. Honey has been shown to help prevent cancer and heart disease. It contains flavonoids that are antioxidants which help reduce the risk of some cancers and heart disease. It can also help reduce ulcers and other gastrointestinal disorders.
Honey is known to be anti-bacterial and anti-fungal due to an enzyme added by bees that makes hydrogen peroxide. It is also known to reduce coughs and throat irritation, particularly buckwheat honey. Honey can also help to heal wounds and burns and is now being used as a component in medical dressings. There are many more benefits to health through the use of honey.
Whilst we have only looked at a few foods mentioned in the Qur’an and their benefits, we can see that the good derived from these foods for our health is immense.
It has been related in the Sunan of Imam Tirmidhi:
The final messenger of God, Prophet Muhammad ﷺ mounted the pulpit, then wept and said, “Ask Allah for forgiveness and health, for after being granted certainty, one is given nothing better than health.”
We owe it to ourselves and our Creator to ensure that we educate ourselves, take care of our diet, and maintain our health through the food that Allah has blessed us with.