Cashew Chicken Curry

To all the curry lovers out there (like me :P), you have to try this cashew chicken curry! It’s simple to make, only requiring 3 spices (chili powder, garam masala and black pepper), uses healthy fats, and lean poultry. Enjoy it with whole wheat chapati or brown rice along with your choice of cooked vegetables like gobi (cooked cauliflower), okra or eggplant.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
  • 2 skinless chicken breast (1lbs), cubed
  • 1 cup low fat yogurt
  • ⅓ cup cashews (or almonds), soaked in warm water (or use 2 tbsp of cashew powder)
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp garam masala

Instructions:

  1. In a large pot, heat oil and sauté onions on medium-high heat till soft.
  2. Add ginger garlic paste, and saute for 1 minute. Add chicken and sauté until its color starts changing to white (~2-3 minutes).
  3. Meanwhile, blend yogurt, soaked nuts (or cashew powder) and black pepper. Set aside.
  4. Add chili powder and salt to the chicken. Mix well and cook for 1 minute. Add the yogurt-nut blend and mix well. Cover with a lid and let it cook for 15 minutes on medium heat.
  5. Once chicken is tender, add garam masala and cook for another 2-5 minutes. Serve hot!

Nutrition Information (per serving):
218kcal / 26g protein / 9.5g carbohydrate / 9g healthy fat

Photo credit: Twosleevers

Is Raw Sugar Healthier than White or Brown Sugar?

You may have seen raw sugar (or turbinado sugar) being served at coffee shops or sold in grocery stores. Some brands claim that raw sugar is more natural and beneficial than white or brown sugar. So what’s the difference?

Raw sugar:

  • Is processed by boiling the cane juice only once to remove some molasses
  • Contains trace amounts of micronutrients (calcium, iron, potassium and antioxidants)
  • Has a caramel flavour, and are golden brown crystals
  • Is more expensive (2-3 times the price of white sugar)

Similarities between the 3 sugars:

  • Similar nutrient profile per tsp: 16 calories, 4g carbs [1]
  • Per 1 tsp, all 3 sugars do not provide even 1% of recommended daily intakes of calcium, iron or potassium, nor has a significant amount of antioxidants
  • All 3 are sucrose and are processed from sugarcane / sugar beet [2]
  • All 3 are added sugars that can raise blood sugars 😦

So although raw sugar has trace amounts of minerals and antioxidants, you would have to have cups and cups of raw sugar to get the same amount of minerals and antioxidants from nutritious foods like bananas (potassium), spinach (iron), milk (calcium) or blackberries (antioxidants) [1]! So if you choose to have raw sugar, consider it for its flavour more than it’s nutrition!

Bottom Line

To summarize limiting added sugars is part of a healthy diet, whether that’s white, brown or raw sugar!


Until next time,

Almas-Sadaf Shaikh, PMDip, RD


*Please be aware that these are general guidelines. Nutrition and intake varies by age, sex, height, activity, being pregnant or breastfeeding, and medical conditions. For more information or to sit with one of our dietitians for an individualised nutrition counselling session, please contact us at amananutrition@gmail.com or visit our Contact Us page to book your first appointment.

References:

[1] FoodData Central. (n.d.). Retrieved December 4, 2019, from https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/.

[2] Thalheimer, J. C. (2015, September). Added Sugars and Heart Health. Today’s Dietitian, 17(9), 38.

Photocredit: Mother Jones

Bran Muffins

Makes 12

Need help getting enough fibre? Try these fibrous and easy to make bran muffins! (No electric beater required!). Add it to your breakfast or grab it as a snack! The fibre will keep you full and help keep you regular! Wheat bran not only contains B vitamins, minerals and some protein, but also has soluble fibre – which forms a gel in your gut trapping some cholesterol and removing it 🤯! So why not try these yummy muffins that can improve gut health along with your heart health ❤!

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cups (87g) wheat bran
  • 1 ⅓ cups (165g) all-purpose flour
  • ⅓ cup (68g) sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp cinnamon, ground (optional)
  • 1 ⅓ cup (330 ml) 2% milk
  • ⅓ cup (75 ml) canola oil
  • 1 egg

Instructions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400°F (200°C).
  2. In a medium sized bowl, combine wheat bran, flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Set it aside.
  3. In large mixing bowl, combine milk, egg and oil with a whisk. Add dry ingredients and stir only until combined.
  4. Scoop batter evenly into twelve muffin pan cups greased with cooking spray or lined with paper muffin liners. Bake in oven for 15-20 minutes or until a fork/toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Serve warm.

⚠ Always remember to increase fibre intake slowly and to have more water when you have more fibre to avoid discomfort! Talk to a dietitian to find out if you are having enough.

Nutrition Information (per muffin):
161kcal / 4g protein / 23g carbohydrate / 3.5g fibre / 7g healthy fat

Photo Credit: AllBran

Honey Garlic Salmon

When I come home from a long day and want to make something quick, yet healthy, fresh and tasty – I make honey garlic salmon! With ingredients that can be found in our fridge and cupboards, and a short cooking time, dinner will be ready in minutes! High in protein, healthy omega fats, and a good source of vitamin D!

Ingredients:

  • 2 tsp (10ml) honey
  • 1 tbsp (15ml) low sodium soy sauce 
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp dried thyme leaves
  • 1 tsp (10ml) lemon juice
  • 2 tsp (10ml) canola oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ lemon, sliced
  • 4 salmon fillets (4-5 oz or 150g each) 

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Season salmon fillets with a mixture of honey, soy sauce, lemon juice, pepper, paprika and thyme. Let fillets marinate for 15 minutes in the fridge, covered.  
  2. Heat oil in a pan over medium heat, and saute garlic for 1 minute. Add salmon fillets, along with the marinade into the pan. Cook each side for 4 minutes, while periodically basting the top of the fillets with the marinade. 
  3. Place fillets in a baking sheet,and  broil the salmon in the oven for another 5-6 minutes or until cooked.
  4. Serve with sliced lemons, and drizzle with any extra marinade.

*Tip*  Great with a side of steamed greens and a whole grain such as bulgur, quinoa or wild rice. 

Nutrition Information (per serving):

256kcal / 25g protein / 3.8g carbohydrate / 12g healthy fat

Photo Credit: Cafe Delites

Spicy Red Lentil & Spinach Soup

The cold weather is here and it’s here to stay, so what better way to warm yourself up than with a hearty soup! This red lentil and spinach soup is not only tasty but healthy with loads of nutrients such as iron, fibre, folate, protein, vitamin A and more. Fibre from the spinach, and protein from the lentils will keep you full, while the spices will give you a burst of flavour in your mouth! Super easy to make as well! 

Ingredients:

  • 1 onion, diced
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp turmeric 
  • ½ tsp red chili powder
  • ½ inch ginger, chopped (or ½ tsp ginger paste)
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped (or ½ tsp garlic paste) 
  • 2 cups (60g) fresh or frozen spinach 
  • 1 cup ( 200g) red lentils, rinsed 
  • 2 cups (500ml) water or vegetable broth (adjust for thickness)

Follow 3 Easy Steps:

  1. Place diced onion, frozen or fresh spinach and lentils into a large pot. 
  2. Add water or vegetable broth. Then add all the spices, along with ginger and garlic. 
  3. Cook on medium heat for 30 minutes or until cooked. For a pressure cooker, cook for 15 minutes.

Enjoy!

Nutrition Information (per serving):

126kcal / 9g protein / 22g carbohydrate / 0g fat 

Photo Credit: iFoodreal

Fasting with Diabetes

Everyone is different, so Diabetes Canada recommends seeing your health care provider 1-3 months before ramadan to determine if it is safe for you to fast [1].

Diabetes is a widespread issue in the Muslim community – you may even know someone living with it! There are over 148 million Muslims living with diabetes around the world [2]. Checking your blood sugar, taking insulin, and remembering to take your medications… how do these coexist with fasting during the beautiful month of Ramadan? What does Islam say about this, and what does today’s research recommend?

ISLAM AND FASTING

Fasting in Islam is a requirement for healthy adults, however Allah (God) has allowed (and even recommended) that people with serious illnesses not fast.

This is clearly in the Qur’an (Islam’s Holy Book), which includes the following verse:

The month of Ramadan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights [the new moon of] the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey – then an equal number of other days. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful.” (Surah al-Baqarah, Ayah 185) [3]

Islamic scholars have explained that a person living with any sickness/medical condition that would worsen with fasting should avoid it [4]. In addition, there are accounts of the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) stating that, “Verily, Allah loves for you to take His concessions, just as He dislikes you to be disobedient” [5]. These proofs, among others, show that Muslims should not feel bad for avoiding the fast for health reasons. But how does this tie into diabetes?

DIABETES

Fasting while living with diabetes can result in some serious risks [6]:

  • Hypoglycemia, which means low blood sugar levels (<3.9mmol/L)
  • Hyperglycemia, which means high blood sugar levels (>16.7mmol/L) [7]
  • Dehydration & thrombosis, especially in hot and long days of fasting
  • Diabetic ketoacidosis, which means your body is breaking down fat, making your blood acidic. This is very dangerous and can lead to hospitalization.

Diabetes Canada explains that those with low to moderate risk that can fast with medical advice usually have diabetes that’s well controlled, healthy lifestyle measures in place, or an otherwise healthy individual that is treating diabetes with medication such as metformin, acarbose, incretin-therapies (DPP-4 inhibitors or GLP-1 RA), second generation SU, SGLT2 inhibitors, TZD) or basal insulin [8].

If you would like more information on risks relating to fasting in Ramadan for those living with diabetes speak to your family doctor and visit Diabetes Canada’s Ramadan and Diabetes Guidelines.

Always remember to check your blood sugars more often in Ramadan to make sure they are not too low or too high. Keep an eye on your symptoms for each and ask your doctor how to treat a high or low!

If you and your doctor decide that fasting in Ramadan is safe for you, one of the ways to help stabilize your blood sugars is to be mindful of what and when you eat! This is where evidenced based advice from a Dietitian comes in handy!

NUTRITION

Suhoor (The Pre-Dawn Meal):

Suhoor is important and should be eaten as close as possible to the fajr (dawn prayer). An early suhoor means you’re just making the fast even longer – and we don’t want that!

To support this practice, we know the “Prophet (pbuh) said: “My Ummah (nation of followers) will not cease being upon goodness as long as they hasten in breaking the fast and delay the suhoor.” (Authentic, Musnad Imam Ahmad) [9]

Tips for Suhoor:

  • Have suhoor! This will help break up your daily food intake so you’re not just having one big meal at iftaar (the breaking of the fast) aka a sugar spike!
  • Eat a good amount! This will increase energy levels and lower the chance of low blood sugars

Be sure to include:

  • Carbohydrates: Have whole grains and foods with low glycemic index (these will raise blood sugars slowly)
    • Examples: whole grain bread/pita, whole wheat chappatti, laxoox/enjeero made with whole wheat flour, sareen (barley porridge), daal (lentils), or ful (fava beans).
  • Protein: Have protein to help you feel full longer.
    • Choose meat options, such as lean poultry, beef, or fatty fish, or meat alternatives, like eggs, beans, lentils, and tofu.
  • Fat: Have healthy unsaturated fats to help you feel full.
    • Choose nuts, seeds, avocado, fatty fish, and unsaturated vegetable oils (olive, canola, flaxseed, sunflower, etc).

An example Suhoor: Vegetable omelet with whole grain bread, a cup of berries and water

Iftar:

As tempting as it is, try not to overeat! This will spike your blood sugars! Have a date and water to rehydrate, and avoid the fried samosa/sambusa/pakora/bhajia etc! They have little nutrition, and can fill you up when your body needs a nutritious and fulfilling meal. Ramadan is a time for spiritual cleansing, and it can be a great time to clean your diet too as your body is an amana!

Tips for Iftaar:

  • Follow the Plate Method:
    • ½ plate with your favourite vegetables
    • ¼ plate with protein
    • ¼ plate with carbohydrates
  • As with suhoor, choose whole grains and low glycemic index foods (to avoid raising blood sugars too high), lean meats or meat alternatives, and healthy unsaturated fats.

An example of an iftar meal: Dolma (meat stuffed grape leaves) with whole wheat couscous, & fattoush salad.

Ramadan is a time for spiritual cleansing, and it can be a great time to clean your diet too as your body is an Amana!

Snacks:

Incorporate two snacks between iftar and suhoor.

  • Timing is everything. Going for taraweeh (Ramadan night prayers) at 10pm? Consider having a snack on your way to the mosque/musalla. Rehydrate with water in between prayers and go in for a second snack on your way back home before bed. (Remember: if you avoid overeating at iftar, you leave room for snacks to space out your food intake- i.e stable blood sugars)
  • These snacks should ultimately include both protein and carbs, so that the protein can slow down the absorption of carbs and not cause your blood sugars to spike.
  • Great ideas for snacks include greek yogurt (a good source of protein!) with some tropical fruit, such as mango. Maybe even get really fancy and have some almond butter (oh là là!) on whole grain crackers. Have fun with it!

Let us know what snack and meal ideas you come up with this Ramadan in the comments. We’d love to hear from you!

**Ask your family doctor if fasting in Ramadan is safe for you. If you do decide to fast, it is important to talk to your doctor about any adjustments required, such as: medication dosage and timing, how often you should check your blood sugars, as well as when and how you should break your fast. **

*Please be aware that these are general guidelines. Nutrition and intake varies by age, sex, height, activity, being pregnant or breastfeeding, and medical conditions. For more information or to sit with one of our dietitians for an individualised nutrition counselling session, please contact us at amananutrition@gmail.com or visit our Contact Us page to book your first online appointment.

Until next time,

Huda Amareh, MAHN, RD & Almas-Sadaf Shaikh, PMDip, RD

Amana Nutrition


References:

[1] Diabetes Canada, (2018). Ramadan and Diabetes. Retrieved from http://guidelines.diabetes.ca/healthcareprovidertools/ramadan-and-diabetes

[2] Salti I, Benard E, Detournay B, et al. A population-based study of diabetes and its characteristics during the fasting month of Ramadan in 13 countries: results of the epidemiology of diabetes and Ramadan 1422/2001 (EPIDIAR) study. Diabetes Care 2004;27:2306-11.

[3] Surah al-Baqarah, Ayah 185. Sahih International English Translation.

[4] Al-Mawsoo’ah al-Fiqhiyyah, V. 2. (2010, July 24). Reasons for which one may excused from fasting in Ramadaan – Islam Question & Answer. Retrieved from https://islamqa.info/en/answers/23296/reasons-for-which-one-may-excused-from-fasting-in-ramadaan  

[5] Musnad Aḥmad ibn Hanbal 5832. Sahih (authentic) according to Al-Albani

[6] Hassanein, M. (2018). The International Diabetes Federation- Diabetes and Ramadan: A Challenge and an Opportunity? . [PDF slides]. Retrieved from

[7]  American Diabetes Association. (2004). Hospital admission guidelines for diabetes. Diabetes Care, 27(suppl 1), s103-s103.

[8] Bajaj, H. S., Abouhassan, T., Ahsan, M. R., Arnaout, A., Hassanein, M., Houlden, R. L., … & Verma, S. (2019). Diabetes Canada Position Statement for People With Types 1 and 2 Diabetes Who Fast During Ramadan. Canadian journal of diabetes, 43(1), 3-12.

[9] Musnad Aḥmad ibn Hanbal. Sahih (authentic).