In a number of Qur’anic verses, the humble date is honoured as one of the blessings of Paradise. (Qur’an, 55:68) When this fruit is examined, it can be seen to have a great many important features. One of the oldest known species of plant, the date is today a food of preference not only for its delicious taste but also for its nutritious properties. New benefits imparted by the date are being discovered every day and has come to be used as a medicine as well as a food. These features of the date are noted in Surah Maryam:
The pains of labour drove her to the trunk of a date-palm. She [Maryam] said, “Oh if only I had died before this time and was something discarded and forgotten!” A voice called out to her from under her, “Do not grieve! Your Lord has placed a small stream at your feet. Shake the trunk of the palm towards you and fresh, ripe dates will drop down onto you. Eat and drink and delight your eyes…” (Qur’an, 19:23-26)
There is considerable wisdom in the way that Allah recommends Maryam to eat this fruit. The date is an excellent choice of food for the pregnant women and for those who have just given birth. This is a widely accepted scientific fact. Maryam was inspired to understand this point, in order to make her own labour easier. The date has one of the highest sugar levels, 60-65%, of all fruits. Doctors recommend that pregnant women be given foods containing fruit sugar on the day they give birth. The aim behind this is to energise and revitalise the mother’s weakened body and at the same time to stimulate the milk hormones and increase the levels of mother’s milk essential to the new-born baby.
In addition, loss of blood during birth leads to a fall in body sugar levels. Dates are important from the point of view of enabling sugar to enter the body and prevent blood pressure from dropping. Their high calorific value strengthens people weakened by illness or suffering from extreme fatigue.
These facts reveal the wisdom in the way that Allah recommended Maryam to eat dates, designed to energise and invigorate the woman and ensure the emergence of milk, the only food for a baby. For example, the date contains more than ten elements of vital importance if the body is to remain healthy and energetic. Modern-day scientists state that human beings can actually live for years on nothing more than dates and water.110 V. H. W. Dowson, a recognised expert in this field, says that one grain of date and a glass of milk are enough to meet all of a person’s daily nutritional requirements.111
The substance oxytocin, which is present in the date, is used in modern medicine to facilitate birth. In fact, oxytocin means “rapid birth.” It is also known to increase levels of mother’s milk after birth.112
Oxytocin is actually a hormone released by the pituitary gland which stimulates contractions of the womb during childbirth. All the pre-birth preparations in the body take place thanks to this hormone. The effects of the hormone can be seen in the muscles that form the mother’s womb and in cells in the muscular structure that enables the secretion of mother’s milk. The effective contraction of the womb is essential if birth is to take place. Oxytocin enables the muscles that comprise the womb to contract in a very powerful manner. Moreover, oxytocin also initiates the secretion of mother’s milk. This feature of the date alone-the way it contains oxytocin-is important evidence that the Qur’an is the revelation of Allah. The medical identification of the benefits of the date only became possible in recent times. Yet it was set out fourteen centuries ago in the Qur’an that Allah revealed to Maryam that she should eat dates.
Dates also contain a form of sugar that gives the body high levels of mobility and heat energy and which can be easily broken down in the body. Furthermore, this sugar is not glucose, which rapidly raises the level of blood sugar but the fruit sugar fructose. A rapid rise in blood sugar levels in diabetics in particular has a damaging effect on a great many organs and systems, especially the eyes, kidneys, heart and circulatory system and nervous system. High blood sugar is one of the main causes of disorders as serious as loss of sight, heart attacks and kidney insufficiency.
Dates contain a great many vitamins and minerals. They are very rich in fibre, fat and proteins. They also contain sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, sulphur, phosphorus and chlorine, as well as vitamins A, beta-carotene, B1, B2, B3 and B6. Some of the benefits of the vitamins and minerals in dates to the normal human body and especially during pregnancy can be summarised as follows:
- The nutritional value of dates stems from the appropriate mineral balance within them. The date also contains folic acid, a B vitamin of great importance to pregnant women. Folic acid (B9) is a vitamin which serves important functions in the construction of new blood cells and of amino acids, the body’s building blocks, and in cell renewal. The need for folic acid thus rises significantly during pregnancy and the daily requirement doubles. When folic acid levels are insufficient, red blood cells that are larger than normal but with lower functionality emerge, along with the symptoms of anaemia, appear. Folic acid plays a particularly important role in cell division and in the formation of the genetic structure of the cell and is the only substance daily requirements of which double during pregnancy. The date is exceedingly rich in folic acid.
- On the other hand, the long-term nausea and physical reactions that appear during pregnancy do so because of a lack of potassium. Levels therefore need to be reinforced. In the same way that the large quantities of potassium in dates are of great importance in this regard, they are also important in regulating the water balance in the body. Moreover, by helping oxygen to reach the brain potassium enables one to think clearly. In addition, it provides the appropriate alkaloidal features for body fluids and stimulates the kidneys to expel toxic bodily wastes. It helps bring down high blood pressure and the formation of healthy skin.113
- The iron contained in dates controls the synthesis of haemoglobin in the red blood cells and ensures an appropriate level of red cells in the blood. This is of vital importance in preventing anaemia during pregnancy and the development of the baby. Red blood cells play a role in keeping cells alive by carrying oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood. Due to dates’ high iron levels, a human being can meet his or her iron requirements by eating just 15 dates a day and will thus be protected from disorders arising from iron deficiency.
- The calcium and phosphate in dates are important elements for skeletal growth and balancing the body’s bone structure. The high levels of phosphorus and calcium in dates protect the body against bone weakness and help reduce such disorders.
- Scientists also emphasise the way in which dates reduce stress and tension. Research by Berkeley University experts has revealed that dates contain high levels of vitamin B6, which strengthens the nerves, and magnesium, which is very important for the kidneys. A person can meet his magnesium requirement by eating just 2-3 grains of date a day.114
- The vitamin B1 in dates facilitates the health of the nervous system, assists the transformation of the carbohydrates in the body into energy and the use of protein and fats to meet the body’s needs. Vitamin B2 assists in the burning of protein, carbohydrates and fats for the provision of bodily energy and cell renewal.
- The body’s vitamin A requirement rises during pregnancy. Thanks to the vitamin A it contains, the date improves vision and bodily resistance and strengthens the teeth and bones. Dates are also especially rich in beta-carotene.115 Beta-carotene helps prevent cancer by controlling molecules that attack the cells.
In addition, unlike dates, other fruits are generally lacking in protein.116 Thanks to this feature, dates enable the body to protect itself against illness and infection, to renew cells and ensure fluid balance. Meat is also a useful foodstuff but maybe not as much as the date, which is a fresh fruit, especially at such a time. Indeed, excessive consumption of meat during pregnancy can actually lead to toxicity in the body. It is much better for pregnant women to choose fruit and vegetables, which are light and easily digested.
All these facts about dates reveal Allah’s infinite knowledge and compassion for human beings. As we have seen, the benefits of the date, especially during pregnancy and only recently established by modern medical science, were indicated in the Qur’an many years ago.
He has only forbidden you carrion, blood and pork and what has been consecrated to other than Allah. But anyone who is forced to eat it-without desiring it or going to excess in it-commits no crime. Allah is Ever-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (Qur’an, 2:173)
Eating pork is harmful to health in a great many regards. This harm still persists today, despite all the precautions that are taken. First and foremost, no matter how clean the farms and environments on which it is raised may be, the pig is not by nature a clean-living animal. It often plays in, and even eats, its own excrement. Due to this and its biological structure, the pig produces much higher levels of antibodies in its body than other animals. In addition, far higher levels of growth hormone are produced in the pig compared to those in other animals and human beings. Naturally, these high levels of antibodies and growth hormone pass across to and collect in the pig’s muscle tissue. Pork meat also contains high levels of cholesterol and lipids. It has been scientifically proven that these significant amounts of antibodies, hormones, cholesterol and lipids in pork represent a serious threat to human health.
The existence of above-average numbers of obese individuals in the populations of countries such as the USA and Germany, in which large quantities of pork are consumed, is now well-known. When exposed to excessive quantities of growth hormone as a result of a pork-based diet, the human body first puts on excessive weight and then suffers physical deformations.
Another harmful substance in pork is the “trichina” worm. This is frequently found in pork and when it enters the human body, it settles directly in the muscles of the heart and represents a possibly fatal threat. Even though it is now technically possible to identify pigs that are infected with trichina, no such methods were known in earlier centuries. That means that everyone who ate pork risked infection by trichina and possible death.
All these reasons are just a part of the wisdom in our Lord’s prohibition on the consumption of pork. Moreover, this commandment of our Lord’s provides complete protection from the harmful effects of pork under any conditions.
Until the 20th century, it was impossible to be aware of the danger posed to human health by pork. The fact that the Qur’an, revealed fourteen centuries ago, warns against this harm which has been incontrovertibly revealed with modern medical equipment and biological tests, is one of the miracles demonstrating that the Qur’an is the revelation of Allah, the Omniscient. Despite all the precautionary measures and inspections that take place in modern-day pig rearing, the fact that pork is physiologically incompatible with the human body and is a variety of meat harmful to human health has not altered.
Your Lord revealed to the bees: “Build dwellings in the mountains and the trees, and also in the structures which men erect. Then eat from every kind of fruit and travel the paths of your Lord, which have been made easy for you to follow.” From inside them comes a drink of varying colours, containing healing for mankind. There is certainly a Sign in that for people who reflect. (Qur’an, 16:69)
Honey is a “healing for men” as stated in the verses above. Nowadays, apiculture and bee products have opened a new branch of research in scientifically advanced parts of the world. Other benefits of honey may be described as below:
Easily digested: Because sugar molecules in honey can convert into other sugars (e.g. fructose to glucose), honey is easily digested by the most sensitive stomachs, despite its high acid content. It helps kidneys and intestines to function better.
Rapidly diffuses through the blood; is a quick energy source: When accompanied by mild water, honey diffuses into the bloodstream in seven minutes. Its free sugar molecules make the brain function better since the brain is the largest consumer of sugar. Honey is a natural composition of sugars like glucose and fructose. According to recent research, this unique mixture of sugars is the most effective means to remove fatigue and increase athletic performance.
The antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of honey were revealed as a result of clinical observations and research. Honey is exceedingly effective in painlessly cleaning up infection and dead cells in these regions and in the development of new tissues. The use of honey as a medicine is mentioned in the most ancient writings. In the present day, doctors and scientists are rediscovering the effectiveness of honey in the treatment of wounds.
Dr. Peter Molan, a leading researcher into honey for the last 20 years and a professor of biochemistry at New Zealand’s University of Waikato, says this about the antimicrobial properties of honey:
Randomized trials have shown that honey is more effective in controlling infection in burn wounds than silver sulphadiazine, the antibacterial ointment most widely used on burns in hospitals. (“Honey Against Infected Skin Lesions,” http://www.apitherapy.com/honeysk.htm.)
Supports blood formation: Honey provides an important part of the energy needed by the body for blood formation. In addition, it helps in cleansing the blood. It has some positive effects in regulating and facilitating blood circulation. It also functions as a protection against capillary problems and arteriosclerosis.
Does not accommodate bacteria: This bactericide (bacteria-killing) property of honey is named “the inhibition effect.” There are various reasons of this anti-microbial property of the honey. Some examples are: the high sugar content that limit the amount of water microorganisms need for growth, its high acidity (low pH) and composition which deprive bacteria from nitrogen necessary for reproduction. The existence of hydrogen peroxide as well as antioxidants in the honey prevents bacteria growth.
Antioxidant: Everyone who wants to live a healthier life should consume antioxidants. Those are the components in cells that get rid of harmful byproducts of normal metabolic functions. These elements inhibit destructive chemical reactions that cause spoilage of food and many chronic illnesses. Researchers believe food products rich in antioxidants may prevent heart problems and cancer. Strong antioxidants are present in honey content: Pinocembrin, pinobaxin, chrisin and galagin. Pinocembrin is an antioxidant that merely exists in the honey.108
Vitamin and mineral depot: Honey is composed of sugars like glucose and fructose and minerals like magnesium, potassium, calcium, sodium chlorine, sulphur, iron and phosphate. It contains vitamins B1, B2, C, B6, B5 and B3 all of which change according to the qualities of the nectar and pollen. Besides the above, copper, iodine, and zinc are also present, albeit in small quantities.
Honey is used in healing wounds:
– When used in treatment of wounds, thanks to its ability to absorb moisture from the air, honey facilitates healing process and prevents scarring. This is because honey stimulates the growth of epithelial cells that form the new skin cover over a healed wound. In this way, even in case of large wounds, honey may eliminate the need for tissue transplantation.
– Honey stimulates the regrowth of tissue involved in the healing process. It stimulates the formation of new blood capillaries and the growth of fibroblasts that replace the connective tissue of the deeper layer of the skin and produce the collagen fibres that give strength to the repair.
– Honey has an anti-inflammatory action, which reduces the swelling around a wound. This improves circulation and thus hastens the healing process. It also reduces pain.
– Honey does not stick to the underlying wound tissues, so there is no tearing away of newly formed tissue, and no pain, when dressings are changed.
- Thanks to its aforementioned antimicrobial property, honey provides a protective barrier to prevent wounds becoming infected. It also rapidly clears any existing infection from wounds. It is fully effective, even with antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. Unlike antiseptics and antibiotics, there is no impairment of the healing process through adverse effects on wound tissues.109
It can easily be seen from this information that honey has great “healing” properties. This is undoubtedly one of the miracles of the Qur’an Allah, Who is Exalted in Power, has revealed.
Nutritional Values Average amount in a portion Average amount in 100 g Water 3.6 gr 17.1 gr Total carbohydrates 17.3 gr 82.4 gr Fructose 8.1 gr 38.5 gr Glucose 6.5 gr 31.0 gr Maltose 1.5 gr 7.2 gr Sucrose 0.3 gr 1.5 gr
Nutritional Contents Total calories (kilocalories) 64 304 Total calories (kilocalories) (as fat) 0 0 Total fat 0 0 Saturated fat 0 0 Cholesterol 0 0 Sodium 0.6 mg 2.85 mg Total carbohydrate 17 gr 81 gr Sugar 16 gr 76 gr Diet fibres 0 0 Protein 0.15 mg 0.7 mg
Vitamins B1 (Thiamine) < 0.002 mg < 0.01 mg B2 (Riboflavin) < 0.06 mg < 0.3 mg Nicotinic acid < 0.06 mg < 0.3 mg Pantothenic acid < 0.05 mg < 0.25 mg Vitamin B6 < 0.005 mg < 0.02 mg Folic acid < 0.002 mg < 0.01 mg Vitamin C 0.1 mg < 0.5 mg
Minerals Calcium 1.0 mg 4.8 mg Iron 0.05 mg 0.25 mg Zinc 0.03 mg 0.15 mg Potassium 11.0 mg 50.0 mg Phosphorus 1.0 mg 5.0 mg Magnesium 0.4 mg 2.0 mg Selenium 0.002 mg 0.01 mg Copper 0.01 mg 0.05 mg Chromium 0.005 mg 0.02 mg Manganese 0.03 mg 0.15 mg ASH 0.04 mg 0.2 gr
The “First World Wound Healing Congress,” held in Melbourne on September 10-13, 2000, discussed the use of honey in wound treatment. The comments made during the congress were along these lines:
Many natural antibacterial substances are being evaluated to find a treatment for wounds infected with bacteria with multiple resistance to antibiotics, the “superbugs”, as this becomes a major clinical problem. But most of these natural substances have no proven effectiveness on infected wounds, nor is it known if they have any adverse effects on wound tissues. Honey is different, as it has an excellent “track record” over 4,000 years of usage as a wound dressing… Honey has a potent antibacterial activity and is very effective in clearing infection in wounds and protecting wounds from becoming infected.
One of the foods to which attention is drawn in the Qur’an is the olive. Research in recent years has revealed that the olive is not just a delicious food but also represents an important source of good health. In addition to the olive itself, olive oil is also an important source of nutrition. Attention is drawn to the oil of the olive tree in these terms in the Qur’an:
Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The metaphor of His Light is that of a niche in which is a lamp, the lamp inside a glass, the glass like a brilliant star, lit from a blessed tree, an olive, neither of the east nor of the west, its oil all but giving off light even if no fire touches it. Light upon Light. Allah guides to His Light whoever He wills and Allah makes metaphors for mankind and Allah has knowledge of all things. (Qur’an, 24:35)
The expression “mubarakatin zaytoonatin” in the above verse describes the olive as being “plentiful, sacred, auspicious, providing countless blessings.” Olive oil, referred to in the term “zaytuha,” is known as one of the most highly recommended types of oil by all experts, especially for coronary and arterial health. Its health benefits may be summarised as follows:
Benefits for Coronary and Arterial Health:
Most of the fatty acids in olives and olive oil are mono-unsaturated. Mono-unsaturated fatty acids do not contain cholesterol. Therefore, olive oil does not raise cholesterol levels but instead keeps them under control. Olive oil also contains omega-6 linoleic acid (EFA: essential fatty acid), which is essential for the human body. Due to this feature, health-related bodies (such as The World Health Organization) recommend that at least 30% of the fatty acid consumed in societies in which hardened artery and diabetes levels are high should consist of omega-6. This increases the importance of the olive still further.127
And by it He makes crops grow for you and olives and dates and grapes and fruit of every kind. There is certainly a Sign in that
for people who reflect.
Studies in this area have revealed much lower LDL (bad cholesterol) and higher antioxidant levels in people who consume 25 millilitres (about two dessertspoonfuls) of natural olive oil a day for one week.128 Antioxidants are important as they neutralise the harmful substances in the body known as free radicals and prevent cell damage. It has also been established in a great many studies that the consumption of olive oil reduces cholesterol levels and prevents heart disease.129
Olive oil is also recommended for patients with heart and artery disease since it reduces the level of harmful cholesterol (LDL) in the bloodstream and raises that of useful cholesterol (HDL).130 In countries with high occurrences of heart and artery diseases, saturated fats with high cholesterol content are generally consumed.
In addition, olive oil does not disrupt the proportion of omega-6 to that of omega-3. It is very important that omega-3 and omega-6 be present in the body at specific levels because any imbalance in these proportions can lead to progression in many diseases, especially those of the heart and immune system and cancer.131 For all these reasons, many people enjoy good health thanks to olive oil. The American Heart Association suggests that in order to reduce the risk of heart disease high mono-unsaturated fats can be an alternative to a 30% reduced fat diet.132
One study, published by The Archives of Internal Medicine, showed that women who consume high levels of mono-unsaturated fat have a lower risk of developing breast cancer.133 Another study by scientists at the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York demonstrated that b-sitosterol, a fat found in vegetable oils such as olive oil, helps prevent the formation of prostate cancer cells. The researchers concluded that b-sitosterol strengthens the internal communication system of the cell that issues the command for the cells to divide and that cancer can thus be prevented before cell division reaches an uncontrollable level.
A recent study by doctors at the University of Oxford has shown that olive oil has a protective effect against intestinal cancer. The doctors discovered that olive oil enters into a reaction with stomach acid in order to prevent intestinal cancer from beginning. At the same time, the University of Oxford researchers also established that olive oil reduces the level of bile and raises that of DAO (the enzyme diamine oxidase), thus protecting against abnormal cell growth and cancer.134
Prevention of Arthritis
According to researchers’ reports, people who consume large quantities of olive oil and cooked vegetables can have a reduced risk of rheumatic arthritis, a chronic inflammatory disease of the joints.
Olive Oil Assists Bone Development
The vitamins E, A, D and K contained in olive oil are particularly important from the point of view of assisting bone development in adults and children, and in strengthening the bones by fixing calcium. It is also recommended for the elderly as it is easily digested and through its minerals, it assists with the use of vitamins in the body. It also prevents calcium loss by stimulating bone mineralisation.135 Bones are the organism’s mineral structure storehouses and an absence of mineral accumulation in the bones can lead to serious complications such as bone softening. Olive oil has a most beneficial effect on the skeleton in this regard.
Prevention of Aging
Since the vitamins contained in olive oil have a cell renewing effect they are also employed in the treatment of the elderly, as well as nourishing and protecting the skin. As foodstuffs are transformed into energy in our bodies, certain substances known as oxidants are formed. With the high levels of anti-oxidants it contains, olive oil prevents damage by harmful substances, renews our cells and delays aging in the tissues and organs. Olive oil is also rich in vitamin E, which suppresses the free radicals that destroy the cells in our bodies and cause aging.
Contribution to Child Development
Due to the linoleic acid (omega-6 fatty acid) contained in olives and olive oil, these are a most healthy food for newborn babies and growing children. A deficiency in linoleic acid leads to the emergence of a retardation of development in babyhood and various skin disorders.
Olive oil contains anti-oxidant elements that prevent the destructive effects of harmful substances in our bodies, and fatty acids of great importance to human health. These support the hormones and assist in cell membrane formation.
Olive oil possesses a balanced polyunsaturated compound at a similar level to that in human milk. Olive oil is a sufficient source of these fatty acids, which cannot be obtained from the human body but which are of the most essential importance to it. These factors make olive oil very important for new-born babies.
Since it contributes to the natural development of the baby’s brain and nervous system before and after birth, olive oil is the only oil recommended for mothers by experts. As well as containing similar levels of linoleic acid to those of mother’s milk, when olive oil is added to fatless cow’s milk, it becomes as natural a food source as mother’s milk itself.
Blood Pressure Reduction
One study published in the 27 March 2000 edition of Archives of Internal Medicine once more stressed the beneficial effect of olive oil on high blood pressure. Medicines to reduce high blood pressure are also made from olive leaves.
Benefits for the Internal Organs
Whether consumed hot or cold, olive oil protects the stomach against diseases such as gastritis and ulcers by reducing gastric acid levels.136 In addition to this, by activating the bile, it makes it perfect. It regulates the discharge of the gall bladder and reduces the risk of bile stone formation.137 Moreover, thanks to the chloride it contains, it also assists the functioning of the liver and thus helps the body eliminate waste products. In addition, it also has a beneficial effect on the brain arteries.138
On account of all these properties, olive oil has attracted considerable expert attention in recent years.139 Some of the comments made by experts are as follows:
Jean Carper, a prominent authority in the field of health and nutrition, the CNN award-winning correspondent, columnist and author of The Food Pharmacy and Food-Your Miracle Medicine:
New Italian research finds olive oil contains antioxidants… that combat disease processes, including LDL cholesterol’s ability to clog arteries.
Pat Baird, a dietician and nutrition consultant:
I love the whole idea of olive oil’s versatility… the more we know about it, the more we learn about its great contribution to good health.
Dr. Dimitrios Trichopoulos, chairman of the Department of Epidemiology, Harvard University School of Public Health:
American women might actually experience as much as a fifty percent (50%) reduction in breast cancer risk if they consumed more olive oil in place of saturated fats.
Olive oil has a protective effect against some types of malignant tumors: prostate, breast, colon, squamous cell, and oesophageal.
D. Peck of the School of Medicine, University of Miami:
Olive oil has been shown to strengthen the immune system in mice…
Bruno Berra of the Institute of General Physiology and Biological Chemistry, University of Milan:
… [T]he minor polar components of extra virgin olive oil increase significantly the resistance of LDL to oxidation.
A.A. Rivellese, G. Riccardi and M. Mancini of the Institute of Internal Medicine and Metabolic Diseases at Federico II University, Naples:
Olive oil prevents insulin resistance and ensures better control of the glucose in the blood.
Patrizia Galletti of the Second University of Naples, Faculty of Medicine and Surgery:
Dietary intake of olive oil polyphenols may lower the risk of reactive oxygen metabolite-mediated diseases such as some gastrointestinal diseases and atherosclerosis. Olive oil hydroxytyrosol protects human erythrocytes against oxidative damage.
Frank Sacks of the Harvard School of Public Health:
An olive-oil-rich diet is more effective than a low-fat diet in controlling and treating obesity. Moreover, it leads to longer-lasting weight loss and it is easier to keep to…
As we have seen, a great many scientists today think that an olive oil-based diet constitutes the ideal nutritional model. It is stated that on account of these properties, olives and olive oil should be the fundamental constituents of every meal in one’s daily nutrition programme. The benefits of the olive plant, emphasised by Allah in many verses of the Qur’an, have been discovered in parallel to the advances made by medical science.
It is He Who sends down water from the sky. From it you drink and from it come the shrubs among which you graze your herds. And by it He makes crops grow for you and olives and dates and grapes and fruit of every kind. There is certainly a Sign in that for people who reflect. (Qur’an, 16:10-11)
Anything you catch in the sea is lawful for you, and all food from it, for your enjoyment and that of travellers… (Qur’an, 5:96)
The fact the average age of people developing and dying from heart disease is constantly decreasing has considerably increased the importance attached to coronary health. Although a great many advances have been registered in the treatment of heart disease, experts in the field basically recommend that careful precautions be taken before such diseases ever arise. Experts also recommend one important foodstuff for the healthy functioning of the heart and the prevention of disease: fish.
The reason why fish is such an important source of nutrition is that it both provides substances necessary for the human body and also reduces the risk of various diseases. For example, it has been revealed that when fish-which acts as a shield in terms of health with the omega-3 acid it contains-is consumed on a regular basis, it reduces the risk of heart disease and strengthens the immune system.
The fact that fish, the health benefits of which have only newly been scientifically registered, is an important nutritional source is revealed in the Qur’an. Almighty Allah makes the following references to seafood in the Qur’an: “It is He Who made the sea subservient to you so that you can eat fresh flesh from it…” (Qur’an, 16:14), “Anything you catch in the sea is lawful for you, and all food from it, for your enjoyment and that of travellers…” (Qur’an, 5:96) Furthermore, particular attention is drawn to fish in Surat al-Kahf, in which it is revealed that the Prophet Musa (as) set out on a long journey with his servant and that they took fish along with them to eat:
But when they reached their meeting-place, they forgot their fish which quickly burrowed its way into the sea. When they had gone a distance further on, he said to his servant, “Bring us our morning meal. Truly this journey of ours has made us tired.” He said, “Do you see what has happened? When we went to find shelter at the rock, I forgot the fish…” (Qur’an, 18:61-63)
It is noteworthy that in Surat al-Kahf fish should be specially chosen as a foodstuff after a long, tiring journey. Therefore, one of the pieces of wisdom in this tale may well be an indication of the nutritional benefits of fish. (Allah knows best.)
In fact, when we examine the nutritional properties of fish, we encounter some very striking facts. Fish, given to us as a blessing by our Lord, are a perfect food, particularly in terms of protein, vitamin D and trace elements (certain elements found in minimal quantities in the body but which are still of great importance to it). Due to the minerals they contain-such as phosphorus, sulphur and vanadium-fish encourages growth and enables tissues to recover. Fish meat also assists in the formation of healthy teeth and gums, benefits the complexion, makes the hair healthier and contributes to the fight against bacterial infection. It also plays an important role in the prevention of heart attacks as it beautifully regulates the level of cholesterol in the blood. It helps the body to break down and use starch and fats, making it stronger and more energetic. On the other hand, it also influences the functioning of mental activities. In the event that the vitamin D and other minerals contained in fish are not consumed in sufficient quantities, disorders such as rickets (bone weakness), gum disease, goitre and hyperthyroid may all arise.124
In addition, modern science has also discovered that the omega-3 fatty acids in fish also occupy an important place in human health. These fats have even been described as essential fatty acids.
The Benefits of Omega-3 in Fish Oil
There are two kinds of unsaturated fatty acid in fish oil which are particularly important for our health: EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). EPA and DHA are known as polyunsaturated fats and contain the important omega-3 fatty acids. Since the fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6 are not manufactured in the human body, they need to be taken in from the outside.
There is a large body of evidence relating to the benefits to human health of fish oil, the actual benefit stemming from its omega-3 fatty acid content. Despite being present in vegetable oils, these omega-3 fatty acids are less effective in relation to human health. However, marine plankton is very effective at turning omega-3 into EPA and DHA. When fish eat plankton, their constitution becomes much richer in EPA and DHA. That, in turn, makes fish one of the richest sources of these vitally important fatty acids.
Vital Benefits of the Fatty Acids Found in Fish
One of the main features of the fatty acids in fish is the contribution they make to the body’s energy production. These fatty acids carry out electron transfers by attaching themselves to oxygen in the body and permit energy to be produced for various chemical processes within it. There is therefore considerable evidence that a diet rich in fish oil helps combat fatigue and increases mental and physical capacity. Omega-3 increases the individual’s powers of concentration as much as it does his or her energy levels. There is a scientific foundation to the old saying “fish is good for the brain”: The main compound in brain fat is DHA, which contains omega-3 fatty acids.
The Importance of Fish for a Healthy Heart and Arteries
The omega-3 fatty acid in fish is acknowledged to protect against cardiovascular disease by reducing blood pressure and the cholesterol and triglyceride in the blood.125 Triglyceride is a form of fat and resembles LDL (bad cholesterol) which is high in fat and low in protein content. A raised triglyceride level, especially together with high cholesterol, increases the risk of heart disease. In addition, fish oils reduce life-threatening post-heart attack abnormal heart rhythms.
In one study by the American Medical Association, it was observed that heart attack levels in women eating five portions of fish a week fell by one-third. This is thought to stem from the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil causing less blood clotting. The normal speed of blood in our veins is 60 kmph (37.3 mph) and it is of vital importance for the blood to be of the right viscosity and for the density, quantity and speed to be at normal levels. The worst danger for our blood-apart from normal conditions of bleeding-is for it to clot and lose the ability to flow properly. Fish oils are also effective in reducing blood clotting by preventing the thrombocytes in the blood (blood platelets that concentrate the blood in the event of bleeding) from adhering to one another. Otherwise, blood thickening can lead to narrowing of the arteries. In turn, this can lead to many organs in the body-especially the heart, brain, eyes and kidneys-receiving an inadequate blood supply, function deceleration and eventually, loss of function. For example, when an artery is totally blocked on account of clotting this can lead to heart attack, paralysis or other disorders, depending on the location of the artery.
Omega-3 fatty acids also play an important role in the production of the molecule haemoglobin, that carries oxygen in the red blood cells, and in controlling the nutrients passing through the cell membrane. They also prevent the damaging effects of fats harmful to the body.
Importance for the Development of New Born Babies
Being an important component of the brain and eye, omega-3 fatty acids have been the subject of research, especially over the last 10 years, in connection with the needs of new born babies. There is a considerable body of evidence relating to the importance of omega-3 to the development of the foetus in the mother’s womb and of the new-born baby. Omega-3 is of the greatest importance for the proper development of the brain and nerves throughout pregnancy and in early babyhood. Scientists emphasise the importance of mother’s milk since it is a natural and perfect store of omega-3.
Benefits for Joint Health
The major risk in rheumatoid arthritis (a painful joint condition linked to rheumatism) is that of wearing of the joints, leading to irreparable damage. It has been proven that a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids prevents arthritis and reduces discomfort in swollen and sensitive joints.
Benefits Regarding the Healthy Functioning of the Brain and Nervous System
A large number of studies have revealed the effects of omega-3 fatty acids on the healthy functioning of the brain and nerves. In addition, it has been shown that fish oil reinforcement can reduce symptoms of depression and schizophrenia and prevent Alzheimer’s disease (a brain disease which causes loss of memory and hinders day-to-day activities). For example, reductions in such problems as anxiety, stress and sleeping difficulties have been observed in individuals suffering from depression who took 1 gram of omega-3 fatty acid over a period of 12 weeks.126
Benefits against Inflammatory Disorders and Strengthening of the Immune System
At the same time, omega-3 fatty acids have an anti-inflammatory (infection preventing) function. Omega-3 can therefore be employed in the following diseases:
- Rheumatoid arthritis (joint infection linked to rheumatism),
- Osteoarthritis (a form of arthritis gradually degenerating the functions of joints)
- Ulcerative colitis (ulcers linked to the inflammation of the colon), and
- Lupus (a disease which causes patches on the skin).
- It also protects myelin (the material surrounding nerve cells). It is therefore used in the treatment of
- Glaucoma (an eye disorder marked by abnormally high pressure within the eyeball that may even lead to blindness)
- Multiple sclerosis (a serious progressive disease resulting from tissue hardening in the brain and spinal cord),
- Osteoporosis (a disease leading to structural weakening in the bone structure)
- Diabetes patients.
- In addition, it is also reported to be useful in the treatment of
- Migraine patients,
- Anorexia (a possibly fatal eating disorder)
- Problems concerning skin health.
There is also wide-ranging evidence that societies such as the Greenland Eskimos and Japanese, who eat a lot of fish, rich in omega-3 fatty acid, have a much lower incidence of heart and artery disease, asthma and psoriasis. Fish is therefore recommended as a form of treatment and is particularly recommended by nutritionists on account of its proven benefits for coronary health.
Additional benefits to those outlined above are emerging every day. Moreover, it has only been possible to reveal the health benefits of fish by a great many scientists working in well-equipped research laboratories. The fact that such a valuable source of nutrition is indicated in the Qur’an, and especially that it is described as a fatigue eliminator in Surat al-Kahf, is nothing short of awe-inspiring. All the benefits provided by fish are a great blessing given us by our Lord. As with all foods, it is Allah, the Lord of the Worlds, Who has created the superior structure in fish for our benefit.