Soraya Janmohamed on Milk and the Quran


Qur’an and Milk

There are 4 references in the Quran, 2 directly and 2 indirectly for milk. The direct ones are:

  1. And verily in cattle (too) will ye find an instructive sign. From what is within their bodies between excretions and blood, the (drink of) milk, pure and agreeable to those who drink it.

Qur’an 16:66

The Qur’an clearly states that (‘cattle’s) milk is agreeable/good for humans to drink.

  1.  (Here is) a Parable of the Garden which the righteous are promised: in it are rivers of water incorruptible; rivers of milk of which the taste never changes; rivers of wine, a joy to those who drink; and rivers of honey pure and clear.

Qur’an 47:15

However, modern science paints a somewhat different picture, to that which is presented in the Quran so let’s try and understand why that might be.

There four key reasons why millions of people must be cautious by consuming milk and milk by-products:

1. Lactose Intolerance (or Maldigestion) . In some individuals the digestive system does not produce enough of the lactase enzyme to break down the complex lactose sugar into simpler sugars. Without this enzyme the lactose sugar ferments in the small intestine, producing gas, bloating, cramps, and diarrhea. Lactose intolerance affects a large number of people worldwide. Lactose intolerance is more frequent among certain ethnic groups.  People who are naturally lactose intolerant: 20% of Caucasians and up to 90% of people of African and Asian descent. Also, as we grow older there is a decline in the level of production of lactase, the enzyme needed to digest milk sugar.

2. Milk Allergy. Some individuals have a true allergic reaction to one or more of milk’s proteins, such as casein or lactoglobulin. The resulting symptoms typically include swelling, itching, bronchospasm, hives, hypotension or shock, abdominal cramps and diarrhea.

3. Casein Intolerance. This is when the immune system of the body produces IgA and IgG antibodies to casein, a milk protein. The groups of individuals avoiding casein are the people afflicted with autism.

4. Villous Atrophy.  For these people the casein milk protein causes the intestinal villi to flatten, much like it does when gluten is consumed by somebody that is intolerant to gluten.

So why is it that, on one hand Allah tells us He has produced cattle to give us milk that is agreeable to drink and on the other hand science is telling us 60-90% of us cannot tolerate it.

Here are some possible explanations:

  • Could it be linked to the way cattle are bred these days?  Milk cows are given growth hormones to increase their milk production and antibiotics to decrease infections. These contaminate the milk and the impact on the human body is not entirely known.  The term “organic” can be misleading. Organic milk may mean no hormones in one case and no antibiotics in another, or that the cows were fed organic grain.
  • Are the cows that produce milk for us truly grass fed like we see on the labels of our milk cartons? Farmers are known to fatten up their cows by giving them food items such as corn which make them less healthy. Cows fed exclusively grass will themselves be healthier and produce healthier milk.
  • The milk we find on our shelves has all gone through the process of pasteurisation, which is the process of heating milk at very high temperatures to destroy bacteria. Without this bacterium, the milk becomes harder to digest. A study focusing on children raised on a farm who drank fresh milk, showed decreased allergies due to exposure to high levels of bacteria

If we go back to the Quranic verse and look at the Arabic translation, it is ‘cattle’ not cow.  As in the West we are used to milk being predominately being produced by cows when we see this verse in the Quran we instinctively assume cow’s milk. However, if we look deeper into the science we can see that cow’s milk isn’t as good as we are led to believe and for some people actual causes damage.

Maybe in the Prophet’s time they bred camels and not cows.  Camel milk is easier to digest and compared to cow’s milk, camel milk has three times the vitamin C levels and ten times the iron content.  Camel milk is also a good source of proteins with potential antimicrobial and protective activities, which are not found commonly in cow milk.

Personally, I have always had a ‘sensitive’ disposition which the doctors like to call IBS and loved milk in my cereal.  I also used to get mouth ulcers on a very regular basis.  Over 2 years ago I gave up milk when I started my journey of eating clean and reducing the allergens and toxins I was putting in my body and my mouth ulcers stopped.  After a few months I lost the excess weight I wanted to lose and had regained my body and energy levels, I started re-introducing  milk as I was missing tea, and the odd cup was ok, but if I had tea with milk on a regular basis my mouth ulcers reappeared.    That’s how I discovered my mild lactose intolerance.


Soraya Janmohamed on Wheat and the Prophet’s diet

Over the last 2-3 years I have become a strong believer that wheat isn’t good for us for many reasons, which I will talk about in a bit but trying to convince others has always been a challenge. The difficulty stems from the fact that wheat has become a staple food in so many of our food items and is also used by the food industry as ‘a bulking agent’ to increase their ingredients as it is a cheap raw material. However, eating wheat especially in the form of white products such as bread or pasta is probably the worst form.

So why is this?

Wheat falls in the food group known as carbohydrates that once consumed trigger insulin, the hormone of fat storage. Some people carry fat in their buttocks or thighs, but most people store fat around their middle. This is known as visceral fat and unlike fat in other body parts it provokes inflammation, distorts insulin responses and abnormal metabolic signals to the rest of the body. The affects of wheat consumption go much deeper than that, as it effects almost every organ in your body. For many it causes Irritable Bowel Syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma and lethargic tendencies.

The trend towards reducing our fat intake has led us to increase our carbohydrate intake and as we turn to more ‘whole grain’ we have ended up having wheat in all our meals. For example we may have a wheat based cereal in the morning, followed by a sandwich at lunch, biscuits, cake or a ‘healthy chewy bar’ for snack and the pasta/bread in our evening meal. As the food industry started increasing the ‘healthy’ whole grain products they offered us at the same time our waistlines increased too!

Looking back in time 1 first explored the diets of my grandma’s generation, which was full of fresh vegetables, a selection of proteins and fats and a variety of grains including rice, besan or gram flour, barley, millet flour, and whole-wheat flour, which they used to make chapatis’, just to mention a few. However, as a generation they lived longer as wheat wasnt a staple item and they were generally healthy and not over-weight unless they had immigrated to the Western world and adopted more processed foods.

So then I decided to look further into what did the Prophet’s diet contain. The Quran is full of references of fresh fruits, vegetables, and water. But searching deeper I found 2 references that describes in great detail the Prophet’s food habits. The one I wanted to focus on was his grain intake.

It is mentioned in a reliable tradition that Imam Ja’far Sadiq (a.s.) said that he was asked by some people: “It is narrated that your great-grandfather (Prophet) never ate wheat bread to satiation?” He replied: “No, the fact is that he never ate wheat bread; he ate only barley bread and that too never to satiation.”

There is very little reference to why he ate barley bread but never ate wheat bread, which I am sure it is related to some of reasons listed above. The most important of all is the fact that wheat consumption has the ability to make you sleepy and quite lethargic which takes you away of both worshipping Allah and doing good deeds. The more I read into the habits of Prophet Muhammed I conclude that following in the sunnah (practices) has so much merit and science is only now discovering what was in the Quran and hadith’s (teachings) more than 1400 years ago. Rather than looking at today’s environment and trying to find an explaination in the Quran or the Sunnah, if we should start the other way round, and science should be able to provide us with the research behind the conduct and customs from 1400 years ago.

Soraya Janmohamed : Quran and the Body

The Quran reminds us that our bodies are an amanah, a trust from Allah, and so we have a duty to take care of our health.  Looking after our bodies will enable us to perform good deeds and also keep up with our religious obligations.  Remember the food we eat not only effects our body but also our nafs (soul), but what do we need to do to take care of ourselves?

Diet is extremely important in controlling diseases such as diabetes and coronary heart problems but actually eating well helps us lead a healthy life.  The saying, “you are what you eat”, holds very true, as our body reacts 100% to what we consume, and so if we consume unhealthy foods, your body will become unhealthy. You may not notice it initially, but the changes begin to occur inside and may surface many years later.

One of the philosophies that Islam is based upon is moderation and the Quran also encourages moderation in eating and drinking.  Allah says in Chapter 6, verse 141, “Eat and drink, but do not go to excess; He does not love people of excess”.

The Prophet himself would generally eat light and balanced meals.  The prophet taught us “a few morsels of food are enough for a person to keep his spine upright; but if you must eat more, then the most should be such that 1/3rd of his stomach is for food, 1/3rd of his stomach if for his drink and 1/3rd for air”.  When we are faced with delicious food do we using the 1/3 rd rule?

As communities when we get together there is an emphasis on eating, especially meat and fried foods.  There is hardly any fresh fruits and vegetables to complement our meals.  Every meal should be balanced from all the food groups.  Too much fatty foods can lead to cholesterol levels increasing in the blood which can lead to heart disease.  Another way we can become more healthy in by exercising.  Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) recommended swimming, archery and horse-riding as sports, but actually doing any exercise has multi-faceted benefits.  The obviously one being it helps reduce body fat, it improves your mood, it can aid stress relief and finally can boost concentration levels.  It is so important we encourage our children to be active from a young age, as habits formed early in life are more likely to stick.

Medical research has shown that people from south Asian communities have a higher risk of developing certain diseases.  Here are some statistics:

  • 6 times is the likelihood of British Asians to develop diabetes or heart disease over the general population.
  • 30% of British Muslims are considered to be in bad health, nearly double of the national average.

Previous studies on 1st generational Asians showed that the incidence of certain cancers were lower than the British White population, however, this is changing and recent statistics show that 2nd generational Asians are just as likely to develop cancer.  A large study in being carried out by Oxford University of 250,000 British Asians from ages 18-80 to understand the causes in the changes in the disease occurrence. One theory is that we have started adopting western lifestyle habits.

Think about your lifestyle, are you living a balanced life?  Do you live in moderation and follow the teachings of Islam?

Soraya Janmohamed reveals: Are food choices made based on education or available money?

“Poor people are easy to identify because so many are obese.” So says Anna Soubry, the Tory public health minister.

Is it really poverty that makes us over-weight or is it due to the lack of proper education on good eating. Thinking back to my childhood, I don’t remember learning formally at a young age what foods were ‘good’ and which ones were ‘bad’. My knowledge came from my mum. Our relationship with food starts at home. Once we begin to be weaned we experience so many different tastes; sweet, sour, bitter, spicy and hopefully across the whole range. I was very fortunate that my mum didn’t work and, also due to the limited availability of ‘baby’ food, I was exposed to freshly cooked home foods. I became a good eater. As a grew up and I was exposed to friends, media and trips to the supermarket and my eating habits changed. But , now as an adult I am really conscious of eating well and even with my children there is a balanced approach between home cooked and packaged foods; actually more than balanced as we rarely have take-aways or ready prepared meals, so my scales must be faulty!!!

Bad eating habits are not a result of poverty but due to either ignorance or lack of education from a young age, so bad habits become ingrained and passed down from generation to generation

I was looking through the Quran as I wanted to see what can I learn from the teachings of Allah, and I came across some verses in Chapter 5 (verse 87-88) Allah says;

87: O you who believe! do not forbid (yourselves) the good things which Allah has made lawful for you and do not exceed the limits; surely Allah does not love those who exceed the limits

88: And eat of the lawful and good (things) that Allah has given you, and be careful of (your duty to) Allah, in whom you believe

So Allah wants us to eat the good things he has made lawful and told us not to exceed our limits and it clearly says Allah does not like those you exceed their limits. Over-indulgence is clearly not supported here!

Referring back to the Quran I started tracking down which foods are mentioned as good for us and list is probably not so surprising as it contains so many fresh items like Halal meat, water, fruits and vegetables, such as apples, figs, olives, melons. All the foods are fresh and unprocessed and can be eaten usually directly from the ground. The Quran clearly mentions that these foods have healing properties too. With so much emphasis on fresh food why are we so ‘hooked’ on the package processed goods. Is it because its cheaper sometimes? Is it due to the convenience of it – ‘buy’, ‘rip open’ and ‘eat’? Or are we seduced by the buy one , get one free offers which we normally find on the convenience foods more than the fresh ones

If we want our children to be healthy we need to teach them from a young age and follow the teachings of the Quran as there is so much merit it that.

Over the next few weeks I will be picking 1-2 food items mentioned in the Quran and looking at both what the Quran says and what modern scientific research says too.

If you like this blog and want to see more like this please leave me a comment below.

Soraya Janmohamed on Being Healthy – whether you are 18 or 80

A few weeks ago I was asked by my local community’s Ladies Senior citizens group to come and give a short talk on being healthy.  So I arranged the date – 16th Jan, and put it at the back of mind.  Although I initially said ok – then I panicked.  What was I going to tell a group of 50 women whose mean age is about 75? Definitely not joining a gym or doing own body weight exercises, unsupervised.  I didn’t want to give them a long lists of foods to give up as that would put them off listening to me.  So I thought harder, there must be something relevant to them that I could help them with .  They want to be healthy.  Isn’t healthy a universal word regardless of age.  Doesn’t it refer to feeling great both inside and outside.  So I created a list of ‘healthy’ points which were applicable to all , whether you are 18 or 80.  The final challenge was that they didn’t want the lecture in English but in Gujarati, my mother tongue, which was a challenge in itself.

So here is a summary of what I told the grandmothers of my community

1.  Water -70% of our body is made up of water and that every part of their body requires water to function optimally.  I explained that without water there are many side effects such as ;  headaches, general aches and pains, dry skin, but more seriously dehydration.  I asked them whether they were good water drinkers and surprisingly the average grandmother in the audience has about 5-6 glasses per day.  I address their concern of frequent toilet visits by reassuring them the need to visit the toilet frequently will subside once their body gets used to drinking more water than they having been doing so

2. Exercise – Not about joining a gym, but about being mobile and getting out everyday just for a walk round their block for 15-20mins.  The benefits are many-fold : a) fresh air, b) general mood upliftment, and c) bring some additional mobility to them.  I reminded them to not to leave the house without their walking sticks, keys and mobile phone….the last thing I wanted was for them to be locked out.

3. Diet – Reduce Sugar and Wheat.  Wheat comes in many forms so I explained the most common wheat products that they would have in their average day and how we could improve on that.  Gujarati failed me in trying to explain the word bloated so had to revert to English!  They all enjoy a cuppa tea or 2 throughout the day with some biscuits.  If they didn’t have the ability to burn this extra ‘energy’, then the sugar is converted and stored as fat in the middle.  I didn’t feel right giving them many dietary changes at this stage of their life , but next time ( if they call me back) I will do a specific session on healthy eating

4. Mental health – Keeping your body active and healthy is not enough, keeping the mind active as well.  Many do read, many watch TV, but not much was shared on how they keep their minds active.  I suggested reading more widely ie Gujarati story books from the library, the translation of the Quran, simple crosswords, knitting and other hobbies that involved using their hands.  Those people who stop pursuing hobbies are the ones who lose their confidence first.  From then on the slope is slippery

5. Adherence to Meds – When asked the question who takes prescribed medicine they all put their hands up.  I asked them not to mess around with their prescriptions without their doctors consent and definitely not to compare medicines with each other, as it would only make them more worried.  Also, not to experiment with herbal medicines as they can conflict with prescription medicines.  Finally, there are many benefits of non conventinal medicine such Tumeric, ginger and black onion seeds, which may be good for minor ailments, but they should not just swap their prescriptions for their home-made potions.

6. Communication – being old can be a lonely time and so it is very important that they keep in touch with friends and family on a daily basis and find opportunities to laugh more and cry less.  Talking ( I didn’t encourage gossiping) and laughing can increase your feeling of self-being and make you feel wanted.  All helping to reduce the loneliness and increase the feeling of still feeling needed, in your later years

7. Making an effort – Many new mums find it an effort to make themselves presentable to the world, when they have sleepless nights, endless feeding and nappy changes and end up spending the early days in PJ’s.  However, when they do make the effort to shower, change and put some lipstick on and look in the mirror they see a woman who can conquer anything.  Many older people don’t see the need to make the effort as they have the feeling of ‘who is going to see me, i can wear what I like and even hide it under my black cloak’.  Make the effort. Do it for your self not for others.  Take pride in what you wear and how you look.  God likes well presented people.

That’s it!  So whether you are 18 or 80, getting the basics correct will start to feel more energetic and Healthy very quickly. My audience seemed to enjoy my talk and my Gujarati didn’t let me down too badly, so lets now to see if they invite me back!

Soraya Janmohamed – your own muslim personal trainer


Hello, Salaam Alaykum and welcome to my new blog.

I would like to start by sharing with you who I am and my story.  I want you to come along with me on my journey on how I improved my health, which led me to pursue my passion of helping others fulfil their dreams.

My name is Soraya Janmohamed and I qualified as a management accountant in 2002.  However, all my life I have had to look after my weight and have been in pursuit of the ideal ‘ diet’ plan to help me lose weight and keep it off.  I have tried them all, cabbage soup diet, Slimmer’s World, Weight Watchers you name them I have done them.  To be truthful, they all worked.  I lost weight every time I was on them. However, the problem always began when I stopped them.  Without fail, my weight went back up again.  So I would shelve that plan and go on to find the next.  That probably describes about 25 years of my life.

Fast forward to 2010, when I was balancing a very stressful job, 2 children and a home, my weight just kept going up and up.  The stress of all the juggling meant I had no time to exercise and ate lots of food which wasn’t good for me.  I made lots of excuses on why I deserved one sweet treat after another and my hips and my stomach were not so forgiving.

Fortunately during the summer of 2010, I was able to have about 10 months off work, which meant now I had no excuse for not making myself top priority.  The children were in full-time education by then so from 9-3pm, it was just me, me, me

So I hit the gym and along the way I discovered a new way of eating.  It involved eating real food, with no measuring or calorie counting.  I liked this plan.  So with exercising 4 times per week and eating real food, my weight dropped off, my shape changed but most important of all my confidence grew.  I started believing in myself. I realised I too could help other women who, like me had tried everything to start believing in themselves to.  I decided that until I had to return to work, I was going to re-train and become a personal trainer.  This took me about 6 months of studying and endless coursework and exams, but I finally in spring of 2011, I qualified.

I set up my company – Lets Get Healthy Now  and I have been running small weight loss classes, 3 week on line plans, on-line challenges, 7 day detox plans and 1-2-1 training, each one seeing women (and occasionally men) improve their health and start living their life again. One of the reasons the ladies have enjoyed coming to me is that my plans are all customised for the Asian markets, which makes it so much easier to follow for the whole family.

Finally, I am leaving my dream  of being able to control my weight without any trouble and helping others do the same.

Soraya Janmohamed