The Sugar Free Ramadan Challenge
This is my second year celebrating Ramadan in London, where the sun can shine for around 19 hours each day; this means no eating and drinking for that long as well! I was very nervous about it last year, so an older and religiously well-read relative gave me advice. He said, “It’s all about your mindset. If you believe that you can do it, then you will be able to do it”. I smiled and thought, “If a seventy year-old man can fast 19 hours, while gardening, cooking, and exercising, then I have no excuse to not try”. I also remembered an article I read about marathon runners who encourage themselves with pep talks, which helps them enforce the strength their mind has over their body. This pushed me to try it, since it must be easier to fast for 19 hours than to run a 42 km marathon!
So here it goes: another year of fasting. I’ve also decided to push myself even further, by making it a Sugar Free Ramadan Challenge.
Last Ramadan, I fasted the entire time and, surprisingly, I felt better than ever afterwards. I was going to work, walking, doing yoga, barre and pilates. The best part of doing it alone, in a foreign city, is that I had full control over what was being served at Iftar. In other words, I did things my way. As a result, I learned a lot about my eating habits and the culture within the month of Ramadan. I also lost the weight I wanted to lose!
This year, I’ve been looking forward to that experience again. With a new business starting, family visiting, traveling, and working on recipes for our Suhour event, I’ve barely had time to think about myself these past few months. So, a lot of my healthy eating habits started to disappear. I saw this as a chance to reset my lifestyle and get back on track. Who’s with me?
They say Ramadan is the time to make or break a habit. I’ve decided it’s time to deal with the sweet tooth that I developed over the last couple of months, and I invite you to join our Sugar Free Ramadan Challenge! This means no refined sugar, natural sweeteners, or artificial sweeteners. Naturally occurring sugars that are in fruits, vegetables, and other whole foods are acceptable and recommended.
White and brown sugar have one thing main in common: NO nutritional benefits. They are directly released into the blood and elevate blood sugar levels rapidly. This increase is followed by a spike in insulin, which contributes to fat storage and to feeling full – but not for long! After all, what goes up must always come back down. Quickly after eating the sugary foods, our blood sugar decreases dramatically and causes an intense feeling of hunger. So, a sugar free Ramadan allows us to avoid this while fasting.
Research suggests that Sugars and other sweeteners can induce the rewards and cravings that are comparable in magnitude to those induced by addictive drugs, such as Cocaine. Experiments revealed that the sweetness reward can become even more satisfying and appealing than that of the addictive drugs! Therefore, cleansing our systems from sugar can help control the sugar cravings we often feel there is no control over.
The Sugar Free Ramadan Challenge:
Foods that have added sugar are to be replaced with naturally occurring sugars from fruits and vegetables. Reading the labels on purchased foods is very important, as there are many hidden sources that contain sugar! Here is a list of 56 different names used for sugar:
The idea is to omit any added refined sugars and artificial sweeteners (Truvia, Splenda, Nutrasweet, etc.) while limiting natural sweeteners, smoothies and cold pressed juices. Natural sweeteners are higher in nutrients, and most of them have less impact on blood sugar than white sugar. As for smoothies and cold pressed juices, depending on their ingredients, they can be quite beneficial. However, it’s important to go for ones that are high in vegetables and proteins and to enjoy them in moderation.
Here’s more about coconut sugar (for example):
I can’t stress enough that when we say no sugar, we mean no added sugar. There are naturally occurring sugars in milk, plain yogurt, fresh vegetables and fruit, and we encourage you to enjoy them! The idea is to give up added sugars that are in most processed foods, because they cause the most harm to our body.
Will you be joining? Post the above picture on your social media and tag us we can keep in touch! #hhuramadanchallenge
In case you were wondering…
Q: The label on this food product says that it has 8 grams of sugar but the ingredients don’t mention any kind of sugar. Which do I follow for the Sugar Free Ramadan Challenge?
A: Look at the ingredients for added sugars. Most foods have naturally occurring sugars, even vegetables and dairy.
Q: What if I slip and eat something that has sugar?
A: Just reflect on why it happened and move forward. No guilt allowed! Don’t look back, the past can’t be undone. Continue on with the Sugar Free Ramadan Challenge, with a better understanding of your eating habits.
Q: Will I go through withdrawals?
A: You may experience some withdrawals, but the symptoms will be similar to the way many feel when fasting for the first few days. It is possible to experience headaches, weakness, and irritability. What makes Ramadan a great time do this this challenge is that these symptoms usually go away 2-4 days later and you will be left with an easier fasting experience.
Q: Do you have any dessert recipes without added sugar?
A: Yes of course! We will be sharing them throughout the month on our social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Youtube and Snapchat) as well as during the fundraising suhour we are planning, so make sure to join us and to turn on your notifications to be the first to receive them! We also regularly run a healthy desserts workshop, subscribe to our events on facebook to find out when the next on is!
To make the challenge easier, we encourage you to follow these 6 steps to a healthier Ramadan.
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