Written by: Haneen
In 2015, Shaykh Omar Suleiman posted a status on Facebook encouraging people to join a Ramadan challenge. The challenge entailed a Ramadan with no processed sugar or high fructose corn syrup. Natural sugars such as those found in dates, honey, and fruits were permissible. As a healthy food enthusiast, I thought this sounded pretty reasonable until I realized that also meant saying no to that heavenly piece of Palestinian yumminess known as knafah. I did, however, realize Ramadan was just the perfect timing for this challenge, given that I would be fasting 17 out of 24 hours a day.
The first week was the real part of the challenge. I found myself constantly craving desserts I don’t typically eat, as though my body was rejecting every thought of eliminating processed sugar. The cravings toned down as the end of the second week rolled over. I also started noticing a significant increase in my energy levels, especially after being lethargic for the first week and a half of the challenge. By the end of Ramadan, I felt great! I was healthy, energized, and by then, rejecting that dessert at the mosque became a piece of cake! I no longer craved sugar!
Ever since then, I have been committed to a mostly follow a sugar-free diet. However, I am a believer in sustainable lifestyle changes. Therefore, I acknowledge that a dessert every now and then never hurt anyone!
Here are a few tips I learned along the way:
- Read and understand food labels. Nowadays, sugar is added to just about everything. Foods you don’t necessarily consider sweet-tasting are often loaded with sugar. Examples include salad dressings, sauces, and crackers.
- Learn the concealed names of sugars. The food industry has become quite smart about hoe they list sugar in the ingredients due to the increased awareness of the side effects of high sugar diets. They often list sugar names less commonly known to the general public, such as evaporated cane syrup, agave nectar, molasses, and corn sweetener.
- Start in the right setting. It is very important to choose the time and place that you start cutting sugar from your diet. You want to start when and where you can accommodate the transition. Starting while on a vacation in a foreign country where you cannot understand food labels is probably not feasible.
- Be realistic. Transition slowly. It is important to remain realistic in order to maintain the change. We often don’t realize how much sugar we consume until we begin limiting its intake and become more aware of its presence in the least expected of foods. Do not attempt to completely swear off sugar for the rest of your life. Cheat days are okay every now and then, given that you maintain a balanced diet to the best of your abilities. They will actually help you commit to a lifestyle of low sugar intake rather than a temporary period of complete deprivation.
- Focus on consuming a balanced diet. Integrating diverse and healthy foods into your daily life is always important, but is even more so when trying to limit sugar intake. By providing your body with the essential minerals and vitamins it needs, it will be fueled without the need for sugar. Therefore, a balanced diet is essential to limiting sugar cravings.
I hope these tips help you limit your sugar intake and live healthier! As always, I look forward to hearing your feedback and experiences.
Finally, always remember that healthy is beautiful!
Stay healthy, stay beautiful.