During the holy month, our bodies go through a series of changes as we slowly adapt to the fasting process and our system normalizing to the new eating window. One of the main feelings we experience is fatigue while fasting. Blood sugar levels and blood pressure drops, and this is commonly accompanied with headaches, dizziness, and intense hunger. Once we break our fast, many of us tend to gravitate towards sugary foods to compensate for our low blood sugar to bring some of our energy back. However, we need to be mindful during this time and reach for natural sugars to nourish our bodies! While this is a holy and celebratory month; one that most of us use as a time to indulge and spend time with family, it is important not to go overboard.
What happens to our body when we eat sugar?
When we eat sugar, our brain responds by sending out ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters called Dopamine which interacts with the pleasure and reward center of our brain, giving you feelings of happiness. However, when we continuously eat processed and refined sugars, we are training our blood sugar levels to require a certain amount per day. Naturally, our threshold for sugar rises as we continuously feed the body comfort foods. By doing so, tolerance levels go up and our quantities rise to meet the demands that the body needs to keep going, without feeling lethargic or hungry and the cycle continues.
Tips on how to control your sugar intake during iftar:
1. Dried fruits, especially dates are a good option to eat immediately after breaking your fast with water. Dates and dried fruits provide the body with immediate energy. 1-2 dates or pieces of dried food are optimal and should provide the body with enough energy and vitamins before sitting down to eat. Be sure to limit your intake as they carry a lot of concentrated sugar.
2. Increase your fiber intake during your first meal. Eat brown rice and green leafy vegetables to keep you satiated. This will curb your sugar cravings when its dessert time.
3. Reach for whole fruits as they are a great source of natural sugars which have both fructose and fiber. The body takes time to digest these fruits because of the added fiber from the skin which keeps you fuller for longer periods of time.
4. Limit pure fructose intake such as fruit juices, carbonated beverages, and other boxed beverages as the sugars from these drinks go straight to the blood stream without the added fiber benefit. You’ll find yourself craving something sweet shortly after.
5. Increase your healthy fat intake by adding olive oil, nut butters and natural nuts to your desserts. Good fats are dense and coats the stomach, keeping you full. A little bit of fat goes a long way!
6. It is a time to celebrate! If you want to indulge on knafe, atayef or one of your favorite cakes, eat a piece and pair it with something healthy (for example: mixed berries) for balance.
7. Lastly, before you sit down to eat, familiarize yourself with labels. Make a list of different sugars and sugar substitutes and choose items to bake with that have 5g of sugar or less per serving.
Limiting the amount of processed and refined sugars can massively help the body repair itself by reducing inflammation, keep blood sugars in control, boost brain function and promote weight loss.
This is a simple recipe I like to make regularly as a dessert alternative. It’s packed with good fats, sugars and keeps you full! You can pair this with a piece of toast or use it to top desserts as an alternative to syrup. This can cut calories and satisfy your sweet tooth!
Chia Seed Berry Compote
½ pack frozen berries of your choice
1tbsp chia seeds
1. Let the berries thaw with the chia seed mixture (should take 5-10 mins)
2. Once the chia seeds bloom, mix the together to create a compote/paste!
3. Place mixture in a jar and keep in the fridge
4. Use the jam within 3-4 days
5. Top off with a piece of bread and/or any dessert!