Every day, nutritional science is revealing something new for us. For several decades, it was thought that diets high in carbohydrates were correct and healthy, when in reality, our waistlines have ballooned since the advent of the food pyramid and beyond. While carbohydrates, which breakdown into sugars, are necessary for life, too much sugar results in health issues like obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and more. No wonder more children and adults are facing pre-diabetes and diabetes type II in their lifetime.
You’re here because you obviously are looking for ways to cut sugar out of your diet and become less dependent on it, but you also might be concerned. Can you go on a sugar detox without feeling horrible? Is it safe to cut added sugars out and go cold turkey?
The answer is yes, and I’m going to tell you how.
What is a Sugar Detox?
While you might assume that sugar detox doesn’t need explaining, it actually does. There are not only methods for going about sugar detox, there are precautions you need to take. Sugar is in anything that contains carbohydrates, so you can’t avoid sugar completely. Furthermore, when most people think of a detox, they think that cutting out junk food and replacing white sugar with artificial sweeteners is going to help. The problem with that is you will be craving sugar, and those artificial sweeteners are oftentimes a hundred to a thousand times more potent that the real thing, which means you will be hit with a surge of dopamine and those cravings will become infinitely more powerful.
Yeah, it’s not going to be easy, especially when a sugar detox also requires you to educate yourself about the ingredients of every single thing you routinely by. Cereals, pastries, breads, drinks, boxes of pasta and spaghetti, and even spice mixes can contain added, processed sugar. You might have never noticed your yogurt or coffee cream has high fructose corn syrup in it until you glance at the label.
Why is it so Hard to Quit Sugar?
Sugar addiction is something that unknowingly plagues most people, because almost everything Americans consume is rife with the white stuff. Research has proven that sugar induces a reward system similar to those created by addictive drugs, like tobacco, alcohol, and cocaine. Except it’s legal.
Once you are addicted to sugar, it’s difficult to resist the cravings, and you slip down a slope that slides you right into a plethora of health problems, like diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and more.
Benefits of Cutting Sugar
The main reason more and more people are opting to cut sugar out of their diet is for the health benefits and weight loss. When you do a sugar detox, you are focusing on nourishing your body so it can burn off energy more efficiently while keeping your metabolism running at a higher speed.
Here are some of the other benefits to going to a sugar detox:
Food comprised of simple sugars will spike your insulin levels, which encourages the body to store those calories in fat and get hungrier faster than if insulin was controlled. This is why you get those “crashes” after eating something high in simple sugars but low in protein and fat. Conversely, if you eat meals high in protein and fat but low in carbohydrates, you will feel more satiated for longer and have more clean burning energy.
Increased Brain Performance
The brain loves glucose, a kind of sugar, as fuel. But, in the event that there is too much glucose, the brain tends to get overwhelmed and will get lethargic, hence the term, “brain fog.” Your brain needs only about 30 grams of glucose to function, but most people are consuming way more than that.
Reduced Water Retention
Consuming more than 6 teaspoons of sugar a day alongside salt will cause a condition known as edema. You will notice that your midsection, fingers, legs, and arms swell up with water, especially in the evening. By reducing sugar and salt intake, you can de-bloat and loose the excess water retention.
Better Type II Diabetes Management
Less sugar in your body means less of a risk of developing type II diabetes, but if you already have diabetes, you should be even more motivated to cut back on sugar. When you stop ingesting so much sugar, the pancreas and fat-storing hormones in the body can begin to function optimally instead of overworking to process all the sugar. This helps with stabilizing cravings, increasing energy, enhancing concentration, and leads to weight loss.
Reduced Risk of Premature Aging
Researchers have found a connection between too much insulin and accelerated aging. Eating too much sugar spikes insulin, flooding the body with too much of a single hormone, and that seems to hasten the aging process through glycation. The chemical process is when free radicals attack elastin and collagen in the skin, causing wrinkles. If you want smoother skin for longer, cut back on the sugar.
One of the most common reproductive conditions throughout the world is polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and it has been linked to high sugar consumption. However, once the condition begins, it cannot be cured, only managed, much like diabetes type II. Women who are diagnosed with PCOS have a difficult time processing added sugars, which tends to lead to accelerated weight gain, even when they are active. Studies have found that by implementing low carbohydrate diets, women suffering from PCOS can start to lose weight and find more hormonal balance, even without medication.
Lose Excess Weight
Any macronutrient, be it carbs, protein, or fat, when consumed in excess with be converted to fat in adipose tissue. However only a massive consumption of simple, white carbohydrates is going to stimulate the fat-storing hormones to the point where the body not only gets inflamed, it retains water, starts to bloat, and packs on the pounds. Not a pretty picture, is it? Therefore, by cutting out the sugar, you start to remove that inflammation, extra water, and help your body find its natural equilibrium. The weight will come off naturally.
How to Sugar Detox
You probably have already realized that breaking the sugar dependency isn’t easy. Here are some tips to help you when planning your sugar detox diet:
Decide how long you want to detox.
There are 3 popular periods people detox: 3 days, 1-2 weeks, or a whole month.
The 3-day cold turkey detox can work wonders after a period of gluttony, like the holidays or a vacation, when you just need a quick reset from all the decadence.
1-2 week sugar detox diets need a lot of planning but are successful for both children and adults who have put on too much weight, are feeling sluggish, or need to curb their blood glucose levels before adverse effects set in.
A month is much more rigorous but ideal for those who are obese and are having trouble getting their cravings and weight under control. Cutting sugar out completely and relying on a ketogenic approach will do wonders for you and your body.
Do your research and read labels.
Aside from research more about the sugar in foods you like and getting more informed by reading labels, you will need to plan things out. Look up low sugar recipes online. Figure out the best time to eat, when you can prep for meals, and check the menus of restaurants if you plan on eating out. A little information will go a long way in helping you make more informed decisions later on.
Say goodbye to junk food, fast food, and processed food.
Processed foods, no matter if they are snack foods, diet foods, or delivered to your door from Grub Hub, will usually contain sugar. Even foods like sriracha and potato chips contain added sugar. If you are serious about cutting sugar, you will need to avoid snack foods and processed foods from your favorite brands and opt for more nutritional selections, like unprocessed, fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, nuts, seeds, nut and seed butters without sugar, eggs, and plant-based proteins.
Best Sugar Substitutes
Looking to cut sugar but don’t want to stop living your life either? Don’t worry. You can still enjoy sweet things. Remember, removing as much sugar as possible from your diet is going to give you the best results, but for those looking for substitutes to white processed sugar, here are some options for you:
- Stevia – is derived from a plant of the same name, contains no calories but is 200 times sweeter than real sugar, so you can use less.
- Dates – has about 20 calories per piece of fruit but is high in fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants. You can add dates to baking items, oatmeal, or other food items.
- Maple syrup – use only pure maple syrup, because it is unprocessed and naturally high in zinc and manganese, two minerals many people are deficient in. Keep in mind that even 1/3 cup maple syrup has 60 grams of sucrose, which is higher than the RDI.
- Berries – a natural way to sweeten foods without adding too much calories. ¾ cup of blueberries, for example, contains less than 50 calories.Avoid the following sugar substitutes:
- Acesulfame K – about 1000 times sweeter than sugar and will cause high insulin spikes. It is often found in protein powders and other highly processed items, acesulfame K contains the known carcinogen methylene chloride, which is known to cause cancer, confusion, nausea, anxiety, depression, and headaches.
- Aspartame (Equal) – known to cause cancer in people and animals. Will also cause insulin spikes.
- Saccharin (Sweet n’ Low) – causes inflammation, hormone imbalance, chronic illness, and spikes insulin.
Example 3-Day Sugar Detox Diet
As mentioned earlier, a 3-day sugar detox diet is the popular method for resetting your “sugar switch,” so to speak. You can opt to cut sugar cold turkey by removing anything with high amounts of sugar from your diet, including fruits, starchy vegetables, grains, and alcohol.
If that’s too much for you, you can indeed include things like sweet potatoes, apples, and whole grains, but the amount should be the bare minimum.
Considering the following when you plan your sugar detox diet:
- You want breakfast to be around 35 grams of protein to help ward off cravings and keep you fuller longer;
- Aim for around 45-75 grams of healthy fat throughout the day;
- Include high protein, high-fat options;
- Be sure to include options like lean meats, eggs, fatty fish, beans, and plant-proteins in your diet;
- Limit red meat, and avoid anything processed, like cold deli meats and bacon;
- Limit eating too much high sugar fruit during the first few days of your detox, especially if you plan to go for longer than 3 days.
- Include leafy greens, like romaine, spinach, collard greens, Brussels sprouts, and chard, into every single meal, even breakfast.
- Beverage options include water, unsweetened teas, and black coffee. Avoid any juice, soda, sports drinks, and smoothies, even meal replacement shakes since those contain sugar.
Some meal ideas include tofu scramble for breakfast, leafy green salads with tomatoes and roasted vegetables for lunch, and grilled portobello mushrooms over quinoa with roasted asparagus for dinner. If you find yourself needing a snack to get through the day, avoid caving and buying a bag of empty calories from the vending machine. Instead, you can get some hummus, pita, and carrot or celery sticks for dipping. Even a handful of roasted nuts and seeds (not pre-made trail mix) will work.
Is The Sugar Detox Right For Me?
A sugar detox will benefit anyone! Too much sugar puts you at risk of early death or chronic diseases that put a damper on your lifelong dreams. However, if you already suffer from low blood sugar, have type I diabetes, or are struggling with maintaining your blood glucose levels, you should talk with a doctor before considering a sugar detox. Never try a detox if you have low blood pressure or low blood sugar, as this can be potentially dangerous to your health.
Wrapping It Up
Now that you everything you need to know about a sugar detox, it is up to you to use the information to your advantage and regain control of your diet and your life. With all these resources, quitting sugar for good should be easy! Keep in mind that you are doing this for your own good, because no one wants to gain weight, remain bloating, or age any faster than they already are, right? Whether you opt for 3 days or a month, a sugar detox will do you a world of good!
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