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What is a Sugar Detox?

A sugar detox is when you cut out all sugar from your diet for a set period of time. This sugar includes both sweeteners (natural and artificial), as well as all foods that contain sugar. The more sugar you eat, the more your body craves. A sugar detox is designed to break this cycle, reset your body's tolerance, reset your palate, and provide your body with health benefits.

Why We Would All Benefit

"Reducing sugar in your diet can help you drop pounds, improve your health and even give you more radiant skin." - Lisa Drayer, CNN

"There is not one person who wouldn't benefit by eliminating added sugars from their diets," says Robert Lustig, professor of paediatrics and member of the Institute for Health Policy Studies at the University of California, San Francisco. Lustig recognizes the dangers of overconsumption when it comes to our sugary diets.

"People don't realize that seemingly healthy foods are loaded with sugar -- and so we're basically eating sugar all day long, from morning till night" said Brooke Alpert, a registered dietitian and co-author of The Sugar Detox: Lose the Sugar, Lose the Weight -- Look and Feel Great.

Sugar is killing us slowly, and this is how we intervene.

Are You Addicted to Sugar?

Why do we crave sugar so intensely? Sometimes the urge for that second cookie, piece of cake, or bubbling beverage feels as real as an addiction. Turns out sugar addicts are no joke. Clinical studies have shown that refined sugar produce addictive patterns in the brain and in the body.

When you eat sugar your body releases opioids and dopamine, which stimulate the brain's pleasure centers just like addictive drugs. Participating in a sugar detox can actually produce withdrawal symptoms for many individuals. Although withdrawals don't sound pleasant, if you're having them, the detox may prove to be even more necessary.

Why Should You Try a Sugar Detox?

Refined sugars lead to weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, and increased oxidative stress in the body. Sugar causes our cells to degrade faster, leading to faster aging, memory loss, and other cognitive effects. Sugar can even increase your risk for certain types of cancer.

Trying a sugar detox can reset your body. Our palates are accustomed to extremely sugary foods. After participating in a sugar detox, fruits and vegetables start to taste more vibrant and delicious on their own. It becomes easier to replace sugar with healthier foods. We crave less sugary condiments and even find our old cravings like donuts and soda, to be less appealing.

The Benefits of a Sugar Detox

  • Weight loss
  • Less headaches
  • More energy
  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Reduced triglyceride levels
  • Reduced blood glucose
  • Reduced LDL cholesterol
  • More attuned palate
  • Break sugar dependency/ cravings

How to Get Started

Meal Preparation

The first step to your sugar detox is to prepare meals ahead of time. Prepping meals can prevent spur of the moment binge eating. When you prep meals ahead of time you can be aware of the ingredients in each meal and ensure there are no hidden sugars.

Drink Lots of Water

No more soda pop or juice means alternatives. After cutting out sugar you may realize how much sugar you're actually drinking daily. Even those healthy morning smoothies are loaded with fruits and added sweets. Keep a water bottle handy at all times.

Read Ingredients to Avoid Hidden Sugar

Before you add that dollop of salad dressing to your otherwise sugarless dinner, double check the label. We are so used to consuming sugar on the daily, we forget that condiments, breads, cereals, crackers, 'healthy' granola bars, all contain lots of added sugars.

why you should try a sugar detox

What Can I Eat?

Vegetables

  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Chard
  • Mustard greens
  • Dandelion greens
  • Arugula
  • Bok choy
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower

Protein

  • Legumes
  • Black beans
  • Walnuts
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Flax seeds
  • Chia seeds

Healthy Fats

  • Olives
  • Avocados
  • Coconut oil
  • Seeds
  • Unsweetened nuts

Healthy Grains

  • Quinoa
  • Millet
  • Amaranth
  • Kamut
  • Buckwheat

Day 1-3: Go Cold Turkey

For the first three days of your detox, you have to cut out all forms of sugar including all fruits. Basically all you should be eating is lean protein, dark green vegetables, and healthy fats. No starchy vegetables, no fruits, no condiments, no sugary drinks, etc.

Week 1 (day 4 onward): An Apple a Day.

You can add one apple and one dairy item each day. You can add higher-sugar veggies like carrots or peas.

Week 2: Berry Exciting Stuff.

Begin adding in berries and an extra serving of dairy. You can also add starchy veggies like yams.

Week 3: Grainy Days.

Now is the week for more grains such as barley, quinoa, and oatmeal. You're now granted an additional treat of one ounce of dark chocolate per day.

Week 4: Maintenance Week.

This is your wiggle room week. You can allow yourself intentional indulgences such as a scoop of ice cream or piece of cake. All fruit is allowed! You can even enjoy sandwiches again. This week prepares you for the real world and manageable eating.

How Do You Feel Now?

The sugar detox is meant to grant people a newfound sense of control and ownership of the food they are consuming. Once you're no longer chained to your sugar consumption, you can choose when and what to eat on your own terms. Freedom from sugar addiction is liberating for your wallet, your taste buds, and your long-term health. Try the sugar detox and let us know how you feel.

Sources:

  1. CNN. Drayer, Lisa. One-month sugar detox: A nutritionist explains how and why. June 9, 2017.
  2. Dr. Edward Group. How and why you should try a sugar detox. September 28, 2017.
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