For many people, sugar is a need in their everyday diet. The thought of cutting it out is almost unimaginable. We’ve even heard some people say that they need to eat something sweet after every meal for them to feel satisfied. While they say to eat “everything in moderation,” the fact is, it’s not healthy to consume processed sugar and artificial sweeteners every day. It has harmful effects on your metabolism, and it can contribute to all kinds of diseases. So, as a way to recalibrate your metabolism, especially if you have a real addiction to sugar, you need to look into a sugar detox and here’s why.
Why Sugar Is Bad for Your Health
It’s not new information that too much sugar can cause some damage to your health, especially when we’re talking about added sugar. You could even say that it is the worst ingredient in the modern diet. It is found in foods like soft drinks, candy, cakes, cookies, pies, fast food, and many more food items. But do you know why it’s bad for your health?
- Well for one, sugar is the main culprit for heart disease. Excessive amounts of it can raise blood pressure and increase chronic inflammation, both of which are leading causes of heart disease. (1)
- Secondly, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) has been rising in America, and the leading cause is sugar. NAFLD is a complex liver disease, which starts with fat accumulation in the liver without excessive alcohol consumption. It is linked to obesity, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes, which are all caused by excess consumption of sugar.
- Having a leaky gut could also be a result of high sugar intake. Researchers believe that sugar changes the gut microbiota in a way that increases leaky gut symptoms. Thus, sugar can trigger low-grade inflammation, which can then lead to the transfer of substances from the gut into the bloodstream.
- Excess sugar can also affect brain health. The brain is dependent on sugar as its main fuel but too much of it can be a thing. A 2012 study in animals shows a positive relationship between the consumption of fructose (a form of sugar) and the aging of cells. Furthermore, a 2009 study found that excess glucose consumption is linked to memory and cognitive deficiencies.
- The last reason that we’ll mention is that excess sugar leads to weight gain. What happens in this process is that when your liver’s sugar storage reaches its maximum capacity, the excess sugar gets converted into fatty acids, and then returned to the bloodstream, where it’s taken throughout your body to be stored as fat. (2)
These are just a few of many reasons as to why regulating your sugar intake is extremely important. Currently, the average American adult consumes about 22 teaspoons of added sugar per day, which is way more than what the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends. AHA says no more than 6 teaspoons or 100 calories a day of sugar for women and no more than 9 teaspoons or 150 calories a day for men.
The current average consumption is one of the reasons why it’s never been a more pressing time to take corrective action to decrease this number.
Sugar Comes in Many Different Forms
Now, don’t assume that all your sugar intake comes from eating cookies, cupcakes, and chocolates. This ingredient is ubiquitous, and it’s present in both whole foods and processed foods. Not that there’s anything wrong with fruits (in fact, it’s good for your health to eat them) and if you’re going to consume sugar, fruits are the way to go.
As for added sugar, it disguises itself under many different names outside of the names table sugar and high fructose corn syrup. To prove it, here are 56 common names for sugar.
Recalibrate Your Sugar Craving by Doing a 1-Month Sugar Detox
If you consider yourself part of the 10% of Americans that are true sugar addicts or you have a bad relationship with sugar that you need to break up with, then consider doing a sugar detox.
Disclaimer: Do note that a sugar detox may not be appropriate for people with diabetes, extreme athletes or anyone taking medication to control blood sugar. It’s also not recommended for pregnant women. Talk to your doctor or medical provider about how to safely find a healthy sugar balance in your diet.
Now, you’re probably frantic about the thought of cutting sugar out for a month but Brooke Alpert, a registered dietician and co-author of The Sugar Detox: Lose the Sugar, Lose the Weight—Look and Feel Great can tell you it’s possible and it’s sustainable too.
Alpert explains that “people have a real dependency—a real addiction to sugar. We have sugar, we feel good from it, we get (the feeling of) an, and then we crash and need to reach for more.”
It’s not always obvious either that we consume more sugar than we think. Alpert said, “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.” You can find it in salad dressings, tomato sauces, and bread to name a few.
So, Alpert’s solution to a bad sugar habit is a 1-month sugar detox. Not only will it help lose unwanted weight but it will also make you feel better and look more radiant. But guess what? You have to remove sugar entirely from your diet at the start.
Limiting sugar is not enough to minimize your craving for it. Alpert explained, “It was just ineffective to ask people to eat less of something when they’re struggling with this bad habit. You wouldn’t ask an alcoholic to just drink two beers. What was so successful in getting my clients to kick their sugar habit was to go cold turkey. When they would go cold turkey, I wasn’t their favorite person — but the number one positive effect was that it recalibrated their palate.”
By the end of the sugar detox, her clients could taste the natural sugars in fruits, vegetables, and dairy that they used to be so dull to. So, without further ado, here’s how to detox from sugar.
How to Succeed in Doing A 1-Month Sugar Detox
For the first three days of a sugar detox, Alpert recommends no sugar at all, not even from fruits or starchy vegetables such as corn, peas, sweet potatoes, and butternut squash. Dairy, grains, and alcohol are also not allowed. “You’re basically eating protein, vegetables, and healthy fats,” Alpert explains.
For example, breakfast can include three eggs, any style; lunch can include up to 6 ounces of poultry, fish or tofu and a green salad, and dinner is basically a larger version of lunch, though steamed vegetables such as broccoli, kale, and spinach can be eaten in place of salad. Snacks include an ounce of nuts and seeds and sliced peppers with hummus. Beverages include water, unsweetened tea and black coffee.
Starting on the fourth day, you can add an apple, which starts to taste like candy and one dairy food each day (if dairy is already a part of your diet). Alpert said, “You can also add some higher-sugar vegetables such as carrots and snow peas, as well as a daily serving of high-fiber crackers. Three glasses of red wine in that first week can be added, too.”
You can start incorporating a serving of antioxidant-rich berries and an extra serving of dairy. You can also add back starchy vegetables such as yams and winter squash.
You can add grains such as barley, quinoa and oatmeal, and even some more fruit including grapes and clementines. You can also have another glass of red wine during the week and an ounce of dark chocolate each day. “Week three should be quite livable,” Alpert said.
Week four is the home stretch, when you can enjoy two starches per day, including bread and rice, in addition to high-fiber crackers. Wine goes up to five glasses per week. “You can have a sandwich in week four, which just makes things easier,” Alpert said. “I want people living. Week four is the way to do it.”
When you finish the sugar detox, it’s important to maintain the healthy eating habits you’ve built. The great thing is that “because the addictive behavior is gone, having ice cream once or twice will not send you back to square one,” Alpert adds. Also, no fruit is off-limits once you’ve completed the 31 days.
Alpert said, “the whole purpose is to give people control and ownership and a place for these foods in our life.” So, if you undertook the 1-month sugar detox or you’re planning to do it, let us know what kind of challenges you experience and the results you attain from it.