If you’re an adult, you’ve likely considered or simply wondered about dieting. Even if you take healthy eating seriously and aren’t trying to take off weight, everyone has guilty eating pleasures.
For many people, this guilty pleasure comes in the form of a sweet tooth. Who doesn’t like a bit of dark chocolate after a meal?
If you’ve ever considered a diet detox, whether it’s juicing or fasting in an effort to lose weight or improve your quality of life, you’re probably aware that drastically cutting out foods is not an effective approach. In fact, strict detoxing can lead to issues such as fatigue, low blood sugar, and dizziness. This begs the question: Are there any worthwhile, sustainable detoxes you should know about?
Scientists have discovered in the past few years that sugar-heavy diets are what’s keeping us overweight and unhealthy. It has also been found to be a leading cause of heart disease as well as a contributing factor to premature aging. Do you really want to keep eating sweets if it means you’re going to age faster? Luckily, we’ve put together this article to help you detox from sugar and manage those cravings so that you can be healthier, happier, and look younger!
Before we get into the good news and how to reduce sugar from your diet, there is some bad news to remain aware of. You can’t really avoid sugar altogether unless you’re paying attention to the ingredients of all the foods you consume. Many people have a real dependency — a real addiction — to sugar. Sugar makes you feel good and energized, and when the inevitable sugar crash comes, you’re left wanting more. Research actually suggests that sugar gives us rewards and cravings similar to those of addictive drugs. That puts many people’s very real struggle with sugar addiction into perspective as more of a problem than just having a “sweet tooth.”
A logical assumption is that all you need to do is cut out sweets. Even though it’s your guilty pleasure, you cut out heavy sweets because it’s fairly obvious that cake and ice cream both have high sugar content. However, what many people don’t realize is the number of hidden sugars in foods we would assume is far more healthy than sweets like ice cream. Opting for a salad instead of dessert? Salad dressing is often loaded with added sugars that negate any healthy aspects of that salad, as well as bread and tomato sauces.
Did you know that Americans consume 22 teaspoons of sugar every day? That’s more than three times the amount recommended by the American Heart Association. It’s important to understand this because many people do not realize just how ingrained sugar is into their diets — even if they don’t eat sweets. When you don’t pay attention to the sugar content of your food, you can essentially end up eating sugar all day, every day.
Now for the good news: If you are truly addicted to sugar like many Americans are, you can successfully eliminate it from your diet and lead a healthier lifestyle. Even if you aren’t a true sugar “addict,” you can still reap the benefits of reducing your sugar intake by detoxing. Many experts believe cutting out all sugar cold turkey for three days is the best way to start.
The First 3 Days
Think about it — you wouldn’t begin an alcoholic’s recovery by simply asking them to only drink two beers. That isn’t an effective method to stop drinking, and it is not an effective method to detox from sugar. Don’t get it wrong though, the first three days of sugar detox will not be easy. Like any addiction, you’re going to feel like you need sugar to feel happy or fulfilled. Experts recommend that in addition to added sugars, during the first three days you abstain from fruits, starchy vegetables, dairy, grains, and alcohol. Your diet should basically consist of protein, vegetables, and healthy fats.
The number one positive effect of the three-day cold turkey approach is that it recalibrates your palate. You gain back the ability to taste natural sugars in fruits, vegetables, and dairy that used to be so dull.
What Should a Detox Meal Look Like?
Breakfast could consist of three eggs cooked to any style and can be accompanied by black coffee with no added sugar or cream. Lunch can include up to 6 ounces of poultry, fish, or tofu, in addition to a green salad (hold the dressing!). Dinner should basically be a larger portion of lunch, but instead of a salad, you can opt for steamed veggies like kale or broccoli. Besides black coffee, water and unsweetened tea should be the only beverages you consume during the detox.
After the first three days of a sugar detox have been completed successfully, you can add an apple to your diet. The amazing thing about this is that by day four of no sugar, an apple tastes like candy. Not only this, but almonds begin to taste sweet — and onions! When you remove all sugar from your diet, your palate recalibrates, and you begin to taste natural sugars that had been dulled for so long.
In addition to one apple per day, after day four of the detox, you can also add one dairy food to your diet. This dairy product, such as yogurt or cheese, should be unsweetened and full-fat. Fat, protein, and fiber slow the absorption of sugar into your body, so removing fat from dairy will make you absorb sugar faster.
If you love vegetables, day four brings you a real treat as you can incorporate higher-sugar vegetables like carrots and snow peas into your diet as well as a daily serving of high-fiber crackers. As far as beverages go, you can add 3 glasses of red wine during the first week of detox.
Weeks 2 – 4
Week two of detox should remain consistent with the first week – however, you may add one serving of antioxidant-rich berries and one extra serving of dairy per day. You may also add back starchier vegetables like yams or winter squash.
Week three is where you might feel your life return to normal, as you can now incorporate grains such as barley, quinoa, and oatmeal into your diet. You can even add more fruit such as grapes and clementines. The wait is finally over as you can eat one ounce of dark chocolate each day by week three! With the addition of these tasty foods, week 3 should be quite livable and less difficult than the first two weeks.
Week four is the home stretch, but can also make or break the entire process as certain indulgences are allowed. During week four, you may enjoy two starches per day such as rice and bread, and wine consumption may increase to 5 glasses per week. Being able to eat a sandwich really makes things easier and makes you feel like you are living a “normal life” again.
Another great thing about making it all the way to the fourth week is the fact that certain indulgences will not cause you to slide back into your old habits since you’ve broken the cycle. If you have a slice of cake at a friend’s birthday party, you’re not going to immediately become addicted to sugar again because you’ve put in the hard work to break the addiction. By completing the process, you have given yourself control over your diet and ownership over your health.
Cautions of Cutting Out Sugar
While there are immense health benefits to detoxing from sugar and controlling what you put into your body, there are certain cautions to be aware of as well. Before you begin a sugar detox, keep in mind that the first three days may be quite challenging, so it’s vital to begin when your schedule will be supportive to do so.
It’s also important to note that a sugar detox may not be appropriate for everyone, particularly diabetics, athletes, people taking medication to control their blood sugar, and pregnant women.
Cravings Will Come: Have a Plan
Depending on how severe the sugar addiction is, it’s possible that some people may experience symptoms of withdrawal such as brain fog, irritability, and fatigue. If at any point you’re feeling particularly bad, stop and eat some fruit. However, if you can push through and remain sufficiently hydrated, you do have the power to break the addiction.
Those cravings are going to hit sooner or later, so have a plan in place to keep you on track. Nuts and a few slices of red pepper with hummus are great, healthy snacks that will keep you on track while feeling full and energized. You can expect to struggle the most during the evenings while you’re relaxing or watching television. If you ever feel like your cravings are winning, don’t be afraid to indulge in some fruit to get a bit of natural sugar.
Detoxing from sugar is hard enough as it is, but it will be even harder if you live with a person or a family who is continuing to eat all kinds of added sugars and unhealthy foods. Encourage your family or partner to go on this journey with you to help keep you focused. They may even find their lives have improved substantially after cutting out sugar as well!
Join In 200 Million+ On The Journey to Greatness
When you hear the term ‘superfood,’ what comes to mind? Do you think of broccoli with super strength or a banana with x-ray vision? Probably not, but did you know that ‘superfood’ is actually just a marketing term? That’s right, superfoods may sound like they possess superpowers, but there is actually no such thing as a superfood according to science. In fact, the European Union banned using the term ‘superfood’ on labels that didn’t have a health claim in 2007. However, this has not stopped the increased sales of so-called superfoods.
Bananas, açai berries, and avocados are among some of the foods that have risen to superfood status over the past few years, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing since they have healthy attributes like reducing the risk of cancer and heart disease. While ‘superfoods’ are generally more healthy and have nutrients that other foods don’t, it’s important to remember that the healthiest diet is a balanced one and not one that consists of only superfoods. That being said, if you are looking to add more of these ‘superfoods’ into a balanced diet, the following are at the top of the list.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), ½ an avocado provides 29 milligrams (mg) of magnesium or about 7 percent of the daily value. Magnesium plays a role in regulating blood pressure and blood sugar, and magnesium deficiency is associated with a higher risk for type 2 diabetes, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Research shows that pomegranates may bolster heart health and that they make a good candidate for dietary supplements that could prevent cardiovascular disease, according to a May 2018 article published in Frontiers in Pharmacology.
Blueberries in particular have a high number of anthocyanin pigments, which not only give them their rich color, but also act as powerful antioxidants that may lower the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, according to a review published in July 2019 in Advances in Nutrition.
Cruciferous vegetables are known for health benefits such as lowering the risk of cancer and preventing heart attacks and stroke. Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, cauliflower, cabbage, and maca (a Peruvian plant popular in North America as an energy booster, per research) are all types of cruciferous veggies that are full of fiber.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Fish is full of protein and rich in healthy fats. Omega-3 fatty acids are particularly beneficial to our bodies, notes the NIH. Overall, omega-3s can help play a role in reducing your risk of heart attack and stroke, alleviating depression, and aiding infant development, according to the NIH.
A Healthier Life
Detoxing from sugar is no easy task by any metric. It is challenging and can even cause withdrawal symptoms, so be kind to yourself, and be patient. If you fail and succumb to your sugar temptations, it’s not the end of the world! Get back on that horse and try again. You are your only limitation, and only you have the power to give yourself a healthy life and a healthier body!