Is it time for a sugar detox?
The average American consumes about 152 pounds of refined sugar every year. Think about that for a minute. That’s a lot of sugar. Just two hundred years ago we only used about 23 pounds of sugar per person per year.
To put that into perspective, the current daily average intake is 42.5 teaspoons of sugar per day!
We know all this sugar isn’t good for us. It’s rotting our teeth, giving us Type II Diabetes, and contributing to the obesity epidemic in the western world.
The bad thing is that added sugar has found its way into all sorts of foods we consume on a daily basis and it isn’t just the sugary breakfast cereal or the ice cream that is the culprit
There’s sugar in our salad dressings, our frozen dinners, and pasta sauce to give you just a few examples.
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5 Reasons To Cut Out The Sugar
Consuming Sugar Spikes Your Insulin
As soon as your body starts to digest sugar, your insulin spikes up. Insulin is the hormone that is in charge of keeping blood sugar levels from rising too high and converting extra sugar into fat for storage.
It’s a delicate process and consuming sugar in large quantities will cause your insulin to spike and deal with more than it is designed to handle. Over time it becomes less and less effective this is when things start to negatively affect your health.
Consuming Sugar Makes You Gain Weight
Because of the insulin and because sugar adds a lot of calories to food, it can make you gain weight and you don’t have to be eating a lot of candy and cakes for that to happen.
Since the late seventies, when health authorities advised consumers to watch and lower their fat intake, the food industry has provided us with all sorts of low fat and fat free food options. To make these low fat foods taste ok, they had to add a lot of sugar.
Take a look at regular and low fat or fat free salad dressing. The lower fat options have a lot more carbs and in particular, sugar. You may not taste it, but it’s there. Since sugar is much more quickly digested than fat, you’re hungry sooner after consuming a low fat meal and you eat again. The end result is weight gain.
Consuming Sugar Increases Your Risk For Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome
With all that increased sugar and weight gain comes a higher risk for diabetes and a condition called metabolic syndrome. Metabolic Syndrome is a group of symptoms and behaviors that put you at a much higher risk of developing heart disease and Type II diabetes.
Thankfully both conditions are reversible and the first step toward better health is to cut out the sugar.
Sugar Doesn’t Have A Lot of Nutritional Value And It Makes You Hungrier
Last but not least, it’s important to remember that aside from a little boost of energy, sugar doesn’t provide a lot of nutritional value to your body.
If you want something sweet, you’re much better off grabbing a piece of fruit than a cookie. At least with a piece of fruit you’re getting some vitamins and fibre with your sugar fix.
If you want or need to lose weight, the first thing you should cut out is sugar.
It causes spikes in your blood sugar, that then make your body produce a large amount of insulin to pull the sugar out of your system (and convert it to body fat). The sad little side effect of that process is that your blood sugar goes on a roller coaster ride that will leave you hungry and craving more sugary treats.
Why We Crave Sugar
When scientists took MRI images of the brains of people consuming sugar and highly addictive drugs like cocaine, the same pleasure centres in the brain started lighting up. Sounds pretty, scary, doesn’t it? But what does it actually mean to your brain and your overall health?
Sugar is truly addictive.
That means that it will alter your brain chemistry and over time you start to crave more and more sugar. The urge for your next sweet fix comes more frequently and you need to consume it in larger quantities and like any other drug, it comes with some pretty scary side effects.
Not being able to fit into your favourite pair of jeans because of your cookie addiction is going to be the least of your problems.
Yes, there will be weight gain, but with it, and particularly because this weight gain is brought on by consuming too much sugar, you’ll increase your risk of developing Type II Diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and with it, an increased risk of stroke.
Add to that the extra stress the added weight puts on your joints and tendons and how much harder it is to get enough oxygen pumping through your body, it’s no wonder you feel crappy as you put on weight.
All these various health conditions are referred to as metabolic syndrome and it’s just one of the things you can look forward to as you continue to feed your sugar addiction.
But like with a cocaine addiction, harming your body and compromising your health doesn’t really matter all that much when you’re faced with a box of donuts. That’s a serious problem. Then, as with any highly addictive drug, there will be unpleasant withdrawal symptoms as you start to wean your body off of sugar.
3 Easy Ways To Cut Back On Sugar Consumption
Cut The Soda and Other Sugary Drinks
Let’s start with something easy that will also have a huge impact. Stop drinking soda and other sugary drinks. That includes seemingly innocent things like the sweet tea you’re enjoying or the fancy coffee drink but, it could also be your favourite juice beverage.
Look at the labels and figure out how many teaspoons of sugar you’re drinking each day. Then cut them out. Stick to water, black coffee and herbal tea for a few days. It’s not an easy transition, but it will be well worth it in the end.
Stop Indulging In Sugar Laden Treats
Next it’s time to give up your favourite sugary treats. Enjoy a bowl of oatmeal or scramble up some eggs instead of pouring a bowl of sweet cereal. Skip the muffin, cake, cookies and candy. Instead reach for a piece of fruit or cut up some fresh veggies.
Find sugar free or low-sugar replacements for your favourite treats. Fix a sandwich if you’re hungry in the afternoon instead of raiding the cookie jar. Or grab some cheese and crackers. Do your best to train your brain and taste buds to not crave sweet treats all day long.
Stick To Real Food
Last but not least, work on reducing the added sugars that sneak into your diet via all sorts of convenience foods. Anything that’s labeled low fat, fat free or gluten free is worth avoiding since the fat is usually replaced by lots of sugar and salt to make it palatable.
Your best bet is to stick to real food. Stick with single ingredients and cook your meals from scratch. This allows you to control what’s going into the food you eat – including the sugar.
6 Day Plan to Cut Out Sugar
Day One – Keep Track Of Your Daily Sugar Intake
For the first day, simply keep track of how much sugar you’re consuming. Write down everything you eat and drink and start adding up how many grams of sugar you’re consuming. Add it all up at the end of the day.
Now the gram amount probably won’t mean much to you. Grab your calculator and use this formula to figure out how many teaspoons of sugar you’ve had. Each teaspoon of sugar has about 4 g of sugar in it. So take your total grams and divide them by 4. How many teaspoons of sugar have you had today? If you need a visual aide, grab the sugar jar and measure it out into a bowl. If you’re anything like the average American, it will be quite a lot of sugar. Seeing the amount in front of you will help you make it through the next five days and work hard at cutting back on the sugar you consume.
Day Two – Cut The Sugar From Your Favorite Beverages
There’s a lot of sugar hiding in your favourite drinks. Today I want you to focus on cutting it out of everything you drink. That means no more soda, no sugar or fancy creamer in your coffee, no sugar or honey in your tea and no fruit juices.
Pay attention to everything you drink and if it has sugar, skip it. Stick to water, club soda, black coffee (with milk or cream) and unsweetened tea.
Keep up this habit of sugar free drinks throughout the rest of the week.
Day Three – Change Your Breakfast
Today we’ll change up breakfast. Instead of grabbing a bowl of sugary cereal, a breakfast bar or a donut, go for something without sugar. Fry up some eggs, or fix a bowl of oatmeal sweetened with stevia or a little dry fruit. Unsweetened yogurt is another great choice. Find a couple of sugar free breakfast treats you like and start having them from here on out instead of your sugary breakfast options.
Day Four – Skip The Sweet Treats and Snacks
It’s time to give up your favorite sweet treats, snacks and desserts. That also means no more cookies, candy or ice cream. Yes, this is going to be hard, but you can do it. Instead focus on eating real food and bigger portions during your main meals.
Without the blood sugar spikes and dips that your favorite sugary treats cause, you’ll find you won’t be as hungry in between meals. The first few days will be hard, but it will get easier.
Day Five – Find Healthy Replacements For Your Favorite Treats
When you really crave a little something sweet or feel like you must have some sort of dessert choose a natural option. Have a piece of fruit instead of cake or turn frozen banana slices, cream, and vanilla extract into mock ice cream in the blender. Fruit smoothies are also naturally delicious, sweet treats that don’t have any added sugar.
Find a few things you enjoy. If you’re craving chocolate, grab a bar of dark chocolate with little added sugar and allow yourself one or two squares a day. Moderation is key with these healthy sweet treats.
Day Six – Watch For Hidden Sugars
Last but not least start watching out for hidden sugars. Start getting into the habit of reading labels and avoiding things like low fat salad dressing and ketchup because those things have a bunch of added sugar.
Words like glucose, fructose, and high fructose corn syrup – pretty much anything ending in -ose will alert you to added sugar sources.
Sugar disguises itself in food as:
Sugar • Dextrose • Maltose • Glucose • Fructose • Corn sweetener • Honey • Corn syrup • Sucrose • Sorghum syrup • Sorbitol • Brown sugar • Lactose • Molasses • Syrup • Fruit juice concentrate • High-fructose corn syrup
Cook what you can from scratch to have control over what goes into your food. Follow this advice and you’ll be free of that sugar habit in less than a week.
Are You Ready For A Sugar Detox?
It Takes Willpower
It’s going to take some willpower to make it through a sugar detox. You’re going to want that candy bar or donut. Are you ready to not give in and make it through a few days of sugar cravings?
The key is to keep in mind that it will get easier as time goes by and that you’re doing this for an important reason – to improve your health, lose weight, look better, feel better and reduce your risk of developing Type II Diabetes.
It’s Not Going To Be Pleasant
This isn’t going to be easy and it isn’t going to be pleasant. In addition to craving your favorite sugary treats, you’ll likely experience headaches and possibly nausea, joint pain and dizziness.
It helps to start your sugar detox on a Friday. You can make it through your work day before the headaches start and then have all weekend to detox. By the time Monday rolls around you should be through the worst of it.
The Side Effects Will Be Temporary And You’ll Come Out Of It Feeling Much Better
S Remember that this is only a temporary feeling. I promise that you’ll feel much better after a few hours. The health benefits of freeing yourself from your sugar addiction are well worth the making it through the unpleasant side effects of a sugar detox.
Sugar Detox Symptoms
When you decide to cut the sugar out of your diet, you may go through quite the withdrawal. Before you jump in cold turkey, let’s take a look at some of the detox symptoms you can expect over the coming days.
When you know what’s coming, that it’s normal and most importantly that it will only last for a few days, it is much easier to make it through this tough transition period of detoxing from your sugar habit.
The first thing you’ll notice is that you start to crave sugary treats. It starts out with you thinking that a cookie would be nice.
Then the cravings get worse until you’re ready to do just about anything for a sweet treat. Your best bet is to get anything sweet out of the house before you start to crave and cave.
Mood Swings and Tiredness
Don’t be surprised to go from “I can do this” to “no way” in a matter of minutes. Mood swings, crankiness and even feelings like all you want to do is nap are not uncommon as your body starts to detox from the sugar.
Distract yourself. Call a friend, watch a movie, or go take nap. Do whatever it takes to make it through these few days of sugar detox. Remember that no matter how crappy you feel, this won’t last long.
Sugar has quite the effect on the brain, as does detoxing from it. It’s not uncommon to have a headache as your body gets used to running without the sugar. Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Some black coffee or an aspirin will help as well.
If you are getting nauseous in addition to having the headache, try drinking some unsweetened peppermint tea.
Joint and Body Aches
Some people experience flu-like symptoms including joint and body aches. It’s your body going through the sugar withdrawal. Try drinking some warm chicken broth or take a hot bath in Epsom salt. The symptoms could be caused by an electrolyte imbalance and both of those will help. Some people swear by drinking some pickle juice to get rid of the aches.
Shakes and Chills
Last but not least you could experiences shakes and chills. It may feel like a fever or you’re coming down with some nasty bug, but again, it’s just sugar withdrawal symptoms. Crawl in the bed and sleep through the worst of it if you can. By the time you wake up you’ll be through most of it.
Above all, don’t let these symptoms scare you away from giving a sugar detox a try. Chances are you won’t experience all of these and many symptoms won’t be very severe.
Above all keep in mind that this will only last for a few days and you’ll come out of it without the sugar cravings and with a chance for a much healthier diet and lifestyle.
3 Tips For Alleviating Sugar Detox Side Effects
Cutting all the added sugar out of your diet is much better for your health, but while your body adjusts to your new diet; you can experience some unpleasant sugar detox side effects.
They may include headaches, body aches, nausea and of course cravings for anything sweet.
They key is not to give in and have a piece of candy. Instead try these three tips to help you make it through the relatively short detox period.
Drink Lots of Water
First and foremost make sure you drink plenty of water. Not only will staying hydrated help alleviate many of the detox symptoms I mentioned, it will also keep you full.
Feel a headache coming on? Get a glass of water. Want a cookie or donut? Get a glass of water.
Supplement With A Good Multi Vitamin
Vitamin C, B vitamins, and Zinc are all known to help with cravings. Taking a good multi vitamin may be just the thing to help reduce detox side effects and make it through the few not so pleasant days of getting used to consuming a lot less sugar.
In addition, you can talk to your medical care provider about supplementing with a few of these micronutrients in higher doses. Don’t do this without medical supervision or the advice of your doctor though.
Last but not least, I need you to realize that a lot of the cravings and not feeling well is in your head. The more you focus on negative side effects of detoxing from sugar, the worse they will get. The best way to avoid this is to stay busy.
While I don’t recommend doing a sugar detox when you’re at work, particularly during a busy or stressful time, staying busy is a good idea.
Make some plans to head out with friends, go for a walk, reorganize your closet, or just settle in for a Netflix marathon. What you do doesn’t matter as long as you stay busy and keep your mind of the sugar detox symptoms.
Dealing With Temptation After Your Sugar Detox
Congratulations. You’ve made it through your sugar detox and are on your way to a lifetime of eating healthy, wholesome foods.
A lot of your sugar cravings are gone, but it’s easy to fall back into old behavior patterns and get yourself in hot water when it comes to sugar.
Let’s talk about what you can do to deal with temptation in the weeks, months, and years to come.
Expect The Temptation
The first key is to not let down your guard. Temptation is all around us from that box of donuts left in in the breakroom to the offered piece of homemade pie.
Don’t Head Out Hungry
This is why it helps to not leave the house hungry. Believe me; it’s much easier to turn down that donut at the office meeting if you’ve already had a couple of eggs for breakfast. When you’re already hungry, your willpower may slip.
Carry An Emergency Snack
For those cases when you do find yourself hungry and tempted, carry an emergency snack in your purse, car, or briefcase. Make some homemade trail mix, or just grab a piece of fruit to take with you.
Forgive Yourself And Vow To Do Better
No matter how well you prepare yourself and how strong your willpower is, chances are you’ll slip up here and there. It happens.
A little sugar here and there won’t kill you. It’s the 160+ pounds per year that does. Don’t use that as an excuse to slip back into old habits. Use it as an excuse to forgive yourself, move on, and eat well the rest of the time.