Do you find it difficult to lose those last few stubborn pounds even though you are exercising regularly? Unfortunately, you can’t get rid of it unless you cut the extra sugar from your diet. And no, we aren’t talking about the banana you grab for a snack, but the sneaky sugar in almost all processed foods.
There are two different kinds of sugars in your diet: Naturally occurring sugars and added sugars. Naturally occurring ones refer to sugar that’s found in fruit and milk. Added sugars refer to the syrups and sugars that are put in foods while it is being prepared or processed. Examples of foods containing added sugars include soft drinks, candy, and dairy desserts.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends limiting the amount of added sugars you consume to no more than half of your daily discretionary calories allowance. That means that most American men should stick to about 9 teaspoons (150 calories) and women to about 6 teaspoons of sugar (100 calories). The recommended limits for children are determined by their caloric needs and age, but range between 3-6 teaspoons per day.1
Unfortunately, the average American has about 19.5 teaspoons of added sugars every day, which adds up to 66 pounds per person, every year. This excess in sugar intake can drastically increase the risk of a variety of diseases like diabetes, heart diseases, and obesity.2
Why You Need A Sugar Detox
Added sugars have only added calories, no nutrients at all, which is why it is classified as “empty” calories. You get a lot of fructose from added sugars which the body does not need to function properly. The liver is the only organ that can metabolize fructose. So when the liver is already full of glycogen and then large amounts of fructose enter it, it will turn most of the fructose into fat. Over time, eating a lot of added sugar (fructose) can lead a lot of fat to be deposited in the liver, causing Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease.
Excess sugar consumption is associated with a host of diseases including kidney disease, gout, and pancreatic cancer.3 4 Having too much sugar in your diet can also affect your mood, sleep and give you unsightly breakouts. Insulin resistance is also one of the consequences of too much sugar in your diet. Insulin resistance may make you crave food (particularly sugar) which may contribute to diabetes. A strong connection between sugar and both heart disease and high blood sugar have been established. There is also a strong connection between excess sugar consumption and weight gain (even if you exercise regularly).
To remove sugars from your diet, all forms of sugar, anything with trans or hydrogenated fats and MSG should be avoided. Liquid sugar calories, found in sodas and juices (other than completely natural juice), are particularly harmful. In fact, foods that come in a box, can or package should not enter your kitchen.
To Do A Sugar Detox
1. Ease Into It
Sugar addiction is often compared to drug addiction, and for good reason. Sugar stimulates the same pleasure centers of the brain that hard-core drugs like cocaine do. That is why when you try to get off sugar you may have cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
Although a lot of nutritionists recommend that going cold turkey is best when it comes to a sugar detox, a lot of people find it easier to slowly remove the sugar from their lives. The first step should be to create a plan of action. Start reducing the amount of sugar you eat slowly. Instead of drinking two carbonated drinks a day, cut it down to one glass, then to half a glass, and so on.
The Whole Food Way
Your diet should consist of only whole foods — foods that don’t come in a package and will rot within a week. This includes fruits, vegetables or anything with just a few ingredients. Whole foods are low in sugar or have naturally occurring sugar.
Processed foods tend to have hidden sugar in them. By just checking the label of your ketchup cans and salad dressing, you will realize how there is sugar in pretty much everything we buy that is processed. Your sugar intake can be reduced significantly by reducing processed food intake and increasing more whole foods.
3. Make Your Water Interesting
It has become common practice to have a soda or a canned-fruit juice with a meal. Choosing water instead of these drinks will make a huge difference in your sugar intake. If you find it boring to drink plain water, get yourself a water bottle with infusers built in and add some fruit slices to it. The added flavor should give you an incentive to drink more water as well.
Starting the day with a healthy dose of protein will help balance blood sugar and insulin. It will also cut down your cravings. For breakfast, grab a protein shake or some whole farm eggs. Breakfast should not be the only meal where protein is given importance. Each meal of your day should include around 4-6 ounces of protein. Proteins can be in the form of seeds, nuts, eggs, chicken or fish for example.
5. Treat Yourself To Fruits
When you are on a sugar detox, a piece of fruit can come as a sweet relief. Fruits (and many vegetables) have fructose which is a naturally occurring sugar. Not only can you satisfy your sugar craving with it, but you can also get a healthy dose of fiber with a fruit. But remember, having fruit juice is not the same as having fruits. Fruit juice gives you only the sugar and not the fiber and nutritional punch that whole fruits have.
Pick The Right Vegetables
Vegetables are carbs and you can have unlimited amounts as long as you pick the “right” vegetables. By “right” vegetables, we mean those that are non-starchy like the broccoli family (kale, cauliflower, collards, etc.), green beans, asparagus, mushrooms, artichokes, onions, tomatoes, fennel, zucchini, eggplant, and peppers. Vegetables like sweet potatoes, potatoes, winter squash, and beets should be avoided, at least in the first few days of your sugar detox.
7. Fat Doesn’t Make You Fat
People have believed that fat is the culprit behind weight gain, but in reality, it is sugar that makes you fat. Fat balances your blood sugar, it fills you up and it is also vital to nurture your cells. You should be having good fats in each of your meals. Good fat can be found in extra virgin olive oil, nuts, seeds, coconut butter, fish, and avocados.
8. Be Ready For Food Emergencies
Sometimes your blood sugar drops and you crave a snack out of the blue. If you happen to be at a place with access to unhealthy snacks, chances are that you will pick up a sugar-filled delight and ruin your diet. It’s in times like these when it will help to have a healthy snack in hand. Carry around some healthy snacks with good fats and protein so you don’t hate yourself for making a bad choice. Coconut butter, walnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds, turkey jerky, salmon jerky, wild salmon and unsweetened wild blueberries are great examples of healthy snacks you can throw in your bag.
9. Sleep Your Cravings Away
Your appetite hormones are affected by the amount of sleep you get. If you don’t get enough sleep, the hunger hormones could rise and appetite-suppressing hormones could decrease. You may start craving refined carbs and sugar. Because your body needs more energy when it lacks sleep, it will look for the quickest way to get it; quickly absorbed sugars. You can curb your cravings by just sleeping better.
10. Take It Easy
Sometimes your attempts at dieting or cutting out a food item (such as sugar) can make you obsessed with your food choices, leading to Orthorexia. This is an eating disorder where eating healthy becomes an unhealthy obsession, resulting in fear of food or social isolation. Having a healthy diet shouldn’t come at the cost of enjoying your food. Finding a healthy balance between the two is crucial. You should also be forgiving of yourself if you happen to fall off the wagon from time to time.
You may work hard to keep the sugar out of your diet, and it can get frustrating. But being patient and persistent will give you the results that you are looking for.
|↑2||How Much Is Too Much? University of California San Francisco|
|↑3||Rossi, Marta, Loren Lipworth, Jerry Polesel, Eva Negri, Cristina Bosetti, Renato Talamini, Joseph K. McLaughlin, and Carlo La Vecchia. “Dietary glycemic index and glycemic load and risk of pancreatic cancer: a case-control study.” Annals of epidemiology 20, no. 6 (2010): 460-465.|
|↑4||Johnson, Richard J., Mark S. Segal, Yuri Sautin, Takahiko Nakagawa, Daniel I. Feig, Duk-Hee Kang, Michael S. Gersch, Steven Benner, and Laura G. Sánchez-Lozada. “Potential role of sugar (fructose) in the epidemic of hypertension, obesity and the metabolic syndrome, diabetes, kidney disease, and cardiovascular disease.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 86, no. 4 (2007): 899-906.|