Here’s the not-so-sweet truth. You are wreaking havoc on your bodies by consuming truckloads of hidden sugar.
Sugar in all its forms is the root cause of our obesity epidemic and a plethora of chronic diseases sucking the life out of our citizens and our economy. You name it, it’s caused by sugar: impotence, infertility, acne, depression, type 2 diabetes, dementia, cancer and heart disease.
This is why we need a clear path to detox from sugar, to break free of the vicious cycle of carb and sugar cravings that rob us of our health. This is where sugar detox comes into play.
How Much Sugar Are You Really Eating?
Even if you have got your calories and macros in check, and stock up on plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits every day, you are inadvertently getting more sugar than you could care for. An average person eats about 152 pounds of sugar each year, which breaks down into about 22 teaspoons each day. When it comes to children, the matter is even worst. Kids these days actually consume an average of 34 teaspoons of sugar every day, which is why we are witnessing Type 2 Diabetes in children as young as eight years old. Similarly, almost 25% of our teenagers are either diabetic or pre-diabetic.
If you like your coffee black and tea sugar free and eat a lot of sweets, you might still be stocking up on a lot of clandestine sugar. And if you eat a lot of processed foods, cereal, pasta, or bread, you’re also getting a ton of flour. This might sound crazy, but a slice of bread (even whole wheat bread, yes) can elevate your blood sugar more than table sugar.
Even worst, all forms of refined flour give the same effect, and to think that we are consuming it in bulk. Englishmen can consume about 159 pounds of flour a year, per person. So, this translates into the fact that we’re eating about one pound of flour and sugar combined for every person in the UK.
Why Is Too Much Sugar Bad For You?
All sugar-laden foods cause a spike in insulin and sugar levels, super-charging oil production, increased androgen secretion, and inflammation, leading to outbreak of acne.
Obesity, which in itself is a by-product of sugar overload, is considered the strongest risk factor for diabetes. Prolonged high-sugar consumption leads to insulin resistance, hindering its ability to monitor blood sugar level. Insulin resistance strongly increases your risk of diabetes since it boosts your blood sugar levels.
A study in over 430,000 people discovered that added sugar consumption leads to an increased risk of cancer of the small intestine, pleural cancer, and esophageal cancer.
Consuming a plethora of processed foods, such as sugary drinks, cakes, and other high-sugar products, has been associated with a higher risk of depression. Researchers are of the opinion that inflammation, neurotransmitter dysregulation, and blood sugar swings, all detrimental side effects of sugar consumption, could wreak havoc on your mental health.
- Skin aging
Advanced glycation end products (AGEs) are compounds formed by reactions between protein and sugar in your body. They are known culprits behind skin aging.
- Drains your Energy
Sugar laden products that lack fat, fiber, or protein cause a brief energy boost that wanes out just as quickly as it was triggered. This means that sugar packed foods make you feel drained.
- Fatty Liver
When sugar is added in the form of fructose, it can overdose your liver, this is the main culprit behind the non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a condition characterized by excessive fat buildup in the liver.
Food Addiction: Is It For Real?
Do you look down on people who get high? Well, here’s something to make you take back that frown. Sugar is eight times as addictive as cocaine.
Flour and sugar addiction is not due to some emotional eating disorder. Rather, it can be thought of as more of a biological disorder, driven by neurotransmitters and hormones that fuel your Carb and sugar cravings – making you binge eat without restriction. This is why 26.2% of adults in UK are obese and a further 35.2% are overweight. Harvard scientists have discovered that a high-sugar milkshake not only led to enhanced sugar cravings by spiking blood sugar and insulin, it also lit up the addiction center in the brain, same as smack sodas, morphine muffins, or perhaps cocaine cookies?
Why Giving It Up Can Feel Lousy?
Since sugar affects the brain the same way that addictive substances such as morphine, cocaine, and nicotine, and keeping in mind the absurd amount we consume in a day, some form of withdrawal is expected. The reward system of our brains helps us survive as a species. Munching on something sweet helps activate our brain’s reward system. Not to mention, sugar activates the release of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens – the area of the brain that responds to cocaine and heroin.
Eating sugar regularly changes your brain so that it becomes tolerant to the sugar, causing you to require more to get the same effect. Several studies link sugar to the release of endogenous opioids in the brain. This causes an adrenaline rush similar to injecting heroin. All these fake feel-good emotions trap you into a vicious cycle of cravings and needing more and more sugar to feel good. So, its only natural that sugar detox will make you experience withdrawal symptoms at first.
The Symptoms Of Sugar Withdrawal
Sugar detox, especially in those who binge on sugar, can cause a host of unpleasant mental and physcial symptoms, depending on how their body reacts to the sudden shortage of sugar supply. The symptoms you experience, and their severity depend on how much sugar you were consuming in a day.
Withdrawal symptoms of sugar detox can last anywhere from a day or two to two full weeks. The longer your body goes without sugar, the lesser it yearns for sugar. Remember that Your symptoms may aggravate between meals or in periods of stress.
- Depression. Normally the first sugar withdrawal symptom is feeling down. Along with feeling down in the dumps, you may feel like nothing makes you happy anymore.
- Cravings. In addition to craving sugar, you will yearn for other unhealthy foods as well, such as Carb-laden junk.
- Cognitive issues. Quitting sugar might make it harder for you to stay focused. This can make you clumsy and forgetful.
- Changes in sleep patterns. Some people experience disruption in their sleep patterns when they are on a sugar detox. You might find it hard to stay asleep or even fall asleep through the night.
- Anxiety. Feelings of anxiousness accompanied by irritability, restlessness, and nervousness. You may feel more on edge than you have ever been.
Headache is one of the most common side effects of sugar detox, but its not uncommon to feel physically rundown, like you have no energy left. Its also not uncommon to feel dizzy, light-headed, nauseated, and fatigued.
10-Step Sugar Detox Plan
Step 1: Go Cold Turkey
If you don’t want to read endless labels in your pantry to sort through anything that lists sugar in any form, chuck out everything that is pre-cooked, canned, or packaged. Even potato chips have sugar in them, no matter how spiced yours are. Product labels might not necessary list sugar as “sugar”. There are so many names for different forms of sugar that it could take you forever to weed them out by reading labels, so just stick to eating a healthy and balanced diet of nuts and seeds, fruits, vegetable, seafood, poultry, eggs and meat. Do a 10 day sugar detox and see if it works.
Here are some tips on how to reduce your intake of added sugars in your day-to-day meals.
- Swap sweetened teas, juices, energy drinks, and sodas for unsweetened seltzer or water.
- Roam around the perimeter of the grocery store, focusing on whole, fresh, and natural ingredients.
- Steer clear of alcoholic beverages sweetened with sugar, honey, juice, soda or agave.
- Use natural and preferably home-made sugar-free nut butters in place of spreads like Nutella.
- Substitute fresh banana slices in place of jelly in your peanut butter sandwich.
- Ditch your breakfast cereal for a bowl of rolled oats topped with fresh berries, a drizzle of honey and yogurt, or an omelet made with fresh greens.
- Only buy granola bars, granolas, and cereals that contain less than 4g sugar/serving.
- Choose marinara sauces, ketchup, nut butters and marinades that have zero added sugar. Even better, whip up your own at home.
- Drink your coffee black or a zero-calorie, natural sweetener like stevia.
- Instead of sweet salad dressings, use olive oil and vinegar seasoned with salt, pepper, and herbs.
- Replace candy with a homemade trail mix of dark chocolate chips, nuts, and fruits.
- Ditch canned fruits and sugar-sweetened fruit smoothies and switch to whole fruits.
- Sweeten your yogurt with frozen or fresh berries instead of purchasing sugar-loaded versions.
Step 2: Drink only water, unsweetened herbal tea, fresh greens drinks
Don’t drink up your sugar… its ten times worse, since it finds itself instantly in your bloodstream. What further aggravates the problem is that a sugar laden beverage doesn’t fill you up and the energy runs out all too soon, making you hungry again but still full of sugar.
Gatorade, for instance, packs 14 teaspoons of sugar per bottle, one less than a 20-ounce Coke. Imagine the amount of sugar you are sending into your bloodstream. Such a sugar burst can inhibit the liver’s own fat-storage mechanism, causing you to sprout a pot belly in no time.
In addition to that, all added sugar is in essence, 50% fructose and 50% glucose. Fructose in liquid form poses an even bigger challenge, since it must first be metabolized before the body can use it as glucose. However, since this process is rate-dependent, an overdose of fructose can cause your liver to set free triglycerides into your blood. Some of these triglycerides get trapped in the liver, leading to “fatty liver disease.”
Step 3: Eat a high-protein meal first thing in the morning
When you wake up after a good night sleep, your insulin levels are high, while your body is running low on carbs. This is why most people reach out for something sweet first thing after opening their eyes. Combat your sugar cravings by grabbing a breakfast high in protein instead. Not only will it make you feel fuller, but it will do so without overloading your body with sugar, and also re-train your body to use protein as energy.
Also, get your hands on some healthy fats as soon as possible after waking up. Try an amazing combo of a handful of walnuts with a few eggs or a protein shake.
Step 4: Get plenty of healthy carbs
All carbs are not bad, really. We actually do need carbs to survive. The trick is to eat the right carbs; this translates into low-sugar, non-starchy vegetables. No more sweet potatoes, potatoes, winter squash, beets, and corn! If you feel yourself giving into your cravings, help yourself to lower-sugar fruits like plums, pears, apples or berries. Don’t limit your produce consumption at all in the initial days of sugar detox. Eat your fill and then eat some more to keep your body satiated at all times.
Step 5: Eat enough healthy fat
Did you know sugar and flour at the new “FAT”. Fat as we know it isn’t all bad. Healthy Fat helps transport vitamins and minerals throughout your body, keeps you feeling satisfied, and steadies your blood sugar levels. Every meal should contain a healthy portion of fat and protein. The best fats come from seeds and nuts, avocados, palm oil, coconut oil, and nut butters, and also from wild-caught seafood and pasture-raised meat and eggs.
Step 6: Keep healthy snacks with you
Why do the cravings hit you the worst in the vicinity of a doughnut shop, a vending machine, or a fast food restaurant, where there isn’t a healthy restaurant, a fruit stand, or a farmer’s market in sight. Beware for such ambushes. Stock up on plenty of portable treats, such as berries, celery sticks with nut butter, jerky, apples, seeds, and nuts. It’s best to have a combination of fats, carbs and proteins in every snack.
Step 7: Lower your stress level
Its no secret that stress makes people binge on junk and sugary treats. This is because sugar raises your cortisol level, stimulating fat storage and whetting your appetite at the same time. But de-stressing can reverse the process. We have ample studies to prove that deep breathing changes the focus of your metabolism from storing fat to burning it via stimulating the Vagus nerve. Watch a funny video, call up a friend, go dancing, or take a fun fitness class, curl up on the couch with a good book; anything to help you unwind after a taxing day.
Step 8: Get plenty of sleep
Not getting your Zzz’s right can affect your appetite hormones, thereby fueling sugar and carb cravings further. In human studies, reducing just two hours of the recommended eight hours of sleep of college students led to big cravings for sugar and refined carbs, a decrease in appetite-suppressing hormones, and a decrease in appetite-suppressing hormones. The more you stay up, the more energy you will need, making you reach out for quickly absorbed sugars. Sleep is the best weapon in your arsenal in your fight against the drive to overeat. Sleep your weight and sugar cravings away.
Step 9: Start an exercise plan that includes strength training
If you are wondering how to get sugar out of your system fast, Strength training is the answer. It not only helps you stay on the right track for your sugar detox, it also helps keep your blood sugar levels steady for good. When you use your muscles, more glucose is needed, which in turn lowers your blood sugar levels, translating into fewer sugar cravings later on. Having more lean muscles helps your body get blood glucose out of your bloodstream and into your muscles. As a bonus, exercise serves to release those feel-good endorphins so that your mood swings no longer affect your eating patterns.
Step 10: Reduce inflammation from food sensitivities
Inflammation can soar up your blood sugar levels and result in insulin resistance, which in turn leads to Type 2 diabetes. However, inflammations don’t just stem from injury or illness; food sensitivities can be culprits as well. The most common problem foods are dairy and gluten, so try kicking them out of your diet in the first few days.
You may not know if these have been hurting you until you start experiencing far fewer symptoms such as bloating, nausea, headaches, and gas, and feel more energized in just a few days of cutting them off from your diet. If the idea of quitting sugar sounds too difficult to you, know that we all need to get sugar and flour out of our diets for good, as backed by science.
The First Week of Sugar Detox; Getting Started
The best benefit of going on a sugar detox diet is that you will feel your palate recalibrated. You will be surprised with your newfound ability to taste natural sugars in dairy, vegetables and fruits that previously, you were numb to.
Generally, as a part of your initial 3-day sugar detox diet, try to not only steer clear of added sugars, but also starchy vegetables (such as butternut squash. Sweet potatoes, peas, and corn), fruits, alcohol, dairy, or grains. Instead stick to healthy oats, vegetables, and proteins.
As a sample, your breakfast could include three scrambled eggs, while you can have up to 6 ounces of tofu, fish, or poultry with a side of green salad using homemade dressing, and dinner can be a bigger portion of what you had for lunch, though salad can be replaced with steamed vegetables such as spinach, kale, and broccoli. If hunger pangs try to kick in between, why not snack on an ounce of nuts or sliced carrots or peppers with hummus. Beverages include black coffee, unsweetened tea, and water.
Though artificial sweeteners are sugar-free, and don’t contribute to calories, they are still not allowed in the plan. They would only dull your palate, again making you immune to the real, subtle sweetness found in everyday foods. Artificial sweeteners also cause your body to store more fat and whet your appetite, causing you to eat more.
After the first three days of the sugar detox, throw in an apple in your meal plan. By now, an apple must be tasting like candy. Once you take sugar away from your diet cold turkey, you will be more in touch with natural sugars and suddenly find the sweetness in onions and almonds even. Also add one dairy item as well, such as unsweetened and full-fat yogurt and cheese. Protein, fiber, and fat slow the absorption of sugar, so taking out fat from dairy only helps you absorb more sugar.
Considering adding higher-sugar vegetables such as snow peas and carrots into the mix, in addition to a daily serving of high-fiber crackers. In the first week of your sugar detox diet, you can also consume up to 3 glasses of red wine.
Come second week of sugar detox, your diet can now include an extra serving of dairy and a serving of antioxidant-rich berries, in addition to starchy vegetables such as winter squash and yams. Week three should be quite livable, since you can now add grains such as oatmeal, Wuinoa, and barley, and fruits like clementines and grapes. You can now also treat yourself to an ounce of dark chocolate a day and an additional serving of wine.
Week four is the homestretch! You can now start eating high-fiber crackers and two starches a day, including rice and bread. Wine goes up to five glasses per week. The permission to add a sandwich to your sugar detox meal plan is a huge relief for people who by now must be feeling at a loss for options. Week four is more like the maintenance part of the plan where you are allowed intentional indulgences, such as an occasional ice-cream, since by now the addictive behavior is gone. Additionally, no fruit is off-limits once you’ve completed the 31 days.