Brenda Gail tanning
Latest posts by Brenda Gail tanning (see all)
- Sugar Detox – Everything You Need to Know Before Detoxing From Sugar - December 3, 2018
- Sugar Cravings – Why We Crave Sweets And How To Stop It - November 29, 2018
- Sugar Addiction – Symptoms, Causes, And How To Break Free - November 27, 2018
Are you wondering how you can quit sugar? You’re not alone. Eating too much sugar is linked to all kinds of health problems, including diabetes, obesity, higher blood pressure, and inflammation. And those problems have serious consequences: Over 9% of all deaths in the U.S. are attributed to type 2 diabetes, and over 35% of adults are obese, according to Avail Clinical Research.
If you think quitting sugar is a matter of willpower, you’re setting yourself up for failure. There is strong evidence demonstrating that our sugar addiction is not all in our heads—sugar has an actual physiological effect on the brain and body. Sugar stimulates the brain’s production of dopamine, a chemical that is part of the reward system in the brain. This dopamine release then in turn makes us want to experience this temporary bliss again and again. The next time you ask yourself why you can’t quit eating chocolate, don’t blame yourself. Your brain is hardwired to be a dopamine junkie.
So then, you ask, can you quit sugar without feeling awful? The answer is a big “yes”! If you are interested in finding out more information about how you can do a sugar detox the right way without being miserable in the process, read on. You can also jump directly to the sections you are interested in if you would like.
In this guide, we will cover:
- What is a Sugar Detox?
- Why Do a Sugar Detox?
- Tips to Help Cut Sugar From Your Diet
- Common Questions When Creating a Sugar Detox Meal Plan
- Sugar-Free Cooking Guidelines
- Sugar-Free Recipe Examples
- What to Expect During a Sugar Detox
- What Should I Do Now?
What is a Sugar Detox?
You may be asking yourself, “Why does this have to be explained? A sugar detox is just going without sugar!” But sugar isn’t just found in the obvious places like chocolate and muffins. It’s hidden in many foods that are advertised by big corporations as being healthy. These foods all contain carbohydrates. All types of carbohydrates, including the ones mentioned above, end up in the same form in our bodies: glucose.
When people think about a sugar detox, they only think about cutting down on the sweets and replacing white processed sugar with sugar replacement products such as Stevia. But sugar substitutes and artificial sweeteners still trigger the dopamine surge that sugar does.
And did you know that foods that you don’t usually think of as sweet, like bread, crackers, and spaghetti sauce, are often full of added sugars, hidden under names like maltose, dextrose, high-fructose corn syrup, or molasses? What about the breakfast cereal or granola that you eat every morning? Believe it or not, they are also filled with sugars—some have almost twice as much as dark chocolate.
It might sound shocking, but many of the foods advertised as healthy are the very ones that make us gain weight, even while dieting. No wonder so many people around the world are disappointed when it comes to dieting! They are getting the wrong advice. In this battle, your biggest weapon is reading labels. You can also find online food lists that will help you pick healthier food options based on how many carbohydrates they contain.
You can start with a 7-day sugar-free challenge and build up from there. The longer you go without sugar, the more health benefits you will enjoy, including weight loss, clearer skin, and improved focus. If it sounds too good to be true, keep reading.
Why Do a Sugar Detox?
Most sugary foods are a poor source of vitamins and minerals, which are essential for a healthy metabolism and normal body function. During a sugar detox plan, you will introduce foods that truly nourish your body and help you use 100% of your energy efficiently without sugar crashes.
Additionally, another added benefit of doing a sugar detox is weight loss. If you’ve been holding onto some extra pounds for a while now, cutting sugar may be one of the most effective ways to achieve fat loss – not only temporarily, but with long lasting effects.
Why, you ask? Sugar stimulates your fat storing hormones. Each time you eat foods high in sugar, your insulin levels spike, which then leads to your body storing more fat in your tissues. If you are looking to lose weight, you should be aware that it’s not only a calories in/calories out game. Hormones play an important role as well – they are the regulators of your metabolism.
Negatives of Sugar
Recent scientific evidence suggests that sugar contributes to the development of many serious medical conditions, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even Alzheimer’s disease. Medical professionals are now starting to refer to Alzheimer’s disease as type 3 diabetes due to its link to insulin resistance in the brain.
Sugar also stimulates fat-storing hormones in the body and is known to raise levels of chemicals connected to inflammation. This means that you are more likely to develop inflammatory diseases such as arthritis as you age, as well as other age-independent conditions like acne vulgaris.
Sugar Detox Benefits
The good news is that much of the damage done by sugar binges can be repaired by a sugar cleanse. If you want to find out how changing your eating habits can impact your health, just continue reading. Here’s how cutting sugar out of your diet can make a real change in your life.
1. Fewer Calories and More Energy
Foods that are rich in sugar spike your insulin response, which not only triggers the release of fat storing hormones but also makes you hungry again shortly after a meal. On the other hand, foods rich in protein and healthy fats keep you satisfied for longer without forcing you to battle hunger. This results in eating fewer calories without feeling deprived.
2. Increased Brain Performance
Most people use glucose as fuel for their brains. The problem arises when there is too much glucose in your bloodstream. Your brain won’t be more energized; instead, it will become sluggish and you will experience what is called “brain fog”. In reality, your brain needs only around 30 total grams of sugar or carbohydrates a day to function (slightly more if you are very active). When you cut back on sweets, you will get enough glucose from other sources of food to help your brain work at an optimal level.
3. Less Inflammatory Acne
If you suffer from red, inflamed bumps on your face and body, chances are you’re dealing with what is known as inflammatory acne. The sebum overproduction on your skin may be triggered by a hormonal imbalance that is fed by too much sugar in your bloodstream. When your body can no longer lower the blood sugar levels in your body, the androgens in your body are overstimulated. This leads to acne.
4. A Lower Chance of Developing Heart Disease
An article published by Harvard Health Publishing discusses the risk of dying from heart disease caused by an unhealthy diet, particularly one high in sugar. The logic behind the claim is that too much sugar triggers an inflammatory response while also increasing body fat percentage, two major risk factors for coronary artery disease.
5. Improved Type 2 Diabetes Management
In most cases, chronically overloading the bloodstream with sugar leads to the inability of the pancreas to process the glucose effectively, causing insulin resistance (also known as type 2 diabetes). Genetics also play a role in insulin resistance, and some people are more predisposed to develop type 2 diabetes as they age.
In other more rare cases, tumors cause the death of pancreas cells, but the majority of the type 2 diabetes cases seen in the U.S. are directly related to dietary intake. When you quit ingesting sugar, your pancreas and fat storing hormones are no longer challenged, and your energy levels are stabilized throughout the day. Many type 2 diabetics use less medication or can become completely medication free just with diet modification, including a low sugar diet.
6. Reduced Water Retention
When you combine a large sugar intake (more than 6 teaspoons per day) with a large salt intake, you will notice some puffiness, also known as edema. This undesirable swelling often occurs in the midsection, arms, legs, and fingers. Your rings may no longer fit, and pounds will start piling up overnight. The weight gain is caused by excess water stored in your body. You can get rid of this within days with a sugar detox diet plan in combination with reducing your sodium intake.
7. Reduced Risk of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
A condition known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease occurs when your body can no longer process fats properly and starts storing it in your liver. This can be caused by a number of reasons. For one, your metabolism could be inefficient at using glucose for fuel. It might also be because you get too much sugar in your diet or you suffer from insulin resistance.
Your body starts using sugar for energy at first, and after the glucose stores are gone, it starts burning fat for fuel. But if you have too much sugar in your diet or your body can’t process normal amounts of sugar, the fat doesn’t get used for energy. Instead, it gets stored. Fortunately, a detox diet plan can prevent this condition in its early stages and even reverse it.
8. Balanced Hormones
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is the most common reproductive condition worldwide, and it’s linked to a high-sugar intake. Unfortunately, this condition can only be managed, not cured. PCOS is caused by a hormonal imbalance where there is either too many androgens in the female body or too much estrogen that ultimately gets converted into androgens. While the cause of the condition is not fully understood, women suffering from PCOS have a hard time processing sugars. There are studies that show that a diet low in carbohydrates can restore the balance in women suffering from PCOS, even without the use of medication.
9. Reduced Risk of Premature Aging
According to the Telegraph, researchers have found a link between insulin signaling and aging. This means that the more sugar we eat, the more insulin spikes we get and the faster we age. Too much sugar in your body leads to a process called glycation; this is where free radicals start attacking the collagen and elastin in your skin—proteins that make the skin look youthful. In other words, eating less sugar can help prevent wrinkles from developing.
Can a Sugar Detox Help You Lose Weight?
Losing weight by cutting sugars from your diet occurs naturally because carbohydrates stimulate the fat storing hormone, insulin; however, there are other factors that impact how much weight you will lose.
Depending on what your total daily calorie intake is, weight loss is possible, even after as little as seven days; however, it is important to note that soon after cutting out sugar, you will lose water weight as well, not only fat.
Fat loss can be achieved only by a caloric deficit—in other words, burning more calories than you consume. If you don’t watch your calorie intake while doing a sugar detox, most of the weight loss will be water weight that is being stored by glycogen.
If you are interested in losing weight, you will be happy to hear that a diet low in sugar is one of the most effective paths to weight loss.
But before you get started, there are a couple terms you should know: basal metabolic rate (BMR) and total daily energy expenditure (TDEE).
The first term is the number of calories your body consumes to stay alive. This number does not include your daily activities. For example, if you were completely sedentary (such as in a coma state), you have to eat as many calories as your BMR calculator says you need to maintain your weight.
The TDEE is the number of calories that you consume when you aren’t bedridden. While there are many calculators out there that can approximate what your BMR and TDEE look like, your metabolism, external conditions, and genetics also influence how many calories your body burns to stay alive.
Before you create your weight loss plan, make sure you calculate your TDEE. After you’ve checked the data, cutting 500 calories every day, helped by introducing a diet low in sugar, leads to losing around one pound per week.
If your goal is to lose 1.5 pounds per week, your daily intake should be lowered by 750 calories per day, or you can burn more calories to create a deficit.
When you are thinking of losing more than one pound per week, keep in mind that you can also increase exercise to create a deficit instead of just eating less. There is only so much you can cut from your diet without slowing down your metabolism and creating nutritional deficiencies. Even on a diet low in sugar, you can have nutritional deficiencies if you eat too little.
Nutritionists recommend at least 1,200 calories for women and 1,500 for men. Once you go under these numbers, your body enters starvation mode, which means your metabolism will slow down and you may lose muscle instead of fat. That’s why it’s important to cut empty calories like sugar and replace them with good-for-you foods like vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats, to ensure you’re getting the nutrition you need. Preserving muscle is also important in your weight-loss journey, as muscle burns more calories and gives your body a toned look.
To summarize the points mentioned above, cutting sugar will accelerate your weight loss process; however, your sugar detox plan should be accompanied by a caloric deficit that doesn’t go above 30% of your TDEE.
The Traditional Approach to Weight Loss
If you’ve been looking for weight loss plans for a while now, you are probably familiar with how most diets work. Most follow a calories in and calories out model, as well as some other tweaks to make the diet sound like something new and exciting.
The problem with this approach is that it is not sustainable, and oftentimes, the dieters end up starving themselves for a few months, losing a couple of pounds that come back after they finish their diet. Sometimes, the weight gain is bigger than the weight loss due to metabolic damage caused by unhealthy diets.
The traditional approaches to weight loss doesn’t take into account one of the most important factors leading to weight gain: eating too much sugar. Instead, they focus on cutting as many calories as possible. While this does lead to short-term results, it comes at a cost, including nutritional deficiencies, muscle loss, and a sluggish metabolism.
More Than Just Calories In and Calories Out
As mentioned above, calorie intake is important, but it’s only half of the story. Macronutrients and their impact on your hormones also play a role. First, let’s talk about hormones and how they affect the way we lose and gain weight. Leptin and insulin are the main hormones that impact satiety (that feeling of being full) and fat storage. The first sends the signal to our brain telling us when we should eat, and the second stores fat. While dieting, ideally these two hormones should be lowered to both curb cravings and prevent fat storage. Fortunately, this is exactly what a diet low in sugar does. Both leptin and insulin are stimulated by carbohydrates and lack of sleep due to increased cortisol levels. When your sugar intake is optimal and you have enough sleep, your body will burn more fat.
When your carbohydrate intake is high, all of the energy will be used from sugar without leaving any room to tap into your fat storage. When you are consuming too much sugar, your body will not only use all the glucose available as energy, but it will also store the remainder as fat.
To fix this, you have to find out how many carbohydrates you need per day based on your height, weight, gender, and activity level. As a general rule, you should be aware of the fact that your brain needs very little glucose (around 30 grams of carbohydrates) to work optimally. Even in the absence of sugar, your body is able to use fatty acids for fuel. That being said, you don’t need much sugar in your diet to function optimally, and even with no sugar intake, your body would be able to function by using fat as the main energy source.
Tips to Help Cut Sugar From Your Diet
Breaking the habit isn’t easy, and research has shown that the best way to break an old habit is by replacing it with a new, healthier one that is closely related.
This theory is used to explain why quitting cigars might lead to increased snacking. We are always looking for new habits when we break old ones. But instead of letting yourself fall into the trap of automatic behaviors, take action and choose what habit will replace the old one.
For example, if the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning is eat a donut or bagel with cream cheese, choose a healthier go-to breakfast like an egg and avocado toast.
Unhealthy eating is often based on impulses. To fight your impulses, you have to create a set of new rules for yourself. But most importantly, you should treat yourself with indulgence if you slip.
Quitting sugar is a big step for your health and well-being, so congratulate yourself for your intentions and treat your little slip-ups as a bump in the road, not the end of it.
For a complete list of tips, check out our guide on how to stop eating sugar, but for now here are 11 habits you should develop to quit sugar for good.
1. Don’t Eat When You Are Bored, Only When You Are Hungry
If you have days where you sit on the sofa and there is nothing that excites you more than the taste of chocolate ice cream melting in your mouth, you are probably eating out of boredom, not because you are hungry.
If this happens to you, stop for a second. Instead of fighting the cravings, grab your toothbrush and brush your teeth. This way, you will be less likely to eat something.
The next step is to start moving and find something exciting and interesting to do. Sit down and write a list of small, achievable goals that you would like to accomplish. Maybe you can focus on those, or you can look around the house for things that need to get done. You might need to organize your closet or clean up the living room.
The secret is to take your mind off your cravings and use your free time in a productive way. Soon, you will feel proud and happy with your progress. Plus, who knows, maybe you will find out that now you have a little bit more free time to do the things you love.
2. Read Labels
Educating yourself is an important part of the journey.
There are many blogs and books out there that give the wrong advice. If you start reading labels, you will be surprised to find out that many of the foods labeled as healthy are just part of marketing schemes that trick people into believing that buying “gluten-free flour” or “whole-grain bread” will improve their health.
When you read labels, keep in mind that proteins take more energy to digest than carbohydrates, and don’t raise your insulin levels. Protein is also known to curb your hunger and keep you full for longer.
Fats are also important, though often demonized by the media. The secret is to invest in healthy fats like olive oil, nuts, and avocados. Keep in mind that there are no essential carbohydrates, but there are essential fats and proteins.
When looking for carbohydrates on food labels, look for fiber as well. A good rule of thumb is eating foods that have more grams of fiber than sugar.
There are many foods, such as lentils, that are high in carbohydrates. But half of the carbs are actually fiber, which is beneficial for your gut microbiome and does not have any impact on your blood sugar levels.
3. Look for Replacements
One of the best ways to enjoy your sugar detox is to look for new and delicious foods to snack on. If you have the urge to eat something crunchy like chips or peanut brittle, substitute raw veggies or a handful of almonds instead. Try fun foods you’ve never had before, like jicama, which is crunchy and juicy, or familiar ones in a rainbow of enticing colors, like purple carrots or orange peppers.
There are many options out there that can help you forget about unhealthy foods and encourage you to invest your money in organic, whole foods.
4. Explore the World of Teas
If you are tempted to switch to diet soda and artificial sweeteners, think twice. Drinking unsweetened tea is a much healthier option for a sugar-free diet. While there isn’t conclusive evidence about the long-term effects of artificial sweeteners, studies in the past have shown an increased risk of bladder cancer in rats exposed to large amounts of these sweeteners.
Today, the warning label on artificial sweeteners has been dropped, but there are some critics that still believe that they present health concerns. Not only that, but ingesting large amounts of artificial sweeteners may lead to abdominal discomfort, diarrhea, and bloating.
The good news is that there are thousands of tea combinations and flavors out there. Some are sweeter than others, and they don’t require additional sweeteners, like rooibos (also known as red bush) . Many teas come with a high mineral and vitamin content, and some are used for certain health conditions. It is wise to do a little bit of research because herbal teas can have adverse effects when taken with certain medications. If you hate the idea of drinking herbal teas, there are many other options for you as well. There are companies that make teas out of fruit.
5. Give Dark Chocolate a Try
Dark chocolate can be an acquired taste, but 90% or 80% cacao can be delicious. If you find those too bitter, even chocolate with 70% cacao content will contain significantly less sugar than regular milk chocolate. Dark chocolate can actually be good for your body. It is rich in magnesium and healthy fat. Like sugar, it can stimulate the reward system of your brain, but it does so without bringing too many calories or carbs to the table if you keep portion size in mind. Have an ounce of chocolate as an intentional treat.
6. Never Shop When Hungry
You’ve probably heard this one before, but it truly works. When you are hungry, your cravings for sweets increase and you suddenly start missing a slice of bread with Nutella or that muffin you used to indulge on at Starbucks. The trick is to always have a healthy snack with you in your bag. This way, if you need to do some shopping after work but don’t have the time to eat beforehand, you can grab your healthy snack and prevent the cravings while you detox from sugar.
7. Make a Fruit Salad
When you really crave something sweet, a piece of whole fruit is a healthy option. You can also add some nut based butter or eat it with plain yogurt, both of which have protein, to help keep you feel full longer. Have fun with it and don’t feel guilty. Fruits are filled with fiber, minerals, and vitamins.
8. Avoid Dried Fruits
Dried fruits are extremely high in calories and sugar. So, unless you have a physically demanding job or a really active lifestyle, you’re probably better off without them, especially if you suffer from a condition that makes you more sugar sensitive. On the other hand, if you are training hard, a handful of dried fruit and nuts can give you the extra boost of energy you need.
9. Find the Culprit of Your Sugar Addiction
Often, our eating habits reflect our mental state. If you are going through a tough period in your life and find yourself snacking a little more than usual, you may want to consider reasons other than hunger. Your mental state can be easily altered, not only by what happens around you, but also by what you put into your body.
For example, some women experience depression on certain birth control pills, while men can become more aggressive when taking hormone replacement therapies. Tumors, hormonal changes, and random chemical imbalances in your brain can impact your mood as can loneliness and stress. There is nothing wrong with indulging in sugary foods once in a while. But if you find yourself looking for moments of happiness in sweets, you should speak with a specialist about your concerns.
10. Don’t Punish Yourself for Slipping
After making a mistake, treat yourself like you would treat the person you love the most. Despite the popular belief otherwise, being tough on yourself only creates a cycle of sorrow and misery by feeding your insecurities instead of motivating you.
The next time you find yourself eating a slice of cake, don’t get too upset. If you are someone who considers small slip-ups the equivalent of an entire cheat day, you might be too hard on yourself. A small snack is just a bump in the road.
11. Share Your Journey with a Good Friend
If you have a friend or someone in your family who also wants to become healthier or lose some weight, why not share the same journey? Being held accountable encourages most people to make a positive change in their lives. You can create a no-sugar challenge calendar and mark each day you go without sugar together. It will make it more fun and rewarding when you both succeed the end of your journey.
12. Keep a Diary
Writing a diary is an effective tool to keep yourself accountable and aware of your progress over time. Set a goal and plan your meals for the next day or week. Many dieters create digital diaries and share them online. If you dread the idea of carrying a diary everywhere you go, the digital route could be a better option for you. Look for apps like MyFitnessPal or Lose It!
Common Questions When Creating A Sugar Detox Meal Plan
If all the health benefits that come with quitting sugar convinced you that you should give a sugar detox a try, you are in the right place. In this section, you’ll find common questions and tips on avoiding added sugars and creating a meal plan for a for your sugar detox diet that will improve both the way you look and feel. For a complete understanding on how to create a sugar-free meal plan, refer to our complete guide to the no-sugar diet.
First off, it’s important to be aware of how much sugar is in the foods we eat everyday. Let’s start with nature’s candy: fruit.
How Much Sugar is in an Apple?
Apples are 95% carbohydrates, like most fruits; however, they don’t have as many total carbs as you would think.
According to Nutrition Data, a raw apple with skin has around 17 grams of carbohydrates, with 13 grams of that being sugar. Unless you are going for a ketogenic diet, one apple a day won’t hurt you.
This being said, there are some fruits that have a higher carbohydrate content and should be consumed sparingly, especially if you are sedentary.
The fruits with the highest sugar content are the following: dried figs, raisins, dried peaches, dried bananas, raw bananas, and grapes.
How Much Sugar is in Breakfast Cereals?
Health practitioners often recommend cereals, but did you know that your morning cornflakes have almost three times as much sugar than your brain needs to function?
If you are living a sedentary lifestyle, you have enough carbohydrate content in 100 grams of cornflakes to keep you filled with energy for the whole day.
Unfortunately, the sugars found in cereals aren’t slow-acting sugars. They create insulin spikes and sugar crashes, which means that you will feel energized 20 minutes after consuming the meal and sluggish all day long. Unless you are doing serious athletic training, eating cornflakes or any other types of cereal for breakfast won’t do much good.
You might believe that muesli and granola would be a good substitute, but unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Although muesli and granola are usually made with whole grains, they usually contain dried fruit and sweeteners like maple syrup, honey, or brown sugar. Sugar by any other name is still sugar. If you love muesli or granola, consider making your own, with whole grains like oats along with nuts and seeds, so that you can control how much sugar gets added.
Whole Bread, Whole Wheat, and Multigrain Bread—Which is Healthier?
A trip to the store to buy bread is not as straightforward as it used to be. There are many types of bread, and some are often advertised as healthier than others. While there are some differences between the types of bread, these reported benefits are more or less marketing schemes. “Multigrain” just means that it contains more than one kind of grain—most of which might be white flour. Something labeled “100% whole wheat” might not have refined grains, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have added sugar. Look at the ingredient list for malt syrup, invert sugar, molasses, and honey.
And for diabetics, all types of bread are linked to high blood sugar levels and insulin spikes. Both whole grain bread and white bread can have almost the same carbohydrate content. Look for bread with the shortest ingredient lists. Make sure that whole grains are the first ingredient—you want to see “whole wheat flour,” not just “wheat flour,” which is just white flour. Other whole grains might include oats, brown rice, quinoa, barley, and corn. Try to buy fresh bread without added sugars and preservatives.
How Much Sugar is in Meat and Dairy?
Both meat and dairy are very low in carbohydrates and packed with healthy minerals and vitamins. On top of this, the protein from meat and dairy will keep you feeling full longer. While some dairy products have added sugars, you can easily avoid them by reading labels. In general, the sugars you should watch out for are hidden in fruit yogurts and dairy desserts. Many meats have almost no sugar content at all. They will probably be your best friend during the sugar detox.
How Much Sugar is in a Coffee from Starbucks?
While you can order sugar-free drinks at Starbucks, the most popular choices are usually the ones loaded with syrups and whipped cream. Most people don’t go to Starbucks for an unsweetened, black coffee. For example, one of the most popular types of coffee drinks at Starbucks is the Cinnamon Dolce Latte, which contains a shocking 52 grams of refined sugar for a Venti cup (20 ounces).
If you are a coffee lover, yet don’t like the taste of unsweetened black coffee, add two tablespoons of whole milk to it . The natural sugar in milk (in the form of lactase) gives a hint of sweetness. There are also many coffee lovers who enjoy coffee with melted butter blended in. Yes, you heard that right. This type of coffee has a name – bulletproof coffee. Its creator wanted to encourage coffee lovers to get more energy from their coffee while keeping the sugar low and fats high.
How Much Sugar is in Dark Chocolate?
Finally, some good news. The answer is less than you might think. The darker the chocolate (meaning, the higher the cacao content), the less sugar it contains. Unsweetened chocolate tastes terrible by itself, but you might like dark chocolate with 80% or 90% cacao content. Even if you buy dark chocolate that’s only 70% cacao, you will still find about 50% less sugar than what’s in regular milk chocolate.
Another trick is to search for chocolates that contain peanuts, almonds, or any other nuts high in healthy fats.Chocolates that contain cream are more likely to have a higher sugar content, while those that have a higher cacao content and nuts are lower in sugars.
Will Sugar-Free Gum Help Me Out?
Sugar-free chewing gum is not dangerous, but it can lead to more cravings since it stimulates your brain’s reward system via the sweet taste in your mouth. If you aren’t experiencing any cravings, you can probably use chewing gum with no worries. But most people might find it makes them crave more sweets, so sugar-free chewing gum won’t help them do a no-sugar detox.
Sugar-Free Cooking Guidelines
If you are looking for something delicious to eat on your sugar detox, look no further. Here’s a list of tips and tricks to help you kick the sugar off your plate. The list includes natural sugar alternatives, healthy meal examples, and more.
Cut Sugar in Half—or Entirely
For most baking recipes, you can cut sugar in half without losing too much flavor or structure. The most forgiving recipes are quick breads like zucchini bread or baked goods that contain eggs, like cookies. Sugar doesn’t just provide sweetness, it also gives structure to cakes and cookies, so it’s hard to get rid of it entirely in desserts. Of course, if you’re doing a sugar detox, you won’t want to be eating too many desserts!
And there are lots of places you can cut out sugar entirely. Salad dressings often contain honey or sugar, but there are plenty of dressings and marinades that don’t need it. If you’re buying bottled dressings and sauces, look for ones without sugar on the ingredient list. And if you’re making your own, skip ones that need sweetener, like honey mustard, and make a lemon-mustard vinaigrette instead.
Back to Bacon and Eggs
In the 1960s, everyone in the U.S. was eating bacon and eggs for breakfast. After being deemed as downright dangerous and the cause for heart disease for decades, new discoveries show that, in fact, sugar is more to blame for heart disease. The problem is that for decades, medical practitioners were telling patients to eat more cereals and breads, ditch the fat, and limit protein intake.
Even today, there are many specialists who still recommended the low-fat, high carb diet against all the evidence that shows many fats are not harmful. So, don’t be afraid of making a change and enjoying foods with a higher fat and protein content. More protein in your diet will lead to a better muscle preservation. Gaining more muscle is one of the best strategies for fat loss and metabolic health. Muscles need more calories and glucose to function than fat. So, if you want to eat a little more and add some sugar back to your diet, build more muscle first. When in doubt, check with your doctor after the sugar detox to see how your body is reacting to the diet change.
Replace Pasta and Bread with More Veggies and Legumes
Filling your plate with more veggies not only adds more antioxidants and strengthens your immune system, but also helps you keep off the extra pounds and avoid eating too much sugar. Cutting back on processed grains can also be a positive change, since they can have an inflammatory effect for many people. If you are suffering from acne and oily skin, quitting grains might benefit you, since inflammation is typically the cause of these skin issues. There are no rules on what type of veggies and legumes you should eat. Just keep in mind that the fresher, the better.
Sugar-Free Recipe Examples
A successful sugar detox is all about making your journey as enjoyable as possible, as well as getting creative.
To help you out, here are a few recipes that will keep you happy during your sugar-free diet.
1. Curried Butternut Squash and Cauliflower Soup
Butternut squash is naturally sweet, so you don’t need to include the brown sugar or other sweeteners that other recipes use.
- 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1½ tsp. curry powder
- Salt and pepper
- ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 butternut squash ( 2-3 pounds), peeled, seeded, and cut into 2-inch cubes
- One 2-pound head of cauliflower, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2 quarts low-sodium chicken stock
- Creme fraiche, for serving (optional)
- Melt butter in a large, heavy pot. Add onion and cook over moderately low heat until onion is softened, about 10 minutes. Add curry powder and season with salt and pepper. Raise heat to high, add cinnamon, stir in squash and cauliflower until coated with the spices. Add chicken stock, cover, and bring to a simmer. Cook until vegetables are very tender, about 40 minutes.
- Using an immersion blender, puree soup until smooth. Add heavy cream and return to a simmer. Season to taste. Ladle into bowls, dollop with creme fraiche (if using), and serve.
2. Goat Cheese & Asparagus Omelette
Prep your ingredients the night before, and it doesn’t take long to cook a delicious breakfast like this omelette.
- 3 large eggs
- Salt & pepper
- 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 2 Tbsp. goat cheese
- ¼ cup asparagus, cut in bite-size pieces
- 1 Tbsp. oregano
- In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs with salt and pepper. Set aside.
- In a small nonstick pan, melt butter over medium heat. Pour in eggs and cook until edges are partially cooked, then add goat cheese, asparagus, and oregano. Fold the omelette and cook another minute or two, then serve.
3. Harvest Chicken Salad
If you like salads with a little sweetness, this one’s for you: the balsamic vinegar is naturally sweet, and it’s so flavorful you only need a little bit, and the sweet potato and apple also have natural sugars.
- 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- Salt and pepper
- 1 cup shredded kale
- 1 grilled chicken breast, sliced
- ¼ cup of cooked wild rice
- ¼ cup diced apple
- ¼ cup diced roasted sweet potato
- 2 Tbsp. goat cheese
- 1 Tbsp. almonds, toasted and chopped
- In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste.
- On a bed of shredded kale, arrange chicken, rice, apples, sweet potatoes, goat cheese, and almonds. Dress with balsamic vinaigrette.
What to Expect During a Sugar Detox
There are two things that scare people out of sticking to a sugar-free diet: intense cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Fortunately, both can be easily fixed, but more about that in the next section. What causes the intense cravings and the withdrawal symptoms?
First, let’s explain the relationship between food and dopamine, the main chemical that triggers the reward system in your brain. When you have a meal low in sugar, your dopamine levels go up initially; however, if you have the same foods over and over again, your dopamine levels go down and you no longer get the same pleasure from eating those foods. This isn’t the case with sugary foods.
If we eat pudding every morning, our dopamine levels won’t stop rising over time. In a way, sugary foods are the only ones that keep our reward system stimulated with no need for variety. One of the first steps you should take when going on a diet is not to oversimplify your meals. Not only will you get bored of the same foods, but your brain won’t make you feel good about it either. But why does our brain crave variety? The answer is simple: we need a large variety of nutrients.
Sugar cravings can be quite intense, especially if you have family and friends who aren’t on a sugar-free diet and eat sugary foods around you. Fortunately, there is a plant that will make you never want to grab a cookie on a sugar detox.
Why? This plant makes the cookie taste disgusting to you.
Also called the sugar destroyer, this herb is found in central and western India, tropical Africa, and Australia. It might also be the answer to every dieter’s prayers. Studies show that this herb blocks the taste buds on our tongue from picking up the sweet taste. This means that if you have a mint that contains this herb and you grab a cookie after, you won’t taste its sweetness. Instead, it will actually taste disgusting to you.
This herb will make it impossible for you to cheat on your diet as long as you take it, simply because the dopamine response is no longer there. But blocking the taste receptors on your tongue isn’t the only benefit that the herb brings. It also blocks the glucose receptors in your body. Your pancreas won’t have to work as hard since the sugars in your body aren’t absorbed properly.
Unlike most treatments, this herb is completely natural and can be used over prolonged periods of time. Gymnema sylvestre has been used in India for thousands of years as an antibacterial and anti-inflammatory remedy. It was discovered by Western researchers just a few decades ago.
Sugar withdrawal symptoms can be brutal. They usually include symptoms such as intense cravings, irritability, and a tendency to replace the sugar addiction with something else. For some, that replacement is sugar-free drinks or foods.
Dealing with Sugar Withdrawal Symptoms
The best way to deal with the symptoms is to cook healthy, whole meals and avoid any artificial sweeteners in the process. There are supplements that could help you to stop craving sweets each time you take it. Irritability can be fixed by creating a replacement for the dopamine rush that sugar used to give you. There are alternative (and healthy!) activities that stimulate the reward system in a more meaningful way, such as socializing, meditating, and exercising. Doing one or all of these activities will diminish the irritability left behind by the sugar addiction and leave you feeling more relaxed.
What Should I Do Now?
Now that you have all of this information, the decision is yours. Quitting sugar is easier than ever, and supplements can help you stop cravings and eat healthier more effortlessly. Continuing to eat a diet high in sugar not only negatively impacts your weight, skin, and hair, it can also lead to life-threatening diseases, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Not only this, but there is a long list of other health conditions that may benefit from quitting sugar, including neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s disease.
Now you have all the tools you need to overcome the pitfalls that many people often fall into when dieting. You can improve your health by cutting sugar, and enjoy the benefits from this one change for years to come.
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