In the 70’s, each American consumed about 4 pounds of sugar per year. Now, that amount is closer to 160 pounds. That is a lot of sugar! 50% of that amount comes from fructose, which translates into 10% of the American diet. Crazy isn’t it? And we are not talking about the natural sugar from oranges and strawberries. This is from the 50 gallons of soda pop we drink every year! Knowing that, it is appropriate to say that we all need to detox from sugar. Refined sugars raise blood sugar levels, trigger inflammation and make people fat, which often lead to diabetes type 2. Sugars also disturb the gut flora, feeding Candida and intestinal parasites, resulting in irritable bowel symptoms like bloating, pain, gas, constipation, leaky gut and more. Detoxing from sugar encourages weight loss and is a kickstart for better health. Here are the 10 steps to detox from sugar.
1. Do you need to detox? Take the test.
- Do you eat continuously, even when you are not hungry?
- Do you feel lethargic after eating?
- Do you get a headache, nausea and fatigue (withdrawal symptoms) when you stop eating sugars?
- Do you have allergy symptoms, acne, irritable bowels, gas, bloating or pain?
- Do you always want more sugar?
- Are you overweight?
- Have you been diagnosed with pre-diabetes or Type 2 Diabetes? Are your fasting blood sugar and triglyceride levels too high?
2. Don’t be a chicken, go cold turkey
In order to detox from sugar, you need to give your 100%. Smokers can’t quit smoking if they still have one cigarette every day. They will stop craving it when they quit completely. It goes the same way with sugar. During 1 week, avoid all artificial sweeteners, sugars of all forms and products that come from flour. And since you’re there, do not consume any processed food. Stick to whole foods. This is how you will reset your hormones and neurotransmitters.
3. Say no to liquid caloriesWith exception of green vegetable juices, all sugar calories that come in the form of liquid are worst than solid foods. The sugar goes straight to the liver, resulting in weight gain. If you wish to detox from sugar, avoid sodas, fruit juices, sweetened ice teas and coffees, sport drinks and other commercial beverages. Drink at least five 12 ounces glasses of water daily.
4. Choose high quality protein
Choose high quality plant protein that will make you feel full until the next meal. While animal based protein is carb-free, plant protein comes with the good carbs, not the refined ones. Lentils, chickpeas, quinoa, beans, hemp seeds, tofu, tempeh, chia seeds, almonds and pumpkin seeds are a few examples of a great source of protein. You should aim for 3 servings of legumes each day (1 serving = ½ cup of cooked beans, ¼ cup hummus), 3 servings of whole grains (1 serving = ½ cup cooked grains). For recipes containing beans, consult this blog.
5. Go nuts with the carbs
You can have unlimited carbs during this sugar detox. But wait, only the good ones. Avoid all the processed and refined carbohydrates like bread, pasta, pastries and pizza. You can go crazy on kale, spinach, arugula, broccoli, eggplant, zucchini, peppers, mushrooms and asparagus. Avoid potatoes, beets and squashes for a week. You should have 5 servings of vegetables (1 serving = 1 cup raw or ½ cup cooked greens), including 2 servings of greens, 1 serving of cruciferous and 2 servings of other vegetables.
6. The good and the bad fats
Detox your body by choosing healthy unsaturated fats from whole foods. Nuts and seeds, avocados, coconuts and olives are good examples. Oils are just made of fat. They do not come with fiber and other nutrients, like fats from whole foods do. Avoid Trans fats and saturated fats, which trigger inflammation in the body. Those fats are found in junk food, pastries, deep fried food, processed food, meat, fish, eggs, dairy. Instead, you should have 1 serving of nuts or seeds (¼ cup) and 1 tablespoon of ground flax seeds daily.
7. Fight inflammation
A detox from sugar also involves avoiding Gluten and dairy products, which are common food sensitivities and allergies that trigger inflammation. They cause discomfort just like artificial sugars, resulting in IBS, weight gain and insulin resistance. These foods are harmful but yet, we crave them all the time. Detox from them for 3 weeks and you will see the cravings disappear. That’s all the time needed for your body to adjust to a new diet. Eating whole plant foods has been shown to fight inflammation and alkalize the body within a few hours.
8. Fruits are OK
Fructose from added sugars is associated with high blood pressure, weight gain and declining liver function. Studies have shown that fruit fructose is not. When comparing a diet that restricts both fruits and added sugars to a diet that only restricts fructose from industrial sugars, the second diet won. Industrial fructose like high fructose corn syrup and table sugar is the real problem. It does not contain any nutrients like whole fruits do. Fresh fruits are packed with fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Avoid them for the week long detox, but do not be afraid of them after.
9. Avoid all added sugars
Added sugars are empty calories. They contain absolutely no essential nutrients. If you are trying to cut down on calories, this is where you should start: your sugar consumption. After this detox, avoid all added sugars if possible. There is even concerns in the scientific literature, that calories from sugar is very dangerous. High fructose corn syrup and table sugar can lead to liver toxicity. It is able to raise the amount of fat in the liver, just like alcohol. Fatty liver disease is a major public health issue around the planet. Read labels before you buy anything and avoid products that contain added sugars.
10. Choose a healthy sugar
Still have a sweet tooth? What are the best choices when it comes to sugar? Stevia is a great alternative. But the healthiest sweetener is date sugar… because it is not sugar! The dates are pulverized into powder or are crushed into syrup. This means that date sugar is like a whole food, also providing fiber, protein, fats, vitamins and minerals.